Does your software test lab have a champion?

July 30, 2008

Randy Rice has co-authored a book titled ‘Surviving the Top Ten Challenges of Software Testing’. You can find the summary of the top ten challenges here. The set of challenges have been researched and presented quite well, including a summary of the solution for each challenge.

From a software test lab/virtual lab automation standpoint (you can tell, I’m always thinking about this!), I wanted to highlight on a few of the challenges:

  • Challenge #9 – Whose side are testers on?:: I realize that the authors are bringing up a “mindset” problem/challenge with this point. My thought is that with a centralized lab management solution, various stakeholders in software development can come together and collaborate to ship quality software. Like Randy points out, developers need to be responsible for unit and structural testing — wouldn’t it be nice if they could tap into a central virtual lab automation solution to access the same test OS base images/configs/library to run these tests? And share these results with other team members? The common lab playground can eliminate some of the “us vs. them” mentality.
  • Challenge #8 – Testing without tools:: This one is my personal favorite. I’ve read, heard, experienced time and again that test environments are complex. Shouldn’t we be embracing virtualization and virtual lab automation solutions rapidly? Its not that they are prohibitively expensive. The return for the investment is quick and tangible. The idea is to make self-service IT and automation possible in the lab. And most of the virtual lab automation solutions have integrations with source control, build and test execution tools.
  • Challenge #4 – Overcoming Throwing Stuff over the Wall:: My point goes back to what I’ve mentioned about challenge #9 above. If developers have quick and easy (self serve) access to a pristine lab environment they can conduct unit and structural tests that much more easily and may resist throwing stuff over the wall. Quality moves upfront in the software cycle as a result.

Of course, for all these challenges, I’m viewing it from a perspective of how a virtual lab automation solution like VMLogix LabManager can help. I realize that tools are not a silver bullet (there are a lot of people issues involved) — but, they can dramatically help your situation. To that extent, you should have virtual lab automation on top of your mind. If you’re interested in learning more, go ahead and register on our site.

Finally, to the whole point of what got me started down this track — at places where you work — does your software test lab have a dedicated resource or champion? Is it a distributed outfit with every tester/dev managing their own test bed – or do you have a central lab that users can tap into (and a champion for that central resource)? Would love to hear your experiences around this.

Like Randy mentions, without a champion, no tool can make its way truly into the system. And without the right tools, productivity improvements are impossible.

– Srihari Palangala (srihari@vmlogix.com)


Bookmark and Share

Advertisements

Managing virtual machine sprawl across hypervisors

July 29, 2008

Lets face it – there are many hypervisors available in the market today – some free, others not. Most of the big players have long realized the value of the platform play in the technology industry and are offering their own version of the hypervisor.

So how does this plethora of hypervisors play out for users in a test lab? I came across this post from Norbert Kiesel. Sounds like he is about to give up because of the problem of VM sprawl further compounded by the fact that he has to deal with multiple hypervisors.

Does this situation resonate with where you are headed in your test labs? Or worse still is this where you are currently? Do let us know how your situation is evolving and steps you’re taking to handle things.

From our perspective, we recognize the need for competition in the base platform and also the value of providing a hypervisor agnostic virtual lab management solution. VMLogix LabManager provides the comprehensive ability to manage a single or a mixed hypervisor (Citrix, Microsoft, VMware) VM lab farm.

– Srihari Palangala


Bookmark and Share


Some comments on testing in virtual environments

July 25, 2008

This post talks about load and performance software testing in a virtual environment. The post also includes a presentation on the topic.

Microsoft and VMware are actively pushing use of virtualization in the data center. For instance, sometime back Microsoft posted that they were dog-fooding Hyper-V for hosting the MSDN and TechNet portals. As server virtualization is adopted in the production center, any lingering concerns around conducting specific performance testing in a virtual environment will be moot! In fact, the same virtual test setup will be used in your production environment!

Speaking of virtual test setups, the presentation talks about testers assessing system performance in not very production-like environments. This is one reason why I lay emphasis on virtual lab automation solutions like VMLogix LabManager. I have written sometime back on what VLA offers over and above a hypervisor. VLA solutions have network fencing, networking, automation and a host of other capabilities that help testers do their job in production like environments.

The presentation also mentions that the team puts in lots of overtime to fix the defects (for testing in a virtual world). With a VLA solution (i.e., when you’ve formalized virtualization as a technology tool to use in your software engineering cycle), users can dramatically reduce the costs associated with manual IT provisioning and bug reproduction.

– Srihari Palangala


Bookmark and Share


Automation in Virtual Labs — What exactly do we mean by it?

July 21, 2008

This blog has been talking about automation in virtual labs for a while now — so what exactly do we mean by it? Maybe it is time we bring some clarity around this.

Automation to a lot of users of virtual labs is the ability to spin up and tear down virtual machines on the fly (leveraging a central repository/library). This enables IT admins to provide lab users with self-serve capabilities. At VMLogix, we view this level of automation as a great start. However VMLogix LabManager provides a lot more in the name of automation (to IT admins and users alike).

A couple of pictures will speak a thousand words. The first picture below is the VMLogix LabManager high level architecture layout. Like you will see, many virtual hosts are managed by a central VMLogix LabManager server. These virtual hosts are able to bring up and tear down VMs, multi-machine VM configurations etc. on the fly (thanks to the VMLogix VMagent existing on each host — see the second picture). Thats where the definition and implementation of automation stops in the conventional sense.

High level VMLogix LabManager architecture

High level VMLogix LabManager architecture

The second image below is more interesting in the context of automation and VMLogix LabManager. Each virtual host can support multiple VMs (LabManager supports multiple hypervisors including Citrix, Microsoft and VMware) — in each VM, you have the option of running a VMLogix guest agent. We believe that this guest agent provides the next level of automation & management support in virtual labs. IT admins and users can now run several operations inside each of the VMs — for example, installing software, cleaning the machine environment, capturing a movie, executing a command, pausing operations etc. You can see the full list of operations here.

Automation in the virtual hosts and virtual machines

Automation in the virtual hosts and virtual machines

We believe that this “second level of automation” provides users with a lot of flexibility and truly takes away manual repetitive tasks out of their hand. Think of the time you have spent getting a build machine ready, a test machine environment ready, a developer machine ready, …. and the list keeps growing. You can now automate all these operations to get the internals of a VM setup the way you want it. And if our repertoire of operations out of the box is not sufficient, you can build custom operations as well 🙂

Now, does this level of virtual lab automation help you in your job?

Today VMLogix LabManager supports leading hypervisors from Citrix, Microsoft and VMware as well. As newer hypervisors from these industry leaders are released (such as Hyper-V), VMLogix is committed to maintaining the hypervisor agnostic stance as a strategic differentiator.

[Updated] — Here is a movie of LabManager deploying a configuration with guest operations (watch the “Deploy a Multi-Machine Configuration” movie).

Login here to register to our VMLogix Virtual Portal. If you want to try our product for free for 30 days, register here.

– Srihari Palangala


Bookmark and Share


Next generation test tool from IBM – Rational Quality Manager

July 21, 2008

We came across an interesting blog (albeit new, but will be the space to watch for RQM development news) that posts about the latest on IBM Rational Quality Manager – which is being touted as the next generation test management tool from IBM. Apparently there will be a migration path for current IBM CQTM users.

The blog also had a post on the integration of test lab management long with IBM RQM.

The development of these tools from IBM is interesting news. VMLogix has a history of providing value added integrations with IBM Rational products. If you are an existing IBM Rational Build Forge or CQTM user and would like to leverage virtual lab automation – check out the VMLogix LabManager integrations and the value add of VLA with these products here and here.

We look forward to providing integrated solutions to market with newer IBM Rational products such as RQM as well.

– Srihari Palangala


Bookmark and Share


Software build and test environments – how complicated is it for you?

July 17, 2008

I know from experience and from speaking with people in various domains that the software build and test environment setup process can easily get complicated and hard. So what have people written about it? I came across this post from Dana Cline — and was I overwhelmed. Dana has the mix of everything to make his job really difficult — building the base images, installing the database and sample data, multiple DB configs, multiple server platforms, multiple web servers, multiple languages, multiple architectures (32 and 64 bit), multiple client platforms and even multiple product releases supported. Whew! Did he miss anything at all 🙂

How complicated is your test and build scenario? Anything over and beyond Dana’s scenario? Would love to hear from you.

If you are anywhere close to how complicated the above scenario is (heck – even 20% as complex!) – you owe it to yourself to check out virtual lab automation products – such as VMware Lab Manager and VMLogix LabManager. In a few days, I’ll post a RoI calculator for you to check out. Can’t wait for it? Just drop me a note.

If you get yourself an account with us at VMLogix and login to our Virtual Portal, you will find an interesting set of resources – and among them a video that demonstrates how you can benefit from VMLogix LabManager automation. This video specifically demonstrates how your life with building/testing on multiple platforms/languages/systems/… and creating a test environment can be rapidly eased out.

– Srihari Palangala


Bookmark and Share


Can Virtual Lab Automation help you treat VMs like Physical Machines?

July 16, 2008

I came across

  • One of the concerns raised is running operations on VMs concurrently (with VMs that are hosted on the same server). With a virtual lab automation solution like VMLogix LabManager, users can leverage automation capabilities to execute scripts/demand scans/commands/re-booting of machines, installing of software etc. in an automated manner. Here is a screenshot of all the automation operations available in VMLogix LabManager. With the automation capability and the ability to schedule jobs on hosts, users can cascade/stagger operations with VMs. This helps control the load on physical hosts.
  • With a centralized VM management system user and team management is simplified — the lab administrator can control user/team access to lab resources (such as machine templates, configurations etc.). Users/teams can also share lab resources with appropriate permissions (view/edit/delete). This functionality helps in driving security and access control to lab resources. Here is a screenshot:
User and Team Management in LabManager

User and Team Management in LabManager

  • Performance monitoring – Again a centralized virtual lab management system helps track VM use of host resources (in addition to other performance monitoring capabilities). Here is a screenshot of VMLogix LabManager monitoring the hosts’ RAM utilization.
Reports in VMLogix LabManager

Reports in VMLogix LabManager

What do you think? Do these functions help you work with VMs providing a layer of management control as you transition from working with physical to virtual machines?

If you would like to learn more, register for a free evaluation of VMLogix LabManager.

– Srihari Palangala (srihari@vmlogix.com)


Bookmark and Share