In-Depth

Profile: Mindreef Brings Quality to SOA

Startup company draws on deep tradition and early products to establish name recognition and strong reputation.

In technology, being in the right place at the right time is often the key to success. But it doesn't happen by accident. Having a vision of the future, and laying the groundwork for capitalizing on that vision, is what gets you in the right place to take advantage of emerging market trends. And that's what has taken Mindreef to the forefront of the drive to improve quality in service-based applications.

Mindreef is a young company with a long tradition of application quality. Its founders, Frank Grossman and Jim Moskun, were also the founders of NuMega Technologies, makers of well-known debugging tools BoundsChecker and SoftICE. After the two sold NuMega to Compuware Corp., they created an incubator for technology companies with a high potential to address the next wave of development needs (disclosure: I joined Compuware's NuMega Lab shortly after the acquisition, and was there until 2004).

According to Mindreef President and CTO Grossman, it all came down to identifying that next big wave. "In 2002, it was pretty clear to us that services were going to be the way people built applications in the future. We wanted to anticipate that wave and ride it."

From that vision, the company embarked down a path that its founders knew well—defining how services would work, where the potential for defects and other quality issues resided, and how they could best be addressed. Prior to the popularization of Web services and the service-oriented architecture (SOA), this was quite a leap. Based on that leap, the company designed its initial entry in the Web services quality market.

Seeding the Market
In 2004, the company launched its first product, SOAPScope. An analyzer and debugger of SOAP packets, SOAPScope looks at the mechanism of interaction between components in a SOA environment. It lets developers quickly identify and capture all information needed to reproduce a Web services problem.

SOAPScope lets developers and other services professionals examine SOAP packets, send and receive sample SOAP packets, and look for malformed packets and instructions. It can also create unit tests and keep running logs of transactions for later analysis and debugging.

At the time, SOAPScope didn't seem like a killer development tool for the world of Web services and SOAs. It was a relatively simple, single-user debugger of the type that developers had used on other applications for years. But Mindreef had something different in mind. "SOAPScope was a way to seed the market," Grossman explained. "You can't become profitable off a $99 product, but it was so inexpensive that anyone could try it."

This made the product accessible to many developers. As a result of the value and pricing strategy, SOAPScope and Mindreef got a wide exposure among service developers and enterprises. Mindreef provided evaluations or sold thousands of copies of SOAPScope. It didn't hurt that the product has also won awards in the nascent field of Web service development tools.

This exposure didn't make a lot of money for the company, but it did place Mindreef's name on everyone's short list for Web service debugging and quality tools. That was a good first step, but now Mindreef needed a strategy to capitalize on this exposure. It was important to be able to use that reputation to make inroads into high-value opportunities.

So the company didn't stop there. SOAPScope was part of a planned strategy aimed at getting name recognition for Mindreef, its technology, and its market approach. SOAPScope succeeded in this goal, but was of limited usefulness for debugging Web services. It could diagnose and analyze discrete problems of a certain type, but didn't let developers work together on development and problem resolution.

Reaching for Higher Value
That was the role of Mindreef's next product offering. This offering, introduced at the end of 2005, was SOAPScope Server (the introductory name was Mindreef Coral; this was changed to SOAPScope Server with a new release in mid-2006). While the name is difficult to say quickly, it leverages the mindshare generated by the original SOAPScope product (which is still developed and sold). It is, however, a very different product.

SOAPScope Server provides a platform for collaboration of multifunctional teams in testing and analyzing Web services and their interactions. Users can share data and comments, define and enforce policies, simulate Web service responses in order to test other Web services, and provide tools and features to enable Web services governance, testing, diagnostics, and support.

These features also enable SOAPScope Server to be offered as a Software-as-a-Service product, hosted remotely and accessed and used by multiple subscribers. This model makes a great deal of sense when enterprises are working together, or development teams in multiple locations are collaborating.

With SOAPScope Server, Mindreef is able to serve the collaboration needs of SOA and Web service design, development, and quality teams in enterprises and across enterprises. This high-value offering is able to draw upon the business foundation laid by the original SOAPScope tool to gain entrance to IT managers and executives and to merit serious consideration as an enterprise SOA quality solution.

What's next on the horizon? Grossman wouldn't get into specifics, although he was willing to repeat his earlier statement. "You have to be able to understand where technology is going before it gets there." Then you determine the needs of that technology and set about preparing to fulfill those needs. Based on the SOA and Web services vision of its founders, Mindreef is well on its way to identifying and understanding those needs.


For more information on Mindreef:
Mindreef Inc.
22 Proctor Hill Road
Hollis, NH 03049
603-465-2204
http://www.mindreef.com

About the Author

Peter Varhol is the executive editor, reviews of Redmond magazine and has more than 20 years of experience as a software developer, software product manager and technology writer. He has graduate degrees in computer science and mathematics, and has taught both subjects at the university level.

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