Tech & Work

Software diagnosis and treatment with InCert Software

Software is but one part of your IT infrastructure, but it's the most critical one when it causes downtime. When your software malfunctions, your business—and career—may suffer. InCert, a software testing company, might have the answer.

Especially now that the Y2K crisis has run its course, IT managers are well versed in the importance of software testing. The need for testing never ends, since software-dependent, mission-critical applications drive our businesses. But what do you do when there is a software glitch? What do you do to avoid downtime? One Cambridge, MA company uses its own brand of diagnostics and treatment to take your software one step closer to good health.

Like many good technology ideas, the idea behind the InCert Software Corp. came from a technology university. The QAgent technology that InCert products use was derived from compiler techniques developed at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). MIT licensed the agent technology to InCert for a small stake in the company. InCert, founded in 1997 by an MIT professor, has one goal: to eliminate software-related downtime by testing applications, analyzing their performance, debugging them, and helping them recover quickly from failure.

InCert’s two main products include:
  • Examiner is a quality assurance tool which tests the software before there is a problem, identifies which code has been tested, finds redundancies in test suites, scripts, and data, and tests code changes before turning them live. Examiner is primarily used for application testing of COBOL applications running in Cobol MVS environments.
  • TraceBack is a monitoring tool that captures exact sequencing as the programs run. It also immediately identifies the cause of a failure after it has occurred, avoiding the time-consuming need to replicate the problem. TraceBack saves an average of $220,000 per failure, according to InCert.

The advantages to these products are that they reduce testing and software development time, and ensure the quality of software applications. InCert’s company headquarters is in Cambridge, MA, with offices also in Dallas, Los Angeles, and Cleveland.
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The market
Fortune 500 companies that use mainframes are the primary market for InCert’s products, particularly those in the banking and financial services markets. However, the company is looking to expand to other operating systems. InCert has a contract with the U.S. government to develop its products for the Windows NT platform.

The need for software analysis and fixes definitely exists. Studies indicate:
  • Nearly 40 percent of system downtime is because of software failures. Recovery time averages five hours.
  • Applications running on a mainframe can cost $74,000 per hour of downtime, and these applications can fail as much as 18 times a year.
  • Nearly 70—80 percent of the “fix” time is spent with companies trying to find the source of the failure by replicating it.

Strategic advantage
Because software integrity and round-the-clock availability is critical, InCert’s focus is to improve the stability of IT systems and provide high availability for those systems. The company has distributors worldwide, with offices in South Africa, Australia, Mexico, Scandinavia, and throughout Europe.

Financial information
Incert Software is privately held. In April 1999 the company raised $6 million in its second round of funding. Investors include: Bessemer Venture Partners, Commonwealth Capital and Fidelity Ventures, Ascent Venture Partners (formerly Pioneer Capital Corporation), and the Still River Fund.

Management team
  • Alain Hanover, president & CEO
  • Anant Agarwal, Ph.D., chairman
  • Bruce Hall, vice president of marketing
  • Richard Schooler, vice president of research and development
  • Andrew Ayers, Ph.D., chief scientist
  • Graham Thompson, vice president of sales
One Kendall SquareBuilding 1400wCambridge, MA 02139Tel: (617) 621-8080Fax: (617)
What others are saying about InCert
“InCert Software Corp. of Cambridge has won a $2.5 million government contract to develop its monitoring and testing agents for the Windows NT platform.

The three-year contract comes from the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), which has had a hand in creating the desktop PC, Ethernet and the Internet…DARPA wants to detect problems with off-the-shelf software running on its systems. In the post-Cold War era, government agencies are turning to less costly commercial applications rather than writing their own code. InCert believes the work it does for DARPA will have great appeal for large companies using Windows NT.

—”InCert to do Windows,” Mass High Tech, July 19-25, 1999.

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