Virtual test environment brings management challenges

Find out how one company overcame the challenges of managing its new virtual test environment.

By Stephen J. Bigelow, Senior Technology Writer

Software developers have a critical need to test and refine the software they develop.

In a nonvirtualized environment, a test environment usually proves difficult and time-consuming to set up. And new testing demands usually mean acquiring new expensive hardware.

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Virtual test environment brings management challenges

This was the challenge for Insuresoft LLC, a software provider for the property and casualty insurance industry.

"We were at a point where we had nearly 150 employees in our organization," said Hemanth Guttikonda, Insuresoft's quality assurance manager.

But Insuresoft also had close to 500 pieces of hardware distributed throughout the organization.

"Anytime we needed a new testing environment, the immediate request was for a new server or new hardware," Guttikonda said.

To address this ad hoc and hardware-sensitive approach, Insuresoft deployed Microsoft Virtual Server as the company's primary virtualization platform on 10 physical servers. Although this readily supported the creation of well more than 100 new virtual machines (VMs) for virtual test environment purposes, the move to virtualization also created VM management problems.

The software provider needed a management tool that would allow easy integration with existing Hewlett-Packard Quality Center test environment tools while avoiding the need to purchase new server hardware.

It also needed to provide connectivity for its new virtual test methodology for other offices in Alabama and Minnesota, along with other remote employees. After a limited search, Insuresoft selected the Surgient Virtual Automation Platform for its compatibility with existing hardware and software infrastructures.

Management data showed limitations in the virtual test environment that needed to be addressed through hardware upgrades.

"[We needed] appropriate hardware, having the capacity to support the needs of the organization," Guttikonda said.

Insuresoft did not purchase any new hardware but simply upgraded the existing hardware it had. Once the upgrades were complete, however, the Surgient tool ran well. Setup and tuning needs were minimal, mainly requiring the development of clear user policies that defined user access to ensure that a user accessed only his or her respective virtual test environment.

Virtual management has allowed Insuresoft to dramatically expand its test environment capabilities.

"Today we have over 40 test environments running," Guttikonda said, citing tremendous progress beyond the 10 virtual test environments initially created when the Surgient software was first deployed about 18 months ago.

Management also allows new servers to be created from a single updated "golden" image, saving time and ensuring a standardized VM deployment. Guttikonda said that adoption of virtual management technologies will only expand into the future as the company continues to grow, expanding on the 400% growth already seen in testing.

This was first published in June 2010

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