The Test Lab is Dead - Long Live the Test Lab!

A test lab, as I define it, is a room with nothing but computers which may or may not include desk space for testers. I’ve seen more than I can count and you have too if you have been doing test automation for any length of time.

Earlier test labs had a person at each computer, which was even more wasteful – not only are you taking up space and filling it with expensive hardware, but you’ve got people doing mind-numbing, repetitive work. Nowadays test labs are used only for automation if they are used correctly – manual and acceptance testing can be done at the user desktop instead of the lab.

Cloud computing is on track to replace ALL those machines and free up ALL the space they occupy, a forward leap just as huge as the leap of automation; first we replaced people, now we are replacing machines. It makes perfect sense if you think about it, and yet it is just starting to dawn on people that we can do this.

The cost and space savings combined with the dramatic increase in productivity and throughput is astounding. So if nothing else, software testing is a “killer app” or “poster child” for cloud computing; nowhere else are the benefits so obvious and immediate.

But the tools haven’t caught up yet for the most part, with a couple notable exceptions. CapCal is one, of course, and we've seen SOASTA CloudTest. I'm sure other companies have projects in the works and announcements will probably be forthcoming. But what kinds of things can you do right now that take advantage of the cloud to increase your testing coverage and reduce your costs at the same time?

For one thing, virtualization already provides a huge reduction in the amount of hardware needed for a test lab and that’s good. So maybe instead of an entire room, just a corner or a wall might be used. Then it’s simply a matter of doing the math to see if the cloud is cheaper and usually it turns out to be. In general terms, if a computer is not being operated by a human being it should also not take up space.

The cloud will bring up some interesting licensing challenges once people realize they can install software on one instance and duplicate that instance as many times as they want. Windows itself is covered, of course, since Amazon pays them. Everyone else has to trust their users to abide by the same restrictions applied to making physical copies, where these are virtual.

In this series, we’re going to explore some real life cases of testing as a service in the cloud. So keep on coming back!

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