Speed vs quality: Can automated testing solve this dilemma?
The mainframe has dominated the IT space for more than half a century and its relevance shows no sign of waning. The platform continues to power the digital economy, with 71% of global Fortune 500 companies relying on it for critical transactions. What has changed, however, is the speed at which customers expect access to new and improved digital services. In today’s market, it’s the companies that can provide a constant cycle of ‘new’ that reap the most rewards – so the mainframe has to keep up with increasing demand for speed and innovation.
However, the new applications and digital services that come with this increased pace of innovation must be tested thoroughly, to ensure they perform as expected when put in front of the user. As the frequency of mainframe software updates continues to increase, and applications become ever more complex, the testing process inevitably takes longer, leaving less time to drive innovation. Research conducted by Vanson Bourne has shown that on average, development teams now spend 51% of their time on testing during the release of a new mainframe application, feature or functionality – in an age where speed to market can make the difference between failure and survival, this is simply unsustainable, but organisations cannot be forced into sacrificing quality for speed.
Acceleration or accuracy?
Digital transformation and an ever-growing need for speed has increased both the frequency of release cycles and the complexity of application environments. This has ramifications for developers when it comes to testing new digital services, as there are far more interdependencies and much more code to check. In fact, 92% of mainframe teams now spend more time than ever testing code during the release of a new application, feature or functionality to ensure services will work when deployed. This is largely due to companies continuing to use manual testing practices when it comes to the mainframe, creating bottlenecks that slow innovation and prevent companies from meeting key business goals.
The innovation bottleneck caused by the current testing status quo is only set to intensify, as companies face a growing mainframe skills gap – a Forrester Consulting study shows that only 37% of retiring mainframe developers have been replaced in the last few years. Naturally, companies relying on these shrinking teams of mainframe specialists will increasingly struggle if left with only manual means to rigorously test the code that powers their digital services – running the risk of bad code being sent into production as businesses prioritise speed of innovation. This is a real concern for application development managers, with the Vanson Bourne study revealing that 80% believe it is inevitable bad code will make its way into production unless they can automate more test cases.
Testing the solution
As customer demand for new and improved digital services shows no sign of slowing, IT departments must find a solution to help them deliver innovation quickly, without risking bad code going into production. As a result, many are looking to automated testing for the answer – in fact, 90% of businesses think automating more test cases is the single most important factor in accelerating innovation. “Shifting left” – performing software tests earlier in the development lifecycle – combined with automated testing, can help solve the issue of delivering software faster without compromising quality. This enables developers to automate repetitive tasks and execute tests earlier in the development cycle, so they get fast feedback on mainframe software updates. As a result, code quality issues are identified and solved quicker and the costs to resolve them are lower; innovation is accelerated while risks such as introducing problems that disrupt operations, present security risks, hinder customer experiences or impact business revenues, are minimised.
Automated testing also makes it easier for those new to the mainframe to do development and testing. Development teams need to focus their time on application development and other value-added tasks, and let automation take over the more mundane tasks. Ultimately, test automation will help businesses to quickly deliver new digital services and improve code quality, velocity and efficiency on the mainframe. This is crucial when it comes to companies meeting their business goals and keeping pace with increasingly agile digital native competitors.
Innovation is key
Large organisations feel more pressure than most to speed up innovation as they fight to compete with digital native challengers. As businesses aim to improve the pace of innovation to better serve customers, test automation and “shift-left testing” are crucial. Through this, development teams can benefit from a “force-multiplying” effect, getting more work accomplished by fewer, and speed can be achieved without compromising code quality or efficiency. The benefits in the long-term will enable companies to accelerate innovation and drive their business forward faster than ever before.
By Steen Brahe, Product Manager, Compuware
GfK and VMware: Innovating together on hybrid cloud
GfK has been the global leader in data and analytics for more than 85 years, supplying its clients with optimised decision inputs.
In its capacity as a strategic and technical partner, VMware has been walking GfK along its digital transformation path for over a decade.
“We are a demanding and singularly dynamic customer, which is why a close partnership with VMware is integral to the success of everyone involved,” said Joerg Hesselink, Global Head of Infrastructure, GfK IT Services.
Four years ago, the Nuremberg-based researcher expanded its on-premises infrastructure by introducing VMware vRealize Automation. In doing so, it laid a solid foundation, resulting in a self-service hybrid-cloud environment.
By expanding on the basis of VMware Cloud on AWS and VMware Cloud Foundation with vRealize Cloud Management, GfK has given itself a secure infrastructure and reliable operations by efficiently operating processes, policies, people and tools in both private and public cloud environments.
One important step for GfK involved migrating from multiple cloud providers to just a single one. The team chose VMware.
“VMware is the market leader for on-premises virtualisation and hybrid-cloud solutions, so it was only logical to tackle the next project for the future together,” says Hesselink.
Migration to the VMware-based environment was integrated into existing hardware simply and smoothly in April 2020. Going forward, GfK’s new hybrid cloud model will establish a harmonised core system complete with VMware Cloud on AWS, VMware Cloud Foundation with vRealize Cloud Management and a volume rising from an initial 500 VMs to a total of 4,000 VMs.
“We are modernising, protecting and scaling our applications with the world’s leading hybrid cloud solution: VMware Cloud on AWS, following VMware on Google Cloud Platform,” adds Hesselink.
The hybrid cloud-based infrastructure also empowers GfK to respond to new and future projects with astonishing agility: Resources can now be shifted quickly and easily from the private to the public cloud – without modifying the nature of interaction with the environment.
The gfknewron project is a good example – the company’s latest AI-powered product is based exclusively on public cloud technology. The consistency guaranteed by VMware Cloud on AWS eases the burden on both regular staff and the IT team. Better still, since the teams are already familiar with the VMware environment, the learning curve for upskilling is short.
One very important factor for the GfK was that VMware Cloud on AWS constituted an investment in future-proof technology that will stay relevant.
“The new cloud-based infrastructure comprising VMware Cloud on AWS and VMware Cloud Foundation forges a successful link between on-premises and cloud-based solutions,” says Hesselink. “That in turn enables GfK to efficiently develop its own modern applications and solutions.
“In market research, everything is data-driven. So, we need the best technological basis to efficiently process large volumes of data and consistently distill them into logical insights that genuinely benefit the client.
“We transform data and information into actionable knowledge that serves as a sustainable driver of business growth. VMware Cloud on AWS is an investment in a platform that helps us be well prepared for whatever the future may hold.”