Agility in Test and Dev

Agility in Test and Dev

Test and Dev environments can be a challenge both logistically and financially.  Building and maintaining an on-premises set of servers and storage for the necessary functions can consume a lot of equipment, footprint, and associated environmental and support resources.  Also, these functions are typically only used periodically and for a limited duration, so dedicating resources for those functions leaves them significantly underutilized. But these environments also usually need a ‘clean start’ for each session, so sharing the platforms for other purposes between sessions can be problematic.

So, how can IT service a commercial need that :

  • Is only used occasionally
  • Needs several server platforms and storage with short notice
  • Can be discarded/reset in the course of a session
  • Does not leave valuable assets idle for long periods
  • Is a functional equivalent of the target operating environment

Virtualization is a prime technology for these needs!

A virtual environment allows for all of these functions without dedicating many servers and storage systems.  Depending on the specific needs, that virtualization can be subscription Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) from Public Cloud providers like Amazon Web Services EC2, Microsoft Azure, and Oracle Cloud IaaS. In some cases, an on-premises virtualization environment – aka Private Cloud – is a better fit because of security, regulatory, or high data volume requirements.

With any of these approaches, IT can rapidly create and configure specific sets of virtual servers and storage, conduct the necessary Test and Dev activities, and then discard the set until the next time. For X86 based Windows and Linux needs, the Public Cloud providers are a great fit.  They also offer Internet facing access and controls so you don’t need to build special on-premises isolated DMZ services for testing that involves client access from the Internet.  When you complement that with DNS entries that parallel the production environment but point to the cloud instances you can rapidly configure a fully functional equivalent structure for end-to-end testing purposes.

However, sometimes the Public Cloud doesn’t meet all the needs.  Some of those needs are:

  • Access to very large data sets on the enterprise LAN, where copy times to the Public Cloud and associate storage expenses are problematic
  • Regulatory and Security policy requirements that prohibit placement of services and data beyond the enterprise LAN
  • Specific compute technologies like Itanium, SPARC, and Power and associate operating systems.

For the first two, on-premises converged infrastructure platforms like SimpliVity and Nutanix are a good option.  Within the enterprise LAN, these Private Cloud platforms can be rapidly populated with high volumes of test data with significantly shorter copy times on a 1GbE or 10GbE network.  Or, if the volumes are extremely large, the virtual machines can access test snapshots of the necessary data via the local network on the enterprise storage arrays.

For the third need for specific compute technologies the options are limited.  But all mentioned support virtualization, so one or two dedicated hosts can be used to provide Private Cloud functions for those Test and Dev needs.  On the SPARC topic, Oracle is working towards offering SPARC IaaS in the Public Cloud – but there is no published timeline for availability yet. Stay tuned!

Overall, Virtualization – Public or Private – enables a very efficient and economic means of servicing the transient and dynamic needs of Test and Dev functions.

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