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Side effect of Openbravo on Ubuntu: Easier testing, QA

Openbravo just released its ERP 2.50 Profesional Subscription for Ubuntu, an integrated open source ERP software stack packaged with the Ubuntu operating system. cost-effective commercial open source product that is cloud-deployable via virtual appliance and also available on various platforms.

The new package offers a software testing and quality assurance (QA) benefit, too, according to John Fandl, Director of Product Strategy for Openbravo.

“The QA angle centers on the general benefit of standardization in aiding QA efficiency,” Fandl said.”When you can execute a hands-off installation that runs in an hour, and automatically creates and pre-configures a full ERP stack — including database, web server, application server — that makes it really easy for enterprises to do a proper QA cycle, with separate development, QA, user acceptance and production environments.”

I asked Fandl to carry through that thought to the testing side of things. He said that installing proprietary ERP stracks is difficult, so the QA function often has to compromise and forgo proper testing.” Considering the complexity of ERP, it’s hard to match QA environments actually to production environment. “For example, they may be testing on a different version of the application server or database than is in production, which can cause surprises when the code is promoted to production. Being able to rely on an efficient, automated “full-stack installation” that can be effectively “pulled from the cloud on-demand” is a godsend for QA.”

Fandl has a point, Medicity QA director and site expert John Overbaugh told me.

“There is definitely value in a clean installation of the entire stack of applications. Anytime a technology is difficult to employ, teams will find a way around it, by either mimicking a clean install or by doing a small amount of machine clean-up before starting in again on testing. This often results in an unreliable environment.”

Fandl elaborated, saying: “Inexperienced testers and especially developers doing unit testing–since QA is not their major focus — may not be as rigorous in regards to testing on a proven-clean environment. Mimicking a clean environment sounds like a time savings, and it does work most of the time…until it doesn’t. The problem comes from subtle environment differences that arise over time between QA and production environments; differences that “shouldn’t matter” until they do! And the way you find out is with a production problem that you can’t duplicate in the QA environment. Ouch.”

So, I asked Fandl, how does the Openbravo-Ubuntu package help testers get clean installs and avoid these ills?

Fandl told me that fully automating the installation, including the entire stack and all of its dependencies, gives the same result everytime, regardless of the starting-point state of the target machine.

“For example, if Tomcat 5.5 is on the machine, the installation package which knows that Tomcat 6.0 is required for Openbravo ERP 2.50) will automatically retrieve it from the Ubuntu repository and will upgrade your server from Tomcat 5.5 to 6.0, before continuing with the Openbravo application installation. So, Ubuntu’s Debian-based package management system transparently takes care of these details, so that the QA person does not have to be an expert in the underlying stack. This is a great help, especially for business-centric QA staff testing ERP, who may not know how to determine what version of a system component like Tomcat is actually running on the server.”

Openbravo did its initial testing –installing the package from the public repository — from a clean instance of Ubuntu 9.04 set up inside of a virtual machine.

With this release, Openbravo is following in the footsteps of other open source ERP and software vendors who are creating easy-to-install stacks. For more information on this trend, check the blogosphere, where Matthew MacKenzie writes about Openbravo and SMB ERP. Also, on the blog, How Software Is Built, Scott Swigart and Sean Campbell interview OpenBravo CTO Paolo Juvara, who oversees product development. Juvara notes that Openbravo provides a foundation upon which developers and users can customize their software, making components proprietary if they wish.

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