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Lifecycle virtualization expedites Agile testing and ALM

Yvette Francino

“Lifecycle virtualization is as evolutionary for testing as the advent of the IDE (integrated development environment) was for the development organization,” says analyst Theresa Lanowitz, founder of voke, inc. That could help explain why virtualization and cloud computing were listed in a report by Gartner Group (Gartner EXP, January 2010) as the two top priorities for CIOs. Just what is lifecycle virtualization and how does it speed time-to-market? In this article, we’ll explore those questions and show how organizations are using lifecycle virtualization as part of their continuous integration process to drastically reduce testing time.

What is lifecycle virtualization?

Most IT organizations have adopted server virtualization technology, allowing consolidation of servers, reducing costs without compromising quality. With the success of server virtualization, organizations are asking, what else can be virtualized? According to a November, 2011 report put out by voke, inc., the answer to that question is “almost everything and anything.”

As stated in the report:

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Lifecycle virtualization is defined as the use of technologies such as virtual lab management, service virtualization, defect virtualization, device virtualization, virtualized cloud platforms, et cetera, to enhance the application or product lifecycle through reducing defects, lowering costs, speeding time-to-market and increasing customer satisfaction.

By taking advantage of lifecycle virtualization, organizations are able to reduce the number of manual operations that can be expensive and error-prone. Clearly, with opportunity across the entire application lifecycle, organizations can benefit from various forms of virtualization.

The use of virtualization in test environments

Traditionally setting up environments to do back-end system testing is costly and time consuming. As systems have become increasingly complex with the vast array of integrations and configurations that must be tested to ensure quality, organizations are running into major bottlenecks in order to get their applications properly tested and deployed.

The advent of cloud computing, coupled with virtualization, has dramatically simplified an organization's ability to do that back-end system and integration testing. Add to that automation, and you have a continuous integration set-up allowing an organization to drastically reduce both the cost and the time needed to test their applications.

I spoke with Charles Chu, director of product management and strategy at IBM Rational, about IBM’s recent acquisition of Green Hat, a cloud and integration testing service organization. Chu started by describing the dilemma that developers utilizing traditional test environments are faced with.  If they are driven by speed, they often sacrifice quality, focusing on unit testing leaving their complicated system tests until the end, praying that all will work. If they are driven by quality, they spend a significant amount of time setting up their test environments in order to get all the components necessary to perform their tests. Because developers are often sharing these test labs, the development team also usually needs to break down their tests, and then set them all up again with each new build.

Chu says:

We believe that the way to address this is through technology that Green Hat has, which is the ability to create a virtual environment for applications and the interactions between applications. By creating that environment you effectively have a 24x7 virtualized test environment for the Agile developer that really allows for continuous integration, continuous testing and continuous delivery. We believe this is a significant step forward for Agile developers to actually realize a large measure of the vision of Agile.

How does this fit with continuous integration?

Continuous integration is a technique that more and more organizations are implementing because of the demand to produce high quality code at faster speeds. “We want to set up an environment where as we check in code, we get some verification that the code that we’re checking in has the requisite quality that we’re looking for,” says Agile consultant and SSQ contributor Howard Deiner of Deinersoft. Deiner explains in a series of tips on how release management processes can be automated using continuous integration. A number of vendors are working at passing data between the various tools so that the automated tests occur with each build and then results are passed back to the developers.

Chu explains that such a function is available today using the Rational CLM Suite and Green Hat:

If you have the Rational CLM suite and you have Green Hat you can walk through the scenario where the developer checks in the code, kicks off the build, the build is associated with a set of test cases, and in that test case it knows what should be provisioned in the Green Hat environment. The testing environment is then provisioned, the developer can do their test, and once the tests are run, the results flow from Green Hat back into our CLM products and the developer can actually see the results. All of that can occur today.

Certainly this integration between ALM tools to create a continuous flow of data, allowing for an automated release process is a trend we’re seeing more of in the industry. The announcement of the SOASTA and Selenium integration, the Replay Solutions announcement providing open APIs and the announcement from Coverity of its integration with HP and other ALM tools all point to the demand from Agile development teams to have the ability to deploy frequently without sacrificing quality; in other words, there’s a high demand for continuous integration, which is considerably simplified by taking advantage of lifecycle virtualization.

Lifecycle virtualization: The hub of modern ALM

Lanowitz notes the growing trend of lifecycle virtualization in the industry:

Other significant vendors in the lifecycle virtualization category include:

  • CA Technologies with a comprehensive lifecycle virtualization offering that encompasses labs, defect virtualization and service virtualization with its recent acquisition of ITKO.
  • HP with its introduction of service virtualization to the market in July 2011.
  • Microsoft with its virtual lab and defect virtualization solutions.
  • Citrix with its lab and virtualized cloud platform solutions.
  • VMware with its virtualized cloud platform solutions.
  • Wind River with its lab and device virtualization solutions.

Other smaller vendors in the lifecycle virtualization market include:

  • Parasoft with service virtualization
  • Electric Cloud with virtualized cloud platforms
  • Replay Solutions with defect virtualization
  • Skytap with labs and virtualized cloud platforms

She concludes her thoughts of the Green Hat acquisition by highlighting the significance of lifecycle virtualization:

voke is predicting that lifecycle virtualization will be the hub of the modern application lifecycle. Lifecycle virtualization will help break down barriers between operations, development and testing while aiding organizations in achieving a faster time-to-market while significantly reducing capital expenditures and increasing quality.

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