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Application Testing Goes Virtual

How can development shops stay ahead of the QA curve when supporting multiple versions of software for growing audiences running mixed environments?

Application testing is emerging as a major bottleneck. Many corporations test their code in private labs, but no matter how many PCs and servers they deploy, it's difficult to fully model the real-world environment. How can development shops stay ahead of the QA curve when supporting multiple versions of software for growing audiences running mixed environments?

The answer is virtualization. Surgient Virtual Lab Management Application 5.0 lets corporate developers test their applications in an environment that mirrors the corporate network, including running against heterogeneous systems such as Windows, Unix and Linux. The platform supports "thousands of virtual servers," the company says. It can also be used to consolidate an existing lab in much the same way that production server environments have been consolidated via virtualization.

The Surgient virtual lab infrastructure runs on top of the Microsoft or VMware virtualization layer, adding the ability to provision, test, manage and fix applications running on virtual hardware.

"By simply logging into a Web portal the developer can request a test lab configuration of even the most complex enterprise applications," explains Erik Josowitz, vice president of marketing for Surgient Inc. "They don't need to know anything about where or how it will be deployed and they don't need to involve themselves in the configuration process. They get a complex application deployed in a sandbox when and how they need it."

Surgient Virtual Lab Management Applications 5.0


In Brief: Takes the guesswork out of deploying apps in complex environments by presenting virtual environments as a test bed.
Benefits: More robust testing and qualification, improved software reliability and reduced post-deployment help desk activity.
Cost: Workgroup pricing begins at $5,000.
More information: http://www.surgient.com

The system also eliminates the need for developers to remember a bunch of usernames and passwords. "It automatically logs them into the systems they need," says Josowitz.

Corporate users can set up their own virtual labs for in-house testing, or outsource the work by using Surgient's lab. Surgient Virtual Lab Management Applications include three components:

  • Virtual QA/Test Lab Management System: supports application testing.
  • Virtual Demo Lab Management System: centralizes software used for remote demos and evaluations.
  • Virtual Training Lab Management System: allows end users to train on software hosted in the virtual environment.
The Surgient platform.
[click image for larger view]
The Surgient platform runs on top of a Microsoft or VMware virtualization layer, adding the ability to provision, test, manage and fix applications running on virtual hardware.

Surgient says its software can help companies prepare applications for deployment into production environments that are themselves virtualized. "The more that virtualization is used in deployment, the more useful and accurate testing done in a virtual environment will be," says Josowitz. "Testing functionality in a virtual environment is always useful, but performance and scalability testing in a virtual environment is really only useful today if the application will be deployed on virtual infrastructure."

Service-Oriented Architecture (SOA) is another area where this technology can be applied. Because SOA apps are so distributed, it's difficult to test them properly in a typical lab.

VMware Adds Testing Tool


This month, VMware expects to release a testing product of its own, VMware Lab Manager. The product complements VMware VirtualCenter, an existing product that supports staging, deployment and management of production software systems. The combination provides virtualized software lifecycle automation across production and test stages of the process.

"VMware Lab Manager leverages VMware Infrastructure to simplify and streamline the software lifecycle, automating the setup, capture, storage and sharing of multi-machine software configurations and making them available on demand to development and test teams through a self-service portal," says Dan Chu, vice president of VMware.

A la carte pricing for VMware Lab Manager (http://www.vmware.com) is set at $15,000 per server.

"One of the key benefits of SOA is greater abstraction between clients and application servers, but the other side to that coin is that a greater variety of clients may interact with a given application and the application must perform -- and continue to perform -- appropriately, regardless of the client," explains Josowitz. "This means more testing is required -- specifically, functional testing -- which can confirm that application interfaces respond correctly to a variety of requests, data parameters and older versions of the API format."

The Surgient Virtual QA/Test Lab Management System is designed to accelerate the test cycle of SOA applications by enabling greater amounts of testing to occur in a given timeframe and with limited test hardware.

About the Author

Doug Barney is editor in chief of Redmond magazine and the VP, editorial director of Redmond Media Group.

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