Tech Guide: Automated Software Testing

Sophisticated software development projects demand sophisticated tools. Automated testing tools have come a long way, and there's more to come.

InformationWeek Staff, Contributor

September 10, 2003

3 Min Read

The Future Of Automated Software Testing
As Web services become more prevalent, the need to incorporate specialized testing to accommodate them becomes increasingly important. "Web services are the killer app glue, because they allow you to stitch different systems together and have them communicate, but that involves adding a level of testing," says Jonathan Rende, VP of product marketing at Mercury Interactive Corp. "You have loosely coupled independent applications talking to each other that don't necessarily all have user interfaces, so you have to test them both independently and together to see that they are reliable and perform properly." This type of testing is especially critical since applications linked by the Web service are often out of the developer's control.

Vendors most likely will add features and functions to existing testing tools to accommodate Web services, but they may encounter significant challenges in doing so, says Dan Koloski, director of Web testing solutions at Empirix. Testing Web services presents a unique challenge since they don't use traditional user interfaces. Traditional automated testing solutions, he says, rely on recorded user transactions, which are scaled for performance testing. To circumvent this challenge, vendors will have to tread carefully, finding ways for testers to quickly and efficiently test Web services and Web applications without a steep learning curve, Koloski says.

Many developers are calling for a new category of software testing tool--one that can predict when something is going to break so it can be fixed earlier and at less cost. Dubbed predictive analysis, this type of tool might, for example, help determine whether an application will use network resources appropriately within a given environment. That information might help a development team be better able to plan up front to add more networking or other resources to circumvent the problem before it occurs.

With time and technical skills at a premium, more companies are turning to hosted testing scenarios that provide varying levels of help to in-house staff. At the minimum, companies such as Compuware, Empirix, and Mercury Interactive and will provide an array of tools and hardware resources and run tests for an organization. Other models include more comprehensive services, such as training for in-house testing staff, development of testing models that can be reused at a later date by the company, and even augmentation of in-house staff by the vendor.

In many cases, the hosted model can make sense, especially if a company needs to run large-scale tests, Newport Group's Shea says. "It gives you a third-party objective opinion and can solve a lot of problems, including a quality-assurance staff that comes and goes. And it provides you with a backup if you need it."

Illustration by Doug Ross

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