Campus: Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo -- May 11, 2001

Mercury Interactive Donates Software to Cal Poly Orfalea College of Business

Mercury Interactive of Sunnyvale donated software to Cal Poly's Orfalea College of Business that will help prepare students for testing and quality assurance positions upon graduation.

With this donation, Mercury Interactive launches its Academic Access Program, which aims to "offer students the opportunity to gain practical experience in understanding and testing complex enterprise and Web applications in preparation for entry into technology-oriented careers," said Ken Klein, chief operating officer at Mercury Interactive.

The software, valued by the company at nearly $3.5 million, will be shared with the College of Engineering. The gift includes functional and performance testing software, training and technical support. It will form the basis for lab activities in a new course on software testing being taught by Patricia McQuaid in the management information systems area. The software will be used not only in the software testing class, but also in the software quality class and possibly in future e-commerce classes, as well as by MIS students working on their senior projects.

"We are pleased to announce Cal Poly as the first member of our Academic Access Program," said Niraj Kapur, manager of the program. "Working with leading universities such as Cal Poly, we hope to develop a strong curriculum that provides students with a competitive advantage by working with leading-edge technologies prior to graduation.

"Cal Poly's Orfalea College of Business and College of Engineering are both known for preparing students for direct entry into professional careers. This, coupled with hands-on experience with Mercury Interactive's industry-leading testing tools, will allow students to be better prepared for professional positions upon graduation."

McQuaid facilitated the gift during her five-week participation in IBM's Faculty Partnership Program in summer 2000 in San Jose.

"Software testing has become increasingly important as we rely more and more on computerized systems, whether it is in our business processes, hand-held devices, automobiles or the space shuttle," McQuaid said. "Developing high-quality software should be a goal of all software developers.

"This is a very exciting opportunity for our students at Cal Poly," McQuaid said. "The donation of this state-of-the-art testing software will allow our students to not only learn the theory of testing but also to use the leading software in lab activities."

"It has become increasingly important for students entering the information technology arena to develop skills in the area of quality assurance and testing," said Klein. "The Academic Access Program provides students with this opportunity."

The donated software will allow students to implement two basic types of application testing: functional testing and load/stress testing. Functional testing verifies that applications work as expected. For example, in a flight-booking application, functional testing can verify that the correct information, such as flight times and prices, is being pulled from the database and displayed to the user.

An equally important aspect of Web site operations is to know when the site is becoming stressed, when the site is slowing down and cannot handle the traffic (customers). Even worse, the Web site can collapse because too many users are trying to access it at the same time, according to McQuaid.

"Before an e-commerce Web application is deployed," explained McQuaid, "the tester needs to ensure that customers will experience quick responses from the site as they browse or place an order, and that those response times will remain steady as the number of users
increases. Load testing provides a way to predict the way an application will perform as the number of users increases. It exercises an entire application by emulating the traffic of real users and measuring response times to pinpoint bottlenecks that might cause the Web site's performance to slow."

The two types of testing software -- functional and load/stress --used together, can ensure the scalability and reliability of a Web application to greatly improve the experience of the site's end users.

"User experience is key to the successful operation of a Web site," McQuaid said, "especially in e-commerce applications, where the cost of lost business to companies with Web sites that are inoperable can be staggering."

Don Kawashima, professional development manager at IBM's Global Integrated Testing Solutions Division in San Jose said, "Dr. McQuaid took the initiative in developing and providing the leadership to aggressively put together the testing curriculum and acquisition of the tools. IBM benefits greatly from the pool of fresh recruits that not only know software testing theory, but will also have excellent knowledge of software testing tools and direct testing experience."

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