Ready or not, here comes service-oriented virtualization.
Both vendors and IT organizations need to make plans for the impact virtualization is going to have on service-oriented architecture (SOA) development and testing, says Theresa Lanowitz, founder and CEO of the Voke Inc. research firm. She is the author of Virtual Lab Automation Market Snapshot, an independent survey of organizations already using virtualization in their application development and testing labs.
"Virtualization is going to cause people to take a different look at how they're doing things all the way from the data center down to the development level and into the production environment," she said. "Every enterprise needs to be aware of how they are going to use virtualization. Every software vendor needs to have a virtualization strategy.
Lanowitz compares virtualization for SOA application development and testing to the impact the Web had on companies in the late 1990s, when every organization needed a Web strategy.
However, unlike Internet and Web strategies that took years to prove their value, Lanowitz said her research indicates there is a very quick return on investment (ROI) for IT departments that adopt virtualization.
"We did a survey of people who were using virtualization technology in the development or test environment," she explained. "They were able to reduce and consolidate the number of servers. Their provisioning time was reduced. They were able to save up to 50 percent in their development and testing costs. And they expect to double those savings every six months. People start to see immediate cost savings and immediate benefits by using virtualization."
Virtualization in development and testing not only saves time, it frees up IT resources to focus on the SOA goal of aligning IT with business, Lanowitz said.
"One of the things the people we surveyed said is that because they were able to realize productivity gains almost immediately, they are then going to be able to offer more strategic services within their organization," she said. "They will be able to get more involved with identifying requirements, identifying what the line of business really wants in terms of applications. They will be able to get involved earlier in the lifecycle to be able to do more things."
In an era of collaborative development and testing by geographically disparate teams, virtualization offers a way to help developers and testers work in the same environment even if they are separated by thousands of miles, Lanowitz said.
"Virtualization works well for geographically distributed teams," she explained. "If you have a team that's sitting in India and working with a team in San Jose, Calif., what has to happen now is that the people in San Jose have to get a bunch of machines together, get them into the testing state that they want and send them half way around the world."
With virtualization, software access via the Web eliminates the need to be shipping hardware servers.
"With the virtualized environment the distributed team can take the virtual image of the environment they want to test, whether it be a service or an entire production environment and test against it in a virtualized world," Lanowitz said.
Even within the same four walls, virtualization offers ways to test Web services in a production-like environment without messing with any of the production servers.
Chris Kraus, director product management for virtualization testing at iTKO Inc., which Lanowitz labels one of "the pioneers" in virtualization for SOA testing, offers an example of virtualized testing that avoids ruffling feathers with an IT department. In his example, IT managers responsible for servers in the production environment are less than thrilled when quality assurance wants to do load testing on their machines. What if the load is heavy enough to bog a production server down?
Virtualization offers an answer, said Kraus, whose company this month announced a "Service-Oriented Virtualization (SOV) Methodology" for using its LISA testing tool in a "Virtual Services Environment" (VSE).
He points to a QA department at an unnamed customer that needs to test an SOA application as it interacts via SOAP with services residing on the company's mainframe, but the guys in charge of the mainframe say, "Not on our 24/7 watch."
"So they're virtualizing a Web services test bed to connect to the mainframe because they know they won't have access to the mainframe for testing," Kraus explained.
By virtualizing test cases that mock interactions with the mainframe, QA has a realistic way to test their SOA application without ever touching the closely guarded production hardware. The new virtualized version of the LISA tool will record interactions with the mainframe and then provide a virtual server to test against.
"Maybe it's a SOAP request from the application to the mainframe with a response back," he said. "We'll record all those so we have a virtualized test case. That way when they make a change to the application, instead of having to schedule time on the mainframe and make sure data is set up right, they can replace that connection with LISA and we will enact actual transactions so they can do the testing."
With all these benefits virtualization offers, Lanowitz said vendors are beginning to develop strategies to integrate it with the products they already offer, especially in the SOA testing and management areas.
While iTKO is offering a homegrown virtualization product, other vendors are partnering with pure play virtualization vendors that until recently were focused on data center hardware virtualization, she said.
Notable partnerships including the testing unit of Borland Inc. which is partnering with VMware Inc. to add virtualization to its products. Hewlett-Packard Corp., with the Mercury technology it acquired, has partnered with Surgient Inc, which provides virtual lab environments for application development. Lanowitz also lists Citrix Systems Inc., with its acquisition of XenSource, as a virtualization pure play vendor.
In the virtualized future these pure players can expect to be courted by the application development vendors.
"What we're starting to see now is the app lifecycle vendors realizing that there's a need for virtualization," Lanowitz said.