Friday, November 21, 2008

Test Lab Environment Automation In The Cloud (SkyTap Virtual Lab)

Yesterday when I was digging into some more details around Team Lab (the newest SKU of Visual Studio Team System) I stumbled upon something that I sure wish that I would have had access to when we first started to virtualize out quality assurance lab environment.

A company called SkyTap announced a product called Virtual Lab back in april 2008 (read about it here). The product aims to provide a virtualized lab environment in the cloud, this has some real potential and I will surely look into this as a platform for our future lab environment.

What I find most attractive in a product like this is three things:

1, It will ease the demand on the operations department when it comes in house expertise of virtualization technology (this is particularly needed for smaller and mid size companies who simply can't afford to staff that type of compentency).

2, The self service provisioning model where you add the needed resources you want as you go and simply pay for what you use. No more large captial expenditure requests we can instead transfer the costs for this onto the running operational costs. This is also a very big deal for agile teams in my oppinion, since one of the problems we have is the fact that the preasure on the resources are very high on and off when running multiple agile teams where all the teams have a dire need for their own environment.

3, We get a library with baselined virtual images which will save us tons of time in configuration and trying to create these our selves.

Otherwise the product is very similar to VMWare Lab Manager, it allows us to create labs consisting of multiple machines. We can easily create snapshots of the environent when ever we find a bug and attach a link to that snapshot to our defect report, which the developer later can bring back to life to investigate the in the same environment as the tester. We get access to a REST based automation API for our lab environments and much more.

Another intressting tidbit is the announcement they made at the PDC08 about their integration with TFS. Nothing fancy but the have a custom control which we can embed in our work item type forms that will show the available snapshots so we can get the link straight in the Visual Studio IDE and double click it to get to it (if you want to get a peak at how it look watch this screencast)

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