For several years, a company called Green Hat (not associated with Red Hat) has been in the business of creating sophisticated software testing equipment for developers, particularly for service-oriented applications that use messaging queues. The problem with distributed application testing is that it's getting more and more complicated, especially as a multitude of new and independently evolving frameworks introduce dependencies that can't always be accurately simulated in a test environment.

So yesterday's acquisition of Green Hat by IBM brought up an interesting question: Will a company whose test environments were developed to support Oracle, Java Message Service, SAP, Software AG, and TIBCO as well as WebSphere MQ continue to do so after being acquired by the maker of WebSphere MQ? Today, we have the answer.

In a statement to ReadWriteWeb, the director of product management and strategy for IBM's Rational division - whose umbrella will now cover Green Hat's tools as well - said IBM plans to keep Green Hat's support broadly-based.

"We have every intention of maintaining and extending the existing Green Hat support for multiple applications, protocols, formats, and the like," Charles Chu tells RWW. "A primary value of Green Hat is its ability to help manage the challenge of application testing in a complex world. In this sense, expanding the support for ever [greater] levels of complexity is part of our core mission."

The way organizations often build distributed applications is by delegating responsibility for the individual components to separate teams. While ideally it would be nice for all of those teams to cooperate on scheduling, in practice components end up with at varying stages of completion for any one point in time. For this reason, when one development team needs to test the viability of a component intended to communicate with other components that may not even exist yet, the team utilizes a testing environment that can create stubs - substitute components that can interact with the ones being tested in a realistic manner.

The crown jewel of Green Hat's test automation suite has been GH Tester. Historically, it's been used to rapidly generate stubs that can respond to Web services using messaging protocols like SOAP or JMS. Because Web services must behave in a more protocol-agnostic fashion, testing suites like GH Tester must be more open to multiple platforms - which is why the support question for Green Hat and platforms like .NET is so important.

More recently, though, Green Hat has been working toward weaning GH Tester from the use of stubs, and toward a more sophisticated system of virtualized applications it calls GH Virtual Integration Environment (VIE). Rather than a stub, VIE generates a component that truly is an application, responding more logically and believably to a component's request using logic that's adaptable to a variety of test scenarios.

As Green Hat explains, "GH VIE is part of the GH Tester suite, not another 'product,' so when GH Tester starts a test, it can automatically start the necessary virtualized applications to go with it, ensuring that unresolved system dependencies can be satisfied. The user is in control of which virtualized applications are used, allowing a wide variety of different situations to be modeled, depending on the testing scenario."

IBM is now calling the VIE scenario "testing in the cloud." At the moment, Green Hat may not technically be "as-a-service," though it's conceivable that as its portfolio is integrated into IBM Rational, VIE functionality could be offered at some point in the future through a cloud portal.