Enterprise Labs – Best Practices with Virtual Lab Automation

May 29, 2008

We recently wrote an article on the 5 best practices for enhancing IT development with virtual lab automation. The article talks about the challenges faced by IT labs in the enterprise today – and the best practices using virtual lab automation that can address these challenges.

In speaking with many customers we consistently found that labs in an enterprise are often subject to unrealistic pressures and demands – they need to support multiple internal groups that use the lab for testing, stay in tune with the latest hardware and software technology relevant to the business, carry out technology evaluations, be savvy on commercial terms & pricing and so on – its often a wonder how they manage to keep their head above water. We believe that virtualization will dramatically help lab managers. And products like VMLogix LabManager will ensure that the labs are managed and used efficiently. One of the goals is to free up bandwidth for lab managers allowing them to focus more time on strategic IT and other non-mundane activities of the lab.

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VMLogix at IBM RSDC 2008

May 27, 2008

Our founder and CTO, Ravi Gururaj, will be speaking at the IBM Rational Software Development Conference next week. Ravi will speak on the topic – “Virtualization Edge: Using VMLogix LabManager, IBM(R) BuildForge(R) and IBM(R) Rational(R) ClearQuest(R) Test Manager to Accelerate Global Software Delivery” and will present a demo of VMLogix LabManager integration with IBM BuildForge and ClearQuest.

If you are at the conference, do stop by to say Hi to him and other members of the VMLogix team – including Sameer Dholakia, CEO and Mark Pileski, VP Marketing.

If you are unable to make it to the conference, but are interested in these integrations (with IBM BuildForge, IBM ClearQuest) and would like to see a demo movie – drop me a note at srihari AT vmlogix DOT com – and I’ll be happy to help you. If you are interested in other VMLogix LabManager integrations with source control, build, test tools – drop me a note and I can provide you with additional details.

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How many software environments do you need?

May 27, 2008

I was looking over some posts that were discussing the number of software environments needed during software development. There is even a recognition that test environments will be the achilles heel of the future.

If you are an ISV, you probably need the following environments: Development, Testing, Demo and Support. If you are an Enterprise IT software team – you will probably need the following environments: Development, Testing, Staging and Production (with an increasing complexity in each environment). By an environment, I mean a set of physical machines connected to each other and which can host the required operating systems, software, databases, the latest software build etc.

Do you agree on the need for these environments? Is your setup any different?

Ideally, these environments need to be segregated and independent of each other. It should also be possible to deploy test bed configurations in each of these environments with ease.

Given the complexity and demands of each environment it is hard for a team to sustain this, while ensuring a response in a reasonable time frame. Which is why virtual lab automation (& products such as VMLogix LabManager and VMware Lab Manager) is a blessing! On these same physical machines, you can automatically deploy & tear down virtual machine test bed farms. “Pristine” test beds can be deployed, snapshot and reverted to instantly by users in each of these environments without the need for IT intervention.

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Microsoft dog-foods Hyper-V

May 26, 2008

I found this post which talks about Microsoft dog-fooding Hyper-V for the hosting of the MSDN and TechNet portals. This is meant to give potential customers confidence in the new virtualization platform from Microsoft & that it is production ready.

As users adopt server virtualization in their data centers, they will realize even more benefits from a virtual lab (a lab with virtual machines that they use in software engineering and pre-production). They can more easily create a virtual lab that mirrors their production environment (don’t get me wrong – even a data center with physical servers can be recreated in a lab using virtual machines – but it is easier when you have virtual machines in both your development/pre-prod environment and the production environment – you can directly re-use the exact same base virtual images/other artefacts across both environments for instance). Also, by using features from virtual lab automation products like VMLogix LabManager, Surgient, VMware Lab Manager the test & test environment creation process becomes that much more easier.

Like most software test engineers and IT operations engineers would agree – the creation of this production -like environment is very important for credible testing & to be sure that you’re testing on the ‘real environment’.

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Testing during the software lifecycle

May 23, 2008

I think of the following testing activities (as part of software verification) during software development and prior to production deployment.

  1. Development testing (10-15% of your testing time) – Unit testing, White box testing
  2. Software Testing (65-80% of your testing time, primarily black box) – Functional, Load, Stress, Performance (various OS, platforms etc.), Security, Regression
  3. Pre-production testing (10-20% of your testing time, black box only) – User acceptance, Business acceptance (more of software validation)

Here are a few of my observations with regards to the three testing buckets above:

  1. Stage #2 and #3 would immensely benefit by having production like (or real world environments in case of ISVs) environments (if not an exact replica) – that way the test results are more credible and one has more confidence on them. When we say production like, it would mean the entire test environment mirroring the production setup including OS platforms, software stack, versions, existence of other software products in the mix, network topology etc.
  2. The earlier a bug is detected between the steps above – the cheaper it is from a $$ and resource cycles perspective
  3. Virtualized environments will help #2 and #3 – so long as it is easy to setup and tear down virtual test environments. VMLogix LabManager has advanced automation capabilities that allow users to automate the process of setting up a test bed environment (OS platform, software stack in the test machine, synchronizing multi-machine bootup etc.). It is more important for #3 to have a production like environment.

What are your specific observations?

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Virtualization in a test lab

May 22, 2008

Virtualization in software testing has been one of the earliest use cases of the technology. This document lists out a great set of uses of virtualization. In the document, it is interesting to note the section on the use of virtualization in software evaluation. It lists out a set of important use cases for test lab automation software.

There are various statisics that estimate the section of the market that use virtualization for software testing. Dice conducted a recent poll which estimates that 15% of the organizations use virtualization exclusively for software testing. The broader population use virtualization for a variety of reasons (testing, consolidation, disaster/recovery, high availability etc.) – in this broader sense where they use virtualization for different purposes, I heard in a recent TechTarget webinar that 77% use virtualization for testing (including other purposes).

Software testing is a broad term – and in an earlier post I categorized it under unit testing, functional testing (load testing, stress testing and performance testing should be included in this bucket) and user acceptance testing. The first two occur in software/application R&D labs whereas the latter occurs in a pre-production or staging environment. Virtualization and test lab automation have an important role to play in at least 2 of the 3 testing methodologies.

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VMLogix LabManager supports latest release of Citrix XenServer

May 21, 2008

XenServer 4.1 is the latest release of the virtualization platform from Citrix. VMLogix LabManager announced support for this virtualization platform today.

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