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Cloud is becoming a more popular option for testing, development and deployment

In recent years, quality assurance teams have become accustomed to a variety of new technologies. It has been a big change for the many quality assurance analysts who came of age at a time when waterfall development methodologies and PC-centric applications were their front and center concerns.

Now they have to adjust to the realities of cloud computing and the ever-expanding mobile device ecosystem. A lot of infrastructures, development platforms and applications are being shifted off-premises to public and private clouds, while the device mix at many enterprises is becoming more diverse.

Let's consider some of the developments that are currently afoot:

Cloud is becoming a more popular option for testing, development and deployment
The last decade has seen a surge in awareness and uptake of cloud computing, which can be broadly defined as the use of computing, storage and networking resources over an IP network. Platforms such as Amazon Web Services and Microsoft Azure have picked up millions of business users.

According to the 2016 RightScale State of the Cloud Report, clouds of all kinds have made inroads into everyday operations:

  • The typical cloud user is now running applications in 1.5 public clouds (e.g., AWS or Azure) and 1.7 private clouds (custom, cloud-like on-premises infrastructure). Beyond that, experimentation was also underway with 1.5 public clouds and 1.3 private clouds.
  • Private cloud uptake has been brisk recently, rising from 63 percent to 77 percent of enterprises between 2015 and 2016. This in turn has spurred growth in hybrid cloud deployments; 82 percent of IT organizations now have a hybrid cloud strategy in place.
  • Increasing attention to cloud has also driven growing investments in DevOps solutions. Tools such as Docker, Ansible, Chef and Puppet all saw big gains over the last year or so. Docker adoption alone has doubled since 2015, with another 35 percent of companies planning to use it at some point.

For developers, testers, operations teams and QA groups, cloud is a powerful set of technical assets. It makes resources like virtual machines available on-demand, which simplifies the otherwise complex process of having to jump through the usual provisioning hoops. Cloud can also be a money saver, since it turns hefty CAPEX dollars into flexible OPEX cost structures.

Still, there are challenges to making cloud the centerpiece of a DevOps organization. Many organizations do not optimize their cloud deployments, plus there is the issue of a possible skills mismatch between what cloud requires and what IT pros have become used to over time.

"Cloud computing comes in several models - each addresses a different audience and each of these audiences and their providers will require different skill sets," stated The Cloud Credential Council, according to SmartSource. "Traditional IT skills revolve around managing servers, networks and applications. The cloud renders most of that obsolete."

Mobile technology continues to change how people work
Smartphones, tablets and smartwatches have all become mainstream devices within the last decade, after decades of being little more than highfalutin concepts. Their spread has changed personal computing habits, certainly, but they have also impacted the everyday responsibilities of QA teams, which now must have viable tools and strategies for mobile applications.

There are significant differences between building an application for mobile and for desktop or the Web:

  • For starters, many mobile platforms are locked down, which means that teams have to account for many more restrictions than they are probably used to seeing on desktop/Web. This is on top of the more obvious limitations on mobile, such as volatile wireless connectivity, battery conservation and low processing power.
  • Mobile devices are also heavily fragmented, meaning that there is a wide variety of screen sizes and hardware features out there. Android in particular has become infamous for this issue, which can make it hard to test out an adequate number of scenarios.
  • End-user expectations are also very high for mobile devices. Since a smartphone or tablet is basically something that is carried around all the time (unlike a PC), its owner expects it to work properly at any given moment, whether it is being used for texting, calling or some other application.

"A meteoric rise like this inevitably creates problems for developers, as they work out how to produce apps quickly and efficiently for a diverse set of devices," explained a writer for Ministry of Testing back in 2014. "QA departments are left playing catch up as they endeavor to test apps properly before they are rushed out the door. Testing for the mobile market is a new challenge. It's a fast-paced industry that's constantly changing, and that throws up some unique problems."

To overcome these obstacles, enterprises need to invest enough in their QA teams and ensure that they have the resources they require to handle mobile and cloud-centric applications. An enterprise test management platform provides the automation and integrations that are both so essential to testing modern applications at great scale, making it a cornerstone of effective QA.

In the years ahead, the growth of DevOps and hybrid cloud in particular will put pressure on businesses of all kinds to continually evolve their QA strategies. DevOps testing education initiatives - such as breaking down silos between teams - will be important, but so will having sufficient resources such as testing software in place. DevOps education initiatives - such as breaking down silos between teams - will be important, but so will having sufficient resources such as testing software in place.

More Stories By Sanjay Zalavadia

As the VP of Client Service for Zephyr, Sanjay Zalavadia brings over 15 years of leadership experience in IT and Technical Support Services. Throughout his career, Sanjay has successfully established and grown premier IT and Support Services teams across multiple geographies for both large and small companies.

Most recently, he was Associate Vice President at Patni Computers (NYSE: PTI) responsible for the Telecoms IT Managed Services Practice where he established IT Operations teams supporting Virgin Mobile, ESPN Mobile, Disney Mobile and Carphone Warehouse. Prior to this Sanjay was responsible for Global Technical Support at Bay Networks, a leading routing and switching vendor, which was acquired by Nortel. He has also held management positions in Support Service organizations at start-up Silicon Valley Networks, a vendor of Test Management software, and SynOptics.

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