July 7, 2009
I was reading this post by Ken Hess – My Midsummer Night’s Dream of A Virtual Lab. In the past, I’ve written about how virtual lab management software can help if you’re considering a virtual lab setup for your customer’s software trials and evaluations. If you’re considering a virtual lab for software trials, check out VMLogix LabManager or LabManager-Cloud Edition.
Here are some relevant points that the author makes:
To give fair assessments of vendor products, I need complete and fully functional copies of those products. Vendors who do supply me with their products never supply the required hardware to go along with them. Often the hardware requirements are very high thus making my use of the product almost impossible. A virtual lab is the only logical answer.
Instead of confusion and frustration, they’ll [customers, VARs, technical writers] experience your software the way you want them to: The correct hardware, the correct installation, the correct first impression.
Don’t assume success, guarantee it by providing those prospective customers with something that will surely close the deal for you: A virtual lab.
A virtual lab is my dream and my hope is that vendors will decide that it’s a good idea and implement it.
I completely agree – there is tremendous value in getting your customer/prospect up and running with your trial software with minimum obstacles and hoops to cross through. After all you want them to get to your product as quickly as possible and spend the time tinkering with the software (vs. spending cycles in waiting for required hardware etc.).
That’s where cloud computing makes a significant difference! Take our newly launched LabManager-Cloud Edition beta – you can get yourself setup with a trial version easily - no need of waiting/procuring hardware, installing software etc. etc. Just spend your time on — well, evaluating and trying out the trial software! (you’ll need an Amazon Web Services account, last I checked it did not take more than a couple of minutes to sign up for one!).
You could also use LabManager-Cloud Edition to power your virtual lab for software trials in the cloud!
June 5, 2009
A Subset of VMLogix LabManager use cases for the software demo virtual lab scenario
Also see the previous post for the use cases for lab administrators.
March 9, 2009
1. The Context
Virtualization in Pre-Production Labs: Virtualization usually takes its first steps in an organization in the pre-production (software lab) environment. The use of virtualization in dev/test labs continues to be a very popular use case today. I would think that it would still figure in the top three use cases for virtualization, much like how this earlier survey in 2007 indicated. As IT administrators get familiar with the use of virtualization, the technology moves towards being used in the data center environment as well.
Virtualization in Production Data Centers: The big 4 infrastructure management vendors – BMC, IBM, CA and HP have recognized the impact of virtualization in the data center and have been taking initiatives towards managing a hybrid of virtual and physical infrastructure. Alessandro recently suggested that VMware would join the list and become an infrastructure management company as well. Virtualization adoption in the data center is an important development and most IT practitioners believe this to be a fundamental shift in the data center operational dynamics (think of an agile and dynamic data center) that is here to stay.
Hypervisor Commoditization: The adoption of virtualization in the above two pre-production and production arenas has been accelerated by recent industry announcements. With the base hypervisor technology moving towards commoditization – the value value add comes from the accompanying management applications.
2. Contrasting the Management Environments in Pre-Production (Lab) and Production (Data Center) Environments
Given the above widely accepted view that virtualization has significant impact on IT infrastructure operations in the pre-production (lab) and production environments – how do the accompanying management applications in each arena compare? The figure below contrasts the management environments in the two cases.
Comparing Lab Management and Production Management
As the table indicates (see the management goals specifically), there is a fundamental difference between the two environments and therefore there is a need for separate management technologies with different management functionality in the lab and production environments.
3. Specific Benefits of Virtual Lab Automation and Management Applications in Pre-Production (Lab) Scenarios
Pre-production (lab) scenarios bring with it their own set of management challenges which are not addressed by production management applications. Here is a snapshot of the management challenges in the lab for which virtual lab management solutions provide a good solution (and where production management apps fall short):
February 3, 2009
One of the benefits of using a virtual lab management tool over a bare hypervisor (e.g., VMware ESX, Citrix XenServer, Microsoft Hyper-V) is the powerful user management functionality that is offered by virtual lab automation solutions. You can read a previous post where I discuss the benefits of a virtual lab management solution over a basic hypervisor.
How do the user management capabilities in virtual lab solutions help? I can see the following benefits:
- Easily create user accounts and potentially add users to teams (e.g., all your testers would have individual accounts and be part of one or more teams; your developers would have separate accounts and be part of a different team etc.)
- Plug in your user authentication model (e.g., AD) easily to interface into the virtual lab solution
- Set the permissions on every user account – to control what lab resources the user has access to
- Set quotas on every user account – so individual users remain within bounded limits in terms of lab resource utilization
- Allow users to share lab resources (like configurations from a library, a software script etc.) with other lab users and teams (with varying permissions – read only, edit etc.)
I’ve recorded a brief movie that highlights some aspects of user management in a virtual lab solution. As always, would love to hear any comments and feedback from you.
- Srihari Palangala
January 28, 2009
One of the benefits of a virtual lab automation and management solution is the ability to execute a configuration (a multi-machine setup) multiple times in parallel, without making any changes to the base configuration. Let me explain through a couple of example scenarios:
- Do you want your test engineer to execute a test case – identify a bug – hand it over to developer and then continue with the testing? The developer can then execute a second instance of the test environment (the first being executed by the test engineer) – in parallel without disrupting the work of the test engineer.
- Do you want your test engineers to spawn test environment instances off a common base configuration – with each having their own instance, executing in parallel and each executing their own set of test cases?
The list will go on – where there is a fundamental need to execute a configuration several times in parallel without any IP or MAC address conflicts.
Virtual Lab Automation solutions like VMLogix LabManager offer the capability known as network (or IP) zoning. Take a look at the video below and see how easy it is to go about this. I run 2 instances of a multi-machine configuration in parallel — deploying both simultaneously without running into conflicts between the 2 deployed environments.
Related Post: Test environment network configurations made easy with virtual lab automation
December 3, 2008
Server virtualization is an accepted and mainstream technology used by increasing number of software testers today. The technology helps testers rapidly create virtual machine test environments. Testers who are new to virtualization rely on basic hypervisor technologies from VMware (e.g., VMware Server), Microsoft (e.g., Virtual PC) etc. to create these virtual machine test environments. One of the downsides of using a bare hypervisor is the problem of introducing Virtual Machine (VM) sprawl. A detailed post on the downsides of relying only on a basic hypervisor are discussed here.
The Problem of VM Sprawl: Virtualization technology makes it extremely easy for end users to create and deploy VMs. This can quickly get out of hand – resulting in an increasing number of VMs and difficulty in tracking and managing the VMs. This problem is referred to as VM sprawl. Most often, VM sprawl issues have a profound impact when VMs are used in production (and this is discussed often). However, it is an equally important problem to be aware of when you are actively using virtual machines in your dev/test environments.
When is your Dev/Test Organization at Risk with This VM Sprawl Problem: Here are typical scenarios that are would quickly lead to a VM sprawl problem in your organization.
- Your organization or group lacks clear policies to control the creation and deployment of VMs in your environment
- When VMs are abundantly used by your dev/test teams (e.g., it is the de-facto choice when users need new machines. And everyone operates with their own instance of VMware Server/MS Virtual PC etc.)
- The risk of being affected with the VM sprawl problem are higher if your organization is running distributed teams (offshore/distributed company locations)
Why is the VM sprawl problem relevant to the Dev/Test Organization: So, if you do think that your organization is at risk, what are the specific problems that you are likely to run into if you let things continue ‘as-is’ and without addressing the VM sprawl problem?
- Resource hogging: It is likely that some of your dev/test staff would let their VMs run continuously on server resources – sometimes without keeping a track of when it is being actually used or left idle. This will lead to server resources being blocked and being unavailable for others to use.
- Increase in operational costs: Since every user creates and runs their own VMs, the cost of storage, server resources required etc. will go up linearly.
- Difficult to track license usage: It will be practically impossible for IT administrators to keep track of specific software/OS licenses being used in each VM
- Compliance and audit: This is less of a problem in dev/test, but a problem regardless. If your administrator ever needs to respond to a compliance audit, it will be a nightmare tracking and reporting the inventory of all machines being run
- Impossible to track VM creations: It will be quickly impossible to manually (via Microsoft Excel, Word etc.) track VM creations by individuals as well as the resource utilization by each user
If VM sprawl is a problem that you are seeing in your dev/test environments or is likely to be a problem that you will run into shortly, you should consider looking at lab management solutions like VMLogix LabManager. These solutions do a good job of herding the VMs created in a lab (dev/test) environment and provide powerful tools to manage these configurations.
My next post will talk about how VMLogix LabManager can help control your VM sprawl in the dev/test environments. Stay tuned.
- Srihari Palangala
Other useful reading:
November 27, 2008
In the past I’ve written about and asked the question – “Does your software test lab have a champion?“. Typically, it is your lab champion who takes up (among other things) the case of sizing the lab. How many hosts do you need? The storage capacity required? How many users? etc.
Solutions like VMLogix LabManager rely on managing a set of virtual hosts that house your virtual lab environment. VMLogix LabManager provides centralized virtual lab operations (across many users and distributed teams) and drives efficiency , improves productivity and reduces your overall IT lab costs. Effective planning on this central lab setup will help users and administrators derive the most benefits.
As you move towards adopting virtualization in your physical pre-production and/or production environments, you will need to plan on capacity using appropriate tools. Companies like VMware, Microsoft, CiRBA, PlateSpin (now Novell) and Lanamark provide specialized tools (some even free, like the one from Microsoft) to help you in your capacity planning. Lanamark also provides assessment services – both a basic free and a premium paid option. Leverage these tools as you plan on virtualizing your servers (either pre-production or in production). [Update 12/5 - Here is an article on VMblog about proactive capacity planning written by Lanamark.]
Note that — once you install and use VMLogix LabManager in your lab environment, you can track resource (including virtual host) utilization – and can use this data to plan on future lab capacity upgrades (or downgrades).
- Srihari Palangala
November 17, 2008
Voke has published and made available a market commentary titled Fortune 500 Spending Required for IT Cost Savings. From a source that has published about the report:: “Following the economic downturn of 2000 to 2003, the Fortune 500 companies that pursued short-term cost-cutting strategies such as outsourcing and rollbacks in quality assurance found themselves ill prepared for future opportunities. The new research suggests that those enterprise organizations that continue to invest in critical IT areas such as software development, virtualization, and core lifecycle solutions will be better positioned for the next cycle of growth and expansion.”
One of the key findings/recommendations of the report: Invest in virtual lab automation. Again from the above source: “The virtues of virtualization are well documented but less known are the benefits that can be realized by deploying virtual lab automation technologies to streamline the software testing process;”
You can learn more virtual lab automation in this short movie found on our website.
November 17, 2008
Virtual lab automation solutions like VMLogix LabManager are used to manage internal/private clouds in the enterprise. The figure below demonstrates a typical deployment of VMLogix LabManager and the private cloud that is managed by it.
Users (e.g., developers, testers, support staff, pre-sales, demo, training etc.) connect to the LabManager server using a web browser. The LabManager server manages a set of virtualization hosts. The virtualization hosts are connected to shared storage; and the shared storage is used to retain the VM templates, VMs, clones and other lab artifacts such as user scripts and licenses.
Users can self-serve their lab infrastructure requirements through LabManager. For e.g., a user testing software can request or create a n-tier configuration which can then be deployed on any of the virtual hosts.
On the other hand, LabManager administrators maintain overall policies and administration control over the deployment. VMLogix LabManager in addition handles the license compliance on the deployed VMs and the sharing of VMs between the multiple users. In addition users can use LabManager to IP Zone (network fence) the configurations. Storage use is optimized through the use of delta-disk technology (linked clones) and administrators can maintain overall user quotas.
These capabilities enable lab administrators to deploy a lab self service framework, where lab users can access and create the required infrastructure (for testing, demo, training etc.) with minimal or no administrator intervention required.
Virtual Lab Automation and the Private Cloud
Here is a brief demo of a self service environment enabled by a virtual lab automation solution: