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The Evolution of Testing in the Cloud

Testing in the cloud has not so much evolved as matured

It's always exciting to be on the front end of a trend.  Some turn out to be short-lived fads while others, such as the electronic distribution of music, disrupt entire industries.  There are some who see cloud computing as a fad. Those who share that view tend to look at the Cloud as if it's an all or nothing proposition; if you can't move your entire infrastructure to the Cloud it must certainly be a passing fancy.

But the Cloud is here to stay.  There are many applications, like compute intensive statistical analysis, business intelligence and testing, that are incredibly well-suited for cloud computing.  We're proud to have been first in the Cloud with a commercial testing solution and have been keen observers of the evolution of testing in the Cloud.  What have we seen?

First, it's getting more crowded.  The benefits of testing from the Cloud are just too obvious: on-demand access to scalable infrastructure and a better representation of the real world than in the test lab alone.  As a result, there are more companies than ever before using the Cloud to duplicate a production infrastructure for system testing, generate load for performance testing or quickly spin up servers for unit testing.  They're doing so to take advantage of the speed required for quick testing cycles and the scalability needed to duplicate real world usage.

There are also a growing number of vendors leveraging the cloud to deliver everything from test management to standardized configurations for building test environments.  In fact, one of IBM's initial thrusts into the Cloud is the IBM Smart Business Development and Test Cloud, an initiative in which we at SOASTA are quite happy to be a partner.  Even non-traditional testing companies, such as RightScale, are leveraging their provisioning capabilities to make it easier for IT departments to develop and test in the Cloud.  We also see vendors re-purposing client-server solutions in an effort to catch the wave, often with less than satisfactory results.

The crowd is creating comfort.  IT is getting past, in most cases, some of the early concerns about security, reliability and performance.  Adhering to best practices and understanding how to leverage the wide range of offerings now available from Cloud providers has mitigated those concerns.  Also, companies are beginning to realize that they can leverage the Cloud to test applications they might never deploy in the Cloud: that the relationship between the public cloud and behind the firewall is a complementary one.  That's why SOASTA's test methodology promotes both external and internal testing, providing an on demand service from the cloud and a self-service option for behind the firewall.

The push for "agile development" means that testing needs to keep pace.  Test management programs have become more flexible and companies like uTest provide ad hoc human resources to help companies manage costs, yet respond to an increasing demand for speed.  The cloud has helped speed up the time to test.  Again, rapid and timely access to resources is important.  But the availability of APIs to quickly deploy those resources is just as important.  SOASTA recently announced the CloudTest Grid, a program that allows Performance Engineers to spin up hundreds of servers, across multiple cloud vendors, and be ready to test in less than 10 minutes.

Customers are also getting more comfortable taking advantage of the benefits the Cloud can bring to testing.  The idea of completely duplicating a production infrastructure for test, or of running full-scale load and performance tests against a live website are becoming more accepted every day.  And, as always, IT is under budget pressure.  Recently IBM stated:  "The average enterprise devotes up to 50 percent of its entire technology infrastructure to development and test, but typically up to 90 percent of it remains idle." The company added that it believes cloud-based development environments can allow enterprises to cut IT labor costs by up to 50 percent and significantly decrease time to market for new products and services. (source: InformationWeek). The cost benefits of pay as you go for hardware and software is obvious, and being complemented by 'renting' the expertise and services provided by cloud testing vendors.

Testing in the cloud has not so much evolved as matured.  In his blog post "How the cloud has changed testing forever", Mike Kavis, CTO of M-Dot Networks, talks about prototyping, performance and device testing using the cloud, and concludes by saying, "So even if your company fears the cloud as a solution for deploying applications and building data centers, there is no excuse for continuing to spend way too much time and money testing things the "way we have always done it."

We couldn't agree more.

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