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Virtual Lab Automation

A Virtual Lab Automation System automates the setup and teardown of complex, multi-machine software configurations on a centralized pool of servers shared by the application development and QA teams in an enterprise. These operations are performed in self-service manner by developers and QA engineers, relieving the tedious provisioning burden often shouldered by the IT organization.

Virtual Lab Automation

1. Using the VLA browser-based interface, a user chooses a configuration in the library to "check-out'.  2. The VLA Server selects the best host servers in the pool, deploys each machine image to these hosts, and starts the machines.  3. The user can now interact with all machines via the fully-interactive VLA remote console, or by using any tool which enables remote machine interaction (web browser, FTP client, VNC client, etc.)

Two trends in enterprise software development - the accelerating adoption of distributed application architectures (the service-oriented architecture, or SOA, being the state of the art approach) and the outsourcing of software development activities - are undermining the effectiveness and eficiency of prevailing enterprise software development lifecycle (SDLC) processes and the infrastructure supporting these processes. Across the board, enterprise software development organizations are grappling with: 

  1. Server Sprawl - Organizations face an explosion in the number of machines required to develop and test enterprise applications, with some application development (AD) organizations reaching server- to-staff ratios of greater than 7:1, even though average server utilization rates are often below 10%. Servers are hoarded under desks and duplicated across underutilized labs housed in data centers that are short on space, power and cooling capacity.
  2. Setup and Provisioning Overhead - An enormous amount of time is wasted on repetitive system setup, provisioning and coniguration tasks, done in preparation for software development and test activities. These tasks often account for more than 50% of the total time expended in an application development and  test cycle.
  3. Costly System Failures - Dificulties reproducing, diagnosing and correcting software defects discovered in remote development facilities, or by outsourcing partners, are leading to serious system failures in production, when the cost to repair can be over 470x higher than if resolved earlier in the AD process. [Baziuk 1995]

Virtual Lab Automation (VLA) substantially mitigates these problems - reducing server-to-staff ratios by more than 75%; slashing the percentage of AD cycle time spent coniguring systems from 50% (or greater), to less than 5%; and ensuring software defects can be rapidly and consistently reproduced and resolved early in the development cycle. The result is higher quality software, built faster and with lower server- and data center-related capital and operating costs.  

A Virtual Lab Automation System automates the setup and teardown of complex, multi-machine software conigurations on a centralized pool of servers shared by the application development and QA teams in an enterprise. These operations are performed in a self-service manner by developers and QA engineers, relieving the tedious provisioning burden often shouldered by the IT organization.

Enabled by the emergence of reliable and high-performance virtual machine technology from vendors such as VMware and Microsoft, a VLA System allows development and QA professionals to suspend, then capture to a shared storage library, the complete state of a "complex coniguration"- a collection of running, interdependent software systems usually spanning multiple servers. Over time, an organization builds up its coniguration library, including test scenarios, conigurations exhibiting software defects, historical build archives, replicated production environments and customer conigurations.

permalink [Permalink] - Updated: Tuesday, March 28, 2006

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