The Real World

In a perfect world IT budgets would increase exponentially every year, you would only ever pay for the services you use and comprehensive testing would be simple, inexpensive and never result in any downtime. However, in the real world, the interconnectivity of complex SOA and service-based architectures, private and public cloud computing and third-party partner systems can make robust testing tricky and expensive. Test environment issues can cause downtime during test execution. Mitigating the risks associated with usage spikes and growth mean that, on an average day, you might only be using around 20% of the physical server capacity you are paying for and budget cuts can force the need to capitalise on existing systems, while still trying to stay ahead of the competition. So sometimes, reality bites and when it does, the only ‘intelligent’ way forward is virtualisation.

Server and storage virtualisation are enablers of cloud computing, allowing you to simulate the exact physical conditions, behaviour and context sensitive date of complex applications, databases and other computing services in a testing environment. You can also pool and share any of your unused resources, resulting in faster and more cost effective testing without the restraints associated with traditional hardware and OS virtualisation.

Virtually Perfect

The test benefits are manifold and include:

  • Simulation of a complete and accurate test environment with no missing components or services that can occur in a normal test environment as a result of third party omissions, delays or inaccessibility
  • Earlier lifecycle testing for a wide variety of tests including manual, automated, performance and mobile
  • A shift left with earlier defect detection so that discovery occurs during system testing, rather than at the integration stage
  • Developers are able to circumvent the issues of unavailable services or components and expedite the prototyping process by creating functional mock-ups and simulated models
  • Reduced infrastructure costs, increased productivity, better overall control over test timeframes and faster releases of a far superior quality

So if your data is sensitive and your security system is usually like Fort Knox but you are unable to replicate that level in your testing environment, virtualisation can enable you to mitigate the risk of a security breach. Similarly if the system you are testing is at a different location, at various distributed locations or simply still in the development stage, you can create a complete virtual, local and centralised system for testing. Services provided by, for example hospitals, banks and mobile providers put business and lives at risk if they are interrupted, so service virtualisation is an ideal solution to avoid the repercussions of any potential downtime. 

Reality Check

According to a recent Tech Target survey of over 4,000 IT professionals, 65% expect a budget increase in 2014 and 37% are planning to increase expenditure and expand their IT organisations to both facilitate business growth and service the business as new requirements emerge. This is obviously great news, but what of the remaining businesses who have not fully recovered from the economic downturn, or those who have already undergone costly IT transformations but want to continue to stay ahead of their competitors? What’s the real ROI of Service Virtualisation?

Service virtualisation can offer considerable savings in both capital and operational expenditure. We touched on some of the benefits above but, specifically relating to Capital Expenditure, service virtualisation offers the following benefits:

  • Reduces the need to purchase additional infrastructure and equipment to replicate multiple test environments
  • Enables comprehensive performance testing without the associated hardware costs
  • Saves time usually associated with procurement, setting up and tool and system configuration

The only caveat here is that you need to weigh up CapEx savings against the operational cost of the virtual cloud services. However, the balance goes in favour of virtualisation as OpEx savings are made by the fact that set up, access time and fees, and waiting for other departments to build and test, are all either eliminated or greatly reduced and the final deliverable has a much faster time to market, paving the way for more time and energy for greater innovation. So, if the harsh reality is turning round biting you in the proverbial, then it might just be time to create a more virtual service environment!