Sauce Labs Brings Cloud To Automated Web Application Testing Including iOS

San Franciso-based Sauce Labs has been recommended by Adobe after the latter recently announced it was closing its BrowserLab testing platform for web applications. Adobe’s affirmation of Sauce Labs underscores its success with a use case for IaaS infrastructures different from the remote hosting of applications on outsourced infrastructure, namely, IaaS for testing and development purposes. Sauce Labs uses virtual machines to provide customers with over 100 combinations of browsers and platforms for the testing of web-based applications. The company’s SaaS software empowers enterprises to conduct detailed evaluations of the testing process by way of screenshots, video recordings and support for the Firebug plug-in for Mozilla Firefox.

Sauce Labs further enables customers to conduct testing for applications on browsers for mobile devices such as iPads, iPhones and Androids. The Sauce Labs virtualized testing infrastructure platform allows customers to perform A/B and multivariate testing across a wide range of browser-platform permutations while benefiting from the security and integrity of its virtualized environment. Because each virtual machine is newly spun up and created for each testing instance, customers can rest assured that their tests are free both of cookies and traces of their applications for other customers.

Sauce Labs recently announced the availability of a new service for testing iOS applications such as iPads and iPhones based on the open source project Appium. The Sauce Labs team rewrote the Python-based open source code for Appium into Node.js in order to render its iOS Appium testing platform accessible to a wider range of developers such as those who focus on JavaScript. Adam Christian, Vice President of Development at Sauce Labs, remarked on Appium on Sauce and the innovation of Sauce Labs’s cloud-based automated testing environment as follows:

As the world becomes more mobile and online interactions increasingly move to specialized applications, it’s increasingly important that these apps perform and meet consumer demands. Testing these apps has been a slow and difficult process, often done manually by teams using physical devices. Automated testing enabled by Appium represents the future, and Appium written in Node.js represents the best course toward ensuring the code continues to evolve as needs change.

The screenshot below illustrates a sample testing scenario for Everest, an iOS application tested using Appium on Sauce:

Appium reorients Sauce Labs squarely toward iOS mobile applications in a move that renders Sauce Labs the de facto cloud-based testing infrastructure for all platforms and programming languages. Its cloud-based platform for automated testing of machine and mobile apps is used by developers and enterprises alike, with representing one of Sauce Labs’s prominent customers and investors. Given how customers in agile development environments iteratively tweak and add to branches of existing code, Sauce Labs’s cloud-based testing technology lies at the heart of the DevOps and continuous integration movement in application lifecycle management. Users should expect cross-platform cloud-based testing to emerge as the standard for testing and QA in software development, particularly in the wake of the heterogeneity of browsers and platforms in the industry at large.


Revisiting 2013 Cloud Predictions By Serena Software

Serena Software, a leader in the ALM space according to Forrester Research, made three predictions about enterprise computing for 2013 at the turn of the New Year. I had a chance to revisit Serena’s predictions in collaboration with David Hurwitz, Serena’s SVP of Worldwide Marketing, now that 2013 is fully underway and the cloud landscape is witnessing its first major burst of new product releases and announcements. Serena’s predictions engage questions related to the emerging emphasis on building efficiency into deployment and application lifecycle management processes. Poised at the cusp of the DevOps revolution with 4000 enterprise customers that leverage Serena’s “orchestration” solutions for maximizing the business value of IT, Serena’s predictions engage the transformation of enterprise operations in relation to cloud-based SDLC infrastructures.

I asked David Hurwitz to elaborate on the first two of Serena’s three predictions as illustrated below:

Prediction #1: Large Enterprises Exploit the Cloud Primarily to Speed Development Cycles
The cloud has emerged as a dominant and powerful software development and deployment platform. In 2013, even the largest and most conservative enterprises will move to the cloud for the development phases of their overall delivery lifecycles. These were the companies that resisted cloud computing in the past. Their use of the cloud will be quite considered, as they will use a hybrid approach, exploiting the public cloud for testing and staging, but a private cloud or on-premise resources for production delivery. Keeping software production instances within private resources supports the enterprise need for security and control.

Arnal Dayaratna: Most cloud vendors, Amazon Web Services included, have yet to fully grapple with regulatory constraints on sensitive data such as PHI and government-related, classified data. Do you think the cloud industry is sufficiently prepared to deal with regulations regarding the transmission and storage of sensitive data in order to accommodate the movement of large, conservative enterprises to cloud-based development?

David Hurwitz: No, the cloud industry isn’t fully prepared and aren’t even close to changing perceptions about being prepared. The issue of data domiciling is going to take awhile for them to surmount, and it’s not just when dealing with classified data. Commercial data that includes European Union customers, for instance, has to be handled according to their mandates. Thus, the use of the cloud for financial services and public sector applications is going to lag, other than perhaps for pre-production environments.

Prediction #2: Help Desk Evolves from Technical Support to Business Support

In 2013, Help Desks will grow in importance from their present position as an IT function into a business support function. This “Business Desk” will handle both traditional technical support along with the non-traditional role of business support. The Business Support Desk will support customer-facing personnel with understanding new marketing offers, product offerings and the exploitation of other app-powered revenue features.

A companion trend is being driven by Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) activity. BYOD, for instance, has created more of a ‘do it yourself help desk’ for office workers since enterprise IT teams have their hands full with more pressing tasks and don’t always have the time for the everyday maintenance issues that BYOD creates.

Arnal Dayaratna: What factors suggest the evolution of help desks from technical support to business support? Has the success of specific software applications/platforms led you to this prediction? Or are there other reasons underlying the genesis of this observation?

David Hurwitz: The reason that help desks are evolving to include customer support functions is because online businesses are using applications to deliver revenue generating capabilities. This leads to a merging of the technical with the commercial. In other words, internal and external users increasingly need assistance in navigating new product offerings that are conveyed by apps, including getting assistance with technical issues in using those apps. Savvy online businesses only ask customers to reach out once for this assistance. Stagnant businesses ask them to reach out twice – once to tech support and again to customer support.

Prediction #3: The Cost of Rework Drives a Rethink of IT Processes
Research firm voke released data showing that 40-50 percent of the work IT performs falls in to the rework category, a huge tax on their ability to deliver new functionality. Further validating that claim, one large IT shop reported 17 percent of its total work had to be redone at some point. Better software delivery processes will combine in 2013 to help IT deliver software right the first time, with the large companion benefit that much more software can be delivered by development organizations that are dramatically less burdened by rework.

Serena’s predictions about the evolution of the help desk and the growing attention to the rework of IT processes are both profound and highly original.

As SaaS applications proliferate throughout enterprises, application support staff manage the responsibility not only of administering specific applications and providing help-desk type support, but also of defining and reinforcing best practices for software usage in the context of business problems. In the case of requirements management software that provides a unified online interface for documenting business requirements for SDLC, for example, application support staff respond to user questions about best practices for writing textual business requirements, defining process flows and creating use cases and test cases in addition to functionality questions about the software itself.

The line between help desk and business support has truly blurred as more and more applications precipitate a need for the help desk to evolve to optimally support revenue generating business units. Correspondingly, the rise of DevOps and SaaS applications for managing the intersection of development and operations permits (1) the development of metrics for tracking and optimizing IT operations; and (2) the measurement of data that allows for the tracking the achievement of those metrics. The industry should expect a revolution not only at the level of hosting but also in the arena of DevOps related to the increased availability of data about the efficiency of IT processes.

Red Hat Enters IaaS and PaaS Space with CloudForms and OpenShift

At its May 2010 summit in Boston, Red Hat, the world’s leading provider of open source solutions, announced the launch of CloudForms and OpenShift, two products that represent the company’s boldest entrance into the cloud computing space so far. CloudForms marks an IaaS service offering that enables enterprises to create and manage a private or hybrid cloud computing environment. CloudForms provides customers with Application Lifecycle Management (ALM) functionality that enables management of an application deployed over a constellation of physical, virtualized and cloud-based environments. Whereas VMWare’s vCloud enables customers to manage virtualized machines, Red Hat’s CloudForms delivers a more granular form of management functionality that allows users to manage applications. Moreover, CloudForms offers a resource management interface that confronts the problem in the industry known as virtual sprawl wherein IT administrators are tasked with the problem of managing multiple servers, hypervisors, virtual machines and clusters. Red Hat’s IaaS product also offers customers the ability to create integrated, hybrid cloud environments that leverage a combination of physical servers, virtual servers and public clouds such as Amazon EC2.

OpenShift represents Red Hat’s PaaS product that enables open source developers to build cloud computing environments from within a specified range of development frameworks. OpenShift supports Java, Python, PHP and Ruby applications such as Spring, Seam, Weld, CDI, Rails, Rack, Symfony, Zend Framework, Twisted, Django and Java EE. In supporting Java, Python, PHP and Ruby, OpenShift offers the most flexible development environment in the industry as compared to Amazon’s Elastic Beanstalk, Microsoft Azure and Google’s App Engine. For storage, OpenShift features SQL and NoSQL in addition to a distributed file system. Red Hat claims OpenShift delivers greater portability than other PaaS products because customers will be able to migrate their deployments to another cloud computing vendor using the DeltaCloud inter-operability API. The only problem with this marketing claim is that DeltaCloud is by no means the most widely accepted cloud computing inter-operability API in the industry. Red Hat submitted the DeltaCloud API to the Distributed Management Task Force (DMTF) in August 2010, but the Red Hat API faces stiff competition from open source versions of Amazon’s EC2 APIs as well as APIs from the OpenStack project.

In summary, Red Hat’s entrance into the IaaS and PaaS space promises to significantly change the cloud computing landscape. CloudForms signals genuine innovation in the IaaS space because of its Application Lifecycle Management capabilities and hybrid infrastructure flexibility. OpenShift, meanwhile, presents direct competition to Google Apps, Microsoft Azure and Amazon’s Elastic Beanstalk because of the breadth of its deployment platform and claims about increased portability. What makes OpenShift so intriguing is it that constitutes Red Hat’s most aggressive attempt so far to claim DeltaCloud as the standard API for the cloud computing industry.