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Coverity: A new Mercury Interactive in the making?

Company focused on analyzing and helping secure open-source code looks a lot like Mercury Interactive, and could be equally successful.

I normally don't care much for product announcements. When I saw that Coverity had released its new product suite, however, I took closer notice.

Coverity has been working with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security for years to analyze and help secure open-source code. That's important, because it puts open source in a position to leapfrog proprietary software, in terms of transparency and security.

Upon further review, Coverity's new offering may go a long way to changing the software development equation: more investment up front in developing software right the first time could save 10 times the cost of fixing/supporting broken code later. Coverity calls it precision analysis software that stress-tests every component at every step (design, develop, build, test) before it hits the market.

That's big.

It sounds a lot like the early promise of Rational Software (acquired by IBM) and Mercury Interactive (acquired by Hewlett-Packard). Intriguingly, I notice that Mercury's last chief executive and chief marketing officer have both landed at Coverity. Are we seeing a replay of Mercury?

As noted, I've watched Coverity ever since it made a big splash in December 2005, when it first published results about the high code quality in the Linux kernel. Linux insiders were not surprised, but the rest of the world noticed.

The world did a double-take the next month, when the Department of Homeland Security announced a partnership with Coverity to scan 30 of the most widely used open-source projects in production across U.S. government agencies.

Since that time, Coverity has expanded the scope of its work with open-source software and launched the Scan project, which started out with 173 projects. When a project fixes its outstanding defects, it moves up a "rung" on the ladder. Some of the projects that have taken advantage of this free service are Amanda, Perl, PHP, Python, and Samba.

Fast-forward to today's announcement, and look at the emerging management team at Coverity, a team that looks a lot like Mercury.

The similarities don't end there. In February 2008, Coverity took on $22 million in Series A venture financing led by Benchmark Capital. Since then, it has acquired two companies (Codefast and Solidware) and, presumably, rolled the acquired intellectual property into expanding its product line, leading up to today's announcement. Mercury Interactive rolled up companies in its industry on the path to a nearly $1 billion exit with HP.

Maybe I'm connecting too many dots, but this is a company I plan to watch more closely. Coverity has an opportunity to build a big business on the back of open-source software. That's worth watching.

Follow me on Twitter @mjasay.