Cloud based QA Infrastructure

A silver bullet to ward off traditional challenges

If you have some spare time at the office, spare a thought to the CIO in the IT industry. A blitzkrieg of challenges invite the CIO every day as he settles down on his desk after greeting his colleagues, rather ironically for him, a “good morning”. Here’s how the dice rolls for him every day at work:

Existing Scenario:

a)    Shrinking budget

b)    Increasing cost pressures


a)    Cut IT spend

b)    Deliver value and technology edge

Preferred Solution:

a)    Enhance ROI generated from IT components

b)    Increase focus on QA infrastructure and maintenance costs

c)    Lean on test managers to reduce QA infra costs as they form a major chunk of IT infrastructure budgeting.

Cutting costs, a Catch-22 situation

On the other side, test managers face a catch-22 situation as cut in QA infrastructure spend could potentially impact the quality of software deliverables. Here are a few examples of the challenges that drive cost of IT upwards while creating and managing QA infrastructure:

  • Testing operations are recurring but non-continuous. This means test infrastructure is sub-optimally utilized and therefore has a significant impact on ROI.
  • Testing work areas span a wide spectrum such as On-time QA environment provisioning for multiple projects, decommissioning of QA environment to other projects, QA environment support, managing incidents, and managing configurations for multiple projects. All these necessitate an organization to allocate and maintain proportionate skilled resources at all times which in turn drives costs upwards.
  • CIOs and Test Managers are expected to ensure testing is commissioned on recommended hardware, because most of the issues linked to later stages of the quality gate are attributed to testing on inadequate hardware. This again accounts for a significant chunk of the total IT budget
  • Creating appropriately defined QA infrastructure up and running in time (including procurement and leasing of these elements) to meet the set timelines demands more IT staffing resources
  • Many Test Managers give the goby to staging environment and directly deploy to production because of budget constraints, however creating a staging environment that mimics production is more critical to quality of software in production. Creating such environment also necessitates huge chunk of total IT budget.
  • Today’s complex application architecture involves multiple hardware and software tools which require a lot of investment in terms of time, money, resources on coordination, managing SLAs, procurement;  with multiple vendors. All these taken together add up more allocations in the budget.
  • For conducting performance testing, test managers need to set up a huge number of machines in the lab to generate desired number of virtual users demanding more budget from CIOs

The Case for QA infrastructure as a Service in Cloud

All the above challenges force CIOs and Test Managers to move away from on-premises QA infrastructure and scout for alternatives such as cloud computing for creating and managing QA environments. Organizations are leveraging cloud computing to significantly lower IT infra spend towards QA environments while at the same time deliver value, quality and efficient QA lifecycle. Already, many players, big and small, such as Amazon, IBM, Skytap, CMT, Joyent, Rackspace;  offer QA infrastructure as a service in cloud. Using this service, organizations can set up QA infrastructure in cloud, shifting focus from CAPEX to OPEX.  CIOs too are able to significantly squeeze both CAPEX and OPEX elements thereby meeting the budget cap without compromising on the quality of the solution.

How does it work?

Assume that a QA team needs a highly complex test environment configuration in order to conduct testing on a new application. Instead of setting up on-premises QA environment (which requires hardware procurement, set up, maintenance), a QA team member logs in to the QA infrastructure service provider’s self-service portal and:

* Creates an environment template with each tier of the application and network elements like web server, application servers, load balancer, database and storage.  For example a QA team member can fill the web server template like “web server with large instance and windows server 2008”.

* Submits the request through the IaaS service provider’s portal

* The service provider provisions this configuration and hardware in minutes and sends a mail to the QA team.

* The QA team uses this testing environment for required time and completes the testing.

* the QA team releases the test environment at the end of the testing cycle.

* For subsequent releases, the environment can simply be set up from the same template and the QA team can deploy the new code and start testing.

* The service provider bills for only the actual usage of the QA environment.

How does it help?

Elastic and scalable data center with no CAPEX investment: CIOs/Test Managers don’t have to worry about budgeting, procurement, setting up and maintenance of QA environment. Organizations simply need to develop applications and create a template of the required environment and request the service provider who enables the test environment. The QA team then deploys the application on a production like environment, thus saving time and expenses over traditional on-premises deployment. This shifts the focus from CAPEX to OPEX for IT infrastructure spending.

QA teams can provision their own environment: With this facility, QA teams can provision their own environment on-demand, rather than going though long IT procurement process, to set up an on-premises test environment.

Multiple parallel environments: QA teams can create different environments with different platforms and application stacks, with no investment in capex and multiple hardware, reducing the Go to Market time.

Minimize resource hoarding: Instead of setting up on-premises test environments and investing capital on hardware, QA teams can deploy the environments on cloud on a need-basis and release the resources after completion of testing. Some service providers provide ‘suspend and resume’ facility, in which case QA teams can suspend an environment saving the entire state including memory and resume at a later stage when required.

The bottom line: QA environments in cloud are lifesavers for companies. CIOs are slowly adapting cloud based QA infrastructure and moving away from on-premises QA infrastructures which demands huge CAPEX and OPEX and yields less ROI. Cloud-based QA infrastructure, if managed smartly, is a silver bullet that can neutralize most of the challenges faced by CIOs/Test Managers in traditional QA infrastructure.