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3/28/2012
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Put Your Test Lab In The Cloud

Your options for having a software development lab in the cloud are increasing. Here’s how to get your dev lab there.

Putting software through the paces of a cloud-based development, testing, and quality assurance lab is one of the best ways to try out a cloud environment without having to worry about the data control and security issues of production environments.

Public cloud environments like those from Amazon, Microsoft, Joyent, and soon Hewlett-Packard let developers rapidly scale lab infrastructure and deploy the needed tools without making big up-front capital investments. But if they're not carefully managed, public cloud lab costs can escalate, ratcheting the total cost of ownership higher than for on-premises or private cloud labs.

We found this out with a lab we ran in the Amazon Web Services cloud. At the beginning of the month, one of our developers stood up a new application that used a lot of CPU and storage, and he accidently left it on. Lab costs that month were up tenfold. Amazon kindly sent a note thanking us for relying on AWS for more of our needs, but more proactive management was what we really needed.

But private cloud labs are complicated and can be costly to set up. Ultimately, your organization's security requirements, budget constraints, and ability to deal with complexity will determine which way you go.

Why A Cloud Lab

From a business perspective, organizations can set up public or private cloud labs faster than on-premises labs and shift lab costs from capital to operational expenses. By putting your lab in the cloud, you give developers a self-service portal where they can create, replicate, change, and delete entire software development projects and test stacks on demand. Developers and testing engineers can use various databases, operating systems, browsers, application builds, and middleware combinations for the configurations they need--all without involving the IT folks. They also can create new release stacks on demand and ensure that they're consistent through release cycles.

With a cloud lab, developers also can quickly re-create a complex bug or production problem, take a snapshot, and then make changes, run tests, and compare the results to the original snapshot.

A cloud lab supports mobile workers more effectively than a conventional one, because development tools can be accessed from anywhere with a network connection. It also makes it easier to have a different mix of team members on various projects. You can easily implement customized access polices for each role on a team and give outside contractors restricted roles and rights compared. Team members can share configurations, templates, assets, and files specific to their projects, and collaborate during the entire development cycle.

Although the cloud model brings users together quickly, fosters collaboration, and maintains consistency while increasing productivity, it's still costly and time consuming to build all the software services you'll need. It's often better to use commercial off-the-shelf software in a private cloud or software-as-a-service tools in a public cloud. There are several vendors that offer cloud lab products, including CollabNet, Electric Cloud, eXo, and Skytap Cloud.

Our full report on putting a lab in the cloud is available free with registration.

In this report, you'll get
  • A detailed look at tecnologies for cloud development labs
  • More discussion of portability and integration issues
  • Data from InformationWeek's 2012 State of the Cloud Survey
Get This And All Our Reports


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techprpro
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techprpro,
User Rank: Apprentice
4/4/2012 | 3:34:54 PM
re: Put Your Test Lab In The Cloud
Excellent article, Michael. In fact, I'd recommend it to some of our clients/partners, who are making these very decisions right now. You didn't touch on compliance requirements; for some, that may also be a factor in the decision-making process. - Laurie Head, VP, AIS Network Cloud Hosting, http://ww.aisn.net
AlexM1986
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AlexM1986,
User Rank: Apprentice
4/5/2012 | 8:40:45 AM
re: Put Your Test Lab In The Cloud
Very thorough article. Some great points on the benefits of hosting test environments in the cloud, weighed up against several potential pitfalls. We built and use a tool called CloudFlex to manage and provision our cloud environments in our testing and development projects, and have since made the tool available to the public as a "Test and Development Environments as a Service" offering; it's really simple to use, even for those less familiar with using cloud applications, and has built-in scheduling options to automatically shut down environments at the end of the working day (or whenever we need them to stop). You can actually see exactly what you're using from the dashboard view, so it simplifies managing the costs of your resources.

If the concept of "test labs in the cloud" interests you, I think a great way to build a business case would be to do a trial of CloudFlex (it's free for 30 days). http://www.cloudflex.co.uk
NathanS
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NathanS,
User Rank: Apprentice
4/9/2012 | 8:21:57 PM
re: Put Your Test Lab In The Cloud
I recently attended a CIO conference and had many discussions on this topic.

For those hosting their own infrastructure, there are some big technology advantages still not available on the cloud.
An example is a company like Kubisys who can mimic production environments (sets of servers) in minutes and use them for test labs.

You can even create labs for each developer on the fly with all your prod data, the current application configuration, with no IT infrastructure knowledge in minutes.

Pretty cool.

The solutions now seem to be able only to deploy standalone machines with minimal OS configurations.

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