Companies getting started with automated testing face an initial hurdle: cost. For InfoStretch Corp., an outsource quality and testing/ engineering services company, in Santa Clara, Calif., a tool called Automation Anywhere is helping their clients automate testing in an affordable way, according to CEO Rutesh Shah.
Automation Anywhere (formerly Tethys Solutions), also based in Santa Clara, "didn't position it as a testing tool out of the box, but we found we could start using it as an automation tool," Shah said. "It worked out for us with customers who didn't have a test automation tool or budget to buy a big test automation tool, and they wouldn't use open source. We found a sweet spot leveraging this technology."
InfoStretch provides outsourced software as a service (SaaS) solutions, mobile application development and testing, quality assurance and process optimization services, and ERP testing. The provider has been using Automation Anywhere, which automates business and IT processes, for about two years, Shah said, initially as a data generation tool.
But Shah said the product had some features that they found suitable for use as a testing tool, such as the ability to design workflows. "That's important for testing," he said. With workflow, he explained, you can designate things like "after this action go here, but only if the middle step was successful. In testing that's a big thing, because you don't want to continue if the test fails."
Shah said Automation Anywhere was also amenable to enhance the product to meet more of their automated testing needs. "We had one client that has been developing Windows applications since 1992, and in 2004 they rearchitected everything to .NET."
The client, which was an emergency response government agency, wanted to automate testing and put together a regression library, but because of the older controls in the tests, none of the tools they had worked. InfoStretch asked Automation Anywhere to help them with the challenge, "and they started adding 'actions' based on what we came up with."
Today, InfoStretch typically uses Automation Anywhere to automate regression testing for its clients unless the client already has another tool and has built scripts. "In that case we use [Automation Anywhere] for data generation," Shah said. "You can record a script for data generation and keep running it on 10 machines," he said, for example. "This kind of tool, and the cost, is very attractive to us. We can support it and incorporate it into our services."
According to Mihir Shukla, CEO of Automation Anywhere, customers use the product for two main areas: "any kind of business/IT process automation and automated testing. When we came out in the market we looked at the testing problem differently. We saw that the [automated testing] software from companies like Rational and others was designed to be used by programmers. So we looked at the problem of why does it cost so much to do automated testing? Because you need highly skilled resources, and time to create and manage the test cases."
Also, he added, "today quite a few companies have moved to agile where testing is an ongoing process and you can no longer do long testing phases. The process has to be quick and adaptable."
Automation Anywhere requires no programming and includes a wizard-based task editor for creating automation scripts; advanced repeat options for specifying and repeating the testing as often as needed; a built-in scheduler allows for overnight testing; and a data generator that facilitates testing large quantities of test data.
In addition, Shukla said, "You can take a test case and make it into an executable file and run it anywhere you like." This addresses the issue of tracing a development problem that may not surface in the QA environment but occurs in production. "It can take months to figure out what's going on," he said. "Many of our customers take an automated test and convert it to an executable, then run it and see what happens, and a problem is identified. Many of our customers choose us because of this feature."
Last week the company announced version 5.5 of Automation Anywhere, which adds email automation, a terminal emulator, secure FTPs, Microsoft Exchange Server reporter, bulk edit capability and an enhanced Web recorder. And in May the company rolled out Automation Anywhere Server, which enables group collaboration, a feature InfoStretch was looking for, Shah said. "We don't want tool to be one tester centric, want it to be team centric; we want to use what someone has already done."
Shah said he would also like Automation Anywhere to integrate with other test management tools, "so we don't have automated and manual testing separately."
He would also like to see support for automating the testing of mobile applications. "We've been testing manually for lack of technology. With each mobile app we have to test so many different forms. If we could automate this and keep running on different forms that would be tremendous."
Shah acknowledges that not everything can or should be automated. "You still need some manual end-to-end scenarios. We continue to have manual test cases in most of our engagements."
However, automated testing does contribute to quality, and avoids what Shah calls the "coffee syndrome" (or lack thereof). "If a guy didn't have a cup of coffee or had a fight [at home], testing could be subjective to his mood," he explained, "versus once a test is automated it's consistent and does [the task] without getting bored. It's important to make sure quality is consistent, and automation will help you achieve that. We take pride in testers, but they're still human, and can get influenced by things surrounding them, but a machine can keep running."