The testing landscape in DevOps is a big one, with lots of established players feeding the machine. SmartBear is one of those companies. The force behind Swagger, SoapUI and others is perhaps not as well-known as its brethren in the DevOps testing space, but it cuts a wide swath. And, with its recent acquisition of Zephyr, it’s about to get wider.
In this DevOps Chat, we speak via video with Ryan Lloyd, VP of Products at SmartBear, about the Zephyr acquisition and the DevOps testing and test management space in general. As usual, the streaming video is immediately below, followed by the transcript of our conversation.
Alan Shimel: Hey, everyone, it’s Alan Shimel, DevOps.com, Container Journal, Security Boulevard, and we’re here for a great interview, hopefully, with Ryan Lloyd, VP of products for testing and development at SmartBear. Ryan, welcome.
Ryan Lloyd: Thank you. Great to be here.
Shimel: Great to have you here. So, Ryan, before we jump into today’s news that we wanna discuss, I wanted to just quickly kinda do a level-set. SmartBear is a company I think most people have probably heard of it, but they may not be 100 percent sure of the full breadth of the SmartBear portfolio. So why don’t we talk a little bit about who is SmartBear and what are the kind of products and services you guys offer?
Lloyd: Yeah, absolutely. So SmartBear software is a company with a lot of history and if you don’t recognize the company brand, it’s very likely that you recognize one or more of our product brands, so we are the company behind some of the key product brands like Swagger, SoapUI, CrossBrowserTesting, TestComplete, so quite a diverse portfolio of products focused on helping our customers who’re building software. Help them build tests and monitor their software applications.
Shimel: Great. So, Ryan, big news out today is SmartBear had made another acquisition. You guys have acquired Zephyr. Is that correct?
Lloyd: That’s right. Yeah, we’ve announced our intent to acquire Zephyr, a company in a similar market space as us.
Shimel: So it’s a similar market space, but let’s get specific. What does Zephyr do?
Lloyd: Great. So Zephyr is a collection of tools for testing and specifically focused on the area of test management, managing the process of testing.
Shimel: Great. And you mentioned an intent to inquire – acquire, so I guess that means it hasn’t yet closed, but you’re both private companies and I would imagine it closes fairly quickly.
Lloyd: That’s right. We expect in the next 30 days, subject to the usual regulatory approvals.
Shimel: Yep. Fantastic. So, you know, Ryan, one of the things I read in the background around this one was that one of the big pluses here is Zephyr’s presence within the Atlassian, the Atlassian ecosystem, and SmartBear actually is already a big player in that Atlassian ecosystem. Well, aren’t they?
Lloyd: Yeah, so we have a couple of products that have plug-ins to the Atlassian ecosystem. I mean, the reality is 60, 70 percent of our customers are using Atlassian’s tools. They’re pretty dominant in the area of software teams, for managing some part of the software development process, so it’s a very strategic and important ecosystem for SmartBear as a company. And, certainly, Zephyr improves our ability to reach that ecosystem of users and make sure that they’re aware of all of the tools and capabilities that SmartBear can offer.
Shimel: Yep. And, Ryan, you know, 60 to 70 percent use Atlassian. I’m gonna imagine the overwhelming majority are using Jira and then maybe Jira Plus.
Lloyd: Jira –
Lloyd: Certainly, Jira is probably the most prevalent. Confluence gets tagged on with Jira quite a lot. And then BitBucket, actually, is also becoming quite popular as well. BitBucket, GitHub, GitLab – they’re sort of three of the same, in terms of enterprise solutions for developers.
Shimel: Got it. So I don’t wanna turn this into being about Atlassian and their products, but, obviously, they do have a big ecosystem. There are a lot of third parties, such as SmartBear and Zephyr, who move a lot of services and product via that marketplace. But let’s talk a little bit similar, but where’s the overlap? Or is there any overlap between what Zephyr and SmartBear’s offerings are about?
Lloyd: Yeah, so SmartBear offers a broad portfolio of products and, certainly, a couple of the products we have, pre-acquisition, were in this test-management space. What Zephyr brings to the table, though, is a solution that is natively built around Jira and delivered through the marketplace. So what that means, to be delivered through the marketplace, is it’s a native Jira solution that Jira administrators and customers can install directly from within their Jira instance. So it provides a very seamless extension of their workflows, within Jira, to handle some of these test-management scenarios, which we think is really important to teams that are trying to consolidate their processes and have a unified approach to that.
Shimel: Excellent. I guess one of the issues – and, with your title and your responsibilities around VP of products for test-and-dev, just in a number, how many products are there in test-and-dev now, within SmartBear and then if we add the Zephyr suite to the mix?
Lloyd: Yeah, so we had five products in that portfolio. Today, Zephyr brings three additional products into that portfolio, so we’re now up to eight products in our test and development business, as well as a range of products in our other business unit, around API.
Shimel: You know what? That’s a lot of products to be managing, huh?
Lloyd: It is. I mean, SmartBear has grown a lot over the years, through both acquisition of companies and building new organic products and bringing them to market. It’s pretty exciting time for us. We’re, pre-acquisition, at about 450 employees globally, so it’s an exciting time to be part of this company.
Shimel: Absolutely is, man. So, you know, another not necessarily unique but another kind of factor you have to play into the SmartBear – and I don’t know about Zephyr as much – is that some of your solutions have open source kind of versions out there that you guys help manage the open source communities around these, as well as the commercial versions of the products themselves. Correct?
Lloyd: Yeah, that’s right. I mean, core to our business is really a couple of philosophies. One is we wanna be open and interoperable with all the tools that are part of the ecosystems that software teams are using. And so, in some cases, that means commercial opportunities to partner with companies like Atlassian; in other cases, it means we want to be a part of an existing open-source ecosystem or help build up and nurture an open-source ecosystem. So, certainly, when we brought SoapUI and Swagger into our product portfolios, that was all about really taking that existing organic ecosystem, where developers and testers are going through tools, and helping build and nurture and develop that ecosystem.
Shimel: Excellent. So what kind of special challenges – you specifically, right? You own the products; you’re VP of products here. What challenges does that pose for you, having these open source kinda versions and tools and communities. I mean, you don’t wanna burn them, right? Because, ultimately, you kinda bite the hand that feeds you. So let’s talk about that. What does that – how does that manifest itself with you?
Lloyd: Yeah, certainly. I think there’s a brand and a culture that exists around open-source products and I guess it’s our responsibility, as stewards of those brands, to really continue to nurture that community. And that means we’ve gotta make balanced decisions about where we choose to add features to the open source products, versus where we commercialize some of those features, so there’s a constant balance there and kind of evaluating and making sure we’re engaging with the community.
And then, more broadly, beyond just our open-source products, I think one of the biggest challenges in the software tools space and market is the interoperability that’s required between tools these days. You know, developers and testers, they’re demanding practitioners. They want their tools to work together and there’s a huge diversity of tools out there in the market. So, as a product manager, that’s what keeps me up at night, is making sure all these tools are compatible and working to support these complex workflows.
Shimel: Absolutely. I mean, one way of looking at it is, if there wasn’t such a big market, there wouldn’t be all these tools.
Lloyd: That’s true.
Shimel: Another way of looking at it is also that it presents a tremendous opportunity for consolidation and for one or a few products to emerge as true market leaders. And then you’ll see it kinda – you know, you’ll see the amount of products in the market kinda consolidate. You know the old saying, “If you’re not – you’re either leading, following, or get out of the way,” right? If you’re not top-three, you gotta ask yourself, “Do you wanna stay in that market?” But, you know, when we talk about the testing market – and, in DevOps, we talk about continuous testing – it certainly is a huge, huge market here.
Lloyd: Yes, it is. And it’s one that’s continually evolving and shaping, right? So there’s traditional test tools that have been around for a decade or more, and then there’s sort of emerging products that are coming to market. And I think it’s how all these work together and evolve to support the change in workflows and, yeah, even just organizational changes within environments.
Shimel: Yep. So another area of the testing space, Ryan, that I’m interested in personally is security and security testing. And it’s really funny when I – you know, 20 years ago, when I was into security, when I first got into security, info-sec, QA was here and security was there and never the twain shall meet, right? But now we’re starting to see security become synonymous with quality – that’s the “Q” in QA.
Shimel: And so security testing and other kinds of testings are starting to merge. What do you guys see with that at SmartBear?
Lloyd: Yeah, I think what’s driving a lot of that is the Agile workflows that teams are adopting, so, as they increase the pace of trying to deliver and release software, they’re being forced to evaluate quality and security earlier in the life cycle and more from the context of the development team, rather than having a separate, isolated team that deals with that downstream or after the fact.
Lloyd: So I think that’s the driver, so definitely a lot of demand for your Agile workflows to support testing by design and security by design. From our perspective, I think that opens up some unique opportunities for adjacencies and areas that SmartBear can continue to expand to in the future.
Shimel: Yeah. I mean, so, you know, what you’re describing is almost the classic “shift left.” Right? As we start shifting testing, security and security testing, left early into the development life cycle. But it’s also the reality of it’s been called the “modern software factory.” Right? It’s an assembly line and is a production line, for software, and where traditional QA, traditional testing, security testing, where they fit into that life cycle has shifted left.
But also is – you know, where we used to think, oh, QA was going away and security people were gonna give up control of security. Not the case. They’ve become more important, right? But also highly automated where they can be and clearly defined as part of this factory, if you will.
Lloyd: Yeah, it’s really just about reshaping the responsibilities and improving the collaboration across the whole unit or team that’s now responsible for delivering iterations of software.
Shimel: So, Ryan, then – so that begs the question then, “What does that mean for you as a product manager?” Right? Where you used to sell to a QA engineer or security testing sold to a security person, but now your audience includes the guys using Jira and BitBucket and a bunch of other tools. It’s not just Atlassian, obviously. So you have new customers to serve and to service. Now how do –
Lloyd: Yeah, that’s absolutely right. Yeah, so, over the last several years, we’ve been focusing on how to modernize our portfolio to support those sort of emerging needs, both the process change that’s going on with our customers and the persona change that’s happening in many instances. So the acquisition of Swagger is a great example of us providing tools that help developers earlier in the life cycle, so, where we had SoapUI to help with API testing from a QA perspective, Swagger aims to solve some of that further upstream by enabling more collaboration around the definition of those APIs to begin with. And, oh, by the way, making sure that interoperates with SoapUI, so you get leverage out of that API definition to generate some of those tests, automate it, and it triggers sort of a seamless workflow and thread.
And so we’re continuing down this path of modernizing our portfolio. We acquired CrossBrowserTesting about two years ago, to help companies address some of the modern types of applications that they’re looking to test, integrated more deeply with Selenium, which has become hugely popular in sort of the developer organizations, to drive automated Web and mobile testing. And then, with Hiptest and Zephyr, again, it’s furthering our relevance for those software teams that are on that journey.
Shimel: Excellent. Ryan, last kind of issue I – or not issue – it’s not an issue at all – but the last area I wanted to talk to you about was so you’ve got five. There’s three more coming in. And that’s just test-and-dev; you have an AP kind of silo as well within SmartBear. How do you – I mean, I’ve been in the boat not quite as many as you, but, when you have so many different products and then a company name, how do you brand? Right? Do you continue branding the individual products? Do you throw SmartBear in front of all of them, but some of ’em already have names that may be, in fact, bigger than SmartBear, as you said in the beginning? Again, as a product manager, you have to think about that a bit. You know, what’s the right answer there, if there is –
Lloyd: Yeah, so I think SmartBear is going through a bit of a transformation, in that regard. You know, as I said and as you pointed out, we’ve had very strong product brands up to this point. We wanna continue to nurture those product brands, so no intent for those to go away because we love the high-velocity, try-buy model we have around our products, where developers and the practitioners can find the right tool for the job and get started.
But we’ve gone through an exercise on how we can integrate our products in the right way, so like the Swagger, SoapUI example I provided, to create those sort of interesting workflows. And we’re building up the SmartBear Academy, our SmartBear community, our big user conference, to help elevate the SmartBear brand and create more awareness of the portfolio of products we have – how they work together, how they fit into the ecosystem. And I think we’re just at the start of that journey right now. We’ll see a lot more, as we launch into the year next year, around what we’re doing from a brand perspective to galvanize the company and all of the great products we have.
Shimel: Excellent. Well, Ryan, we’re about out of time, but, first of all, congratulations on the Zephyr announcement and anticipated acquisition here. It’ll make for some good times. And continued success with SmartBear and everything you guys have going on.
Lloyd: I appreciate it. All right. Great talking to you, Alan.
Shimel: All right. Ryan Lloyd, VP products, test and development, for SmartBear, on SmartBear’s acquisition of Zephyr, here on DevOps.com. And we’ll talk to you soon, everyone. Have a great day.