My first realization that cloud computing was changing the dynamics of software development and testing was at a conference about five years ago where two guys got up and described how they bootstrapped their fledgling software development business by spending about $200 buying server time with Amazon’s cloud services. Rather than spending tens of thousands of dollars on servers and system administrators, they in effect outsourced those costs to the cloud provider.
Since that time, the economics and flexibility of cloud computing have revolutionized all aspects of software, enabling companies large and small to avoid large infrastructure costs while rapidly building and deploying software. Cloud computing also enables a worldwide presence right out of the gate.
Software testing hasn’t been left out of that revolution, with Gartner naming it as a disruptive force in the industry in its latest automated testing Magic Quadrant. Much of that disruption is due to the fast provisioning and low cost for automated testing in the cloud. Instead of investing in tools and training, testers rent time in the cloud and use testing tools provisioned there by vendors. For occasional testing, and for sporadic performance and load testing, cloud testing subscribers pay for what they use, rather than for a permanent tool installation.
What’s more, the administrative and support costs tend to be less. Testing organizations have to maintain servers and databases supporting testing tools, and also make sure they appropriately patch and version the tools themselves. In the cloud, versioning and patching take place through the vendor, which ensures that its software is up to date.
Cloud testing services can also enable organizations to effectively distribute their testing strategies. That can be particularly effective for performance and load testing, where results might be different depending on where the client is physically located. And such testing could be better designed to reflect actual use of the application.
However, there are also challenges to testing from the cloud. Testers need to understand the tradeoffs between renting time using testing software versus licensing it outright and running it on their own systems. Training and experimentation costs could eat up rental time on cloud-based systems without a corresponding return on that investment. Changing cloud testing vendors on a regular basis can mean starting over again with training, testing, and data analysis.
The right answer isn’t easy. Testing organizations have to have both in-house and cloud hosting options available, and make their decision based on the right choice for their unique circumstances. But the two options provide testers with a great deal of flexibility on both their approach to testing and their ability to replicate actual application use.
For more information on the technologies that are disrupting testing, and in particular in the cloud, check out what Gartner has to say on the subject. Also, find out how to make key disruptors work for you by reading a whitepaper on "Four trends reshaping the software quality testing market".
Peter Varhol is an Evangelist for Telerik’s TestStudio. He’s been a software developer and software product manager, technology journalist, and university professor among the many roles in his past, and believes that his best talent is explaining concepts and practices to others. He’s on Twitter at @pvarhol.