I recently spoke with Stacksafe's Andrew Gross, Ph.D., Chief Scientist and Architect, and Jonah Paransky, Vice President of Marketing, about their product, Stacksafe™ Test Center. Here's a summary of how the company describes its product:
How Stacksafe describes Test Center
IT Operations teams presently employ a variety of approaches to testing software changes before they are put into production—from scheduled testing downtime to patch-and-pray "smoke" testing of live systems. These approaches each present significant limitations that make them impractical, unaffordable or inefficient in the effort to understand the true business impact of changes to the software infrastructure.
In today's software infrastructure environments, IT Operations teams must rapidly deploy configuration changes, manage performance tuning, ensure compliance and implement security controls on complex and highly interdependent IT systems; yet they are not afforded the types of testing resources and practices that are commonplace in many Development and QA departments.
In response to the need for better IT Operations testing tools and methodologies, StackSafe has developed StackSafe Test Center, a new, automated staging and testing solution that improves availability and resiliency through enhanced software infrastructure testing. Test Center directly addresses incomplete and ineffective IT Operations testing and analysis of changes to multi-tiered software infrastructure stacks.
StackSafe Test Center enables both availability and change responsiveness through advanced change impact analysis and proactive evaluation of change scenarios in a safe sandbox testing environment. Test Center enables IT Operations to support a number of critical business activities.
Snapshot analysisIt is increasingly clear that IT infrastructure that is based upon virtual machine software and a number of management tools to create an agile, consolidated environment can be far more complex than many suppliers of virtual machine software will say. These supplier often point out the simplicity of their approach rather than spelling out the challenges that virtual clients or virtual servers can present. They, after all, want to sell more software!
It's often far to easy to encapsulate an application environment without thinking about application version control, software updates, new versions of tools, deployment issues and "go for the gold" by rushing virtual systems into production without proper testing. This can certainly lead to problems.
Stacksafe's approach seems very sound and it clearly has thought about the issues IT organizatitons face. Stacksafe Test Center appears to be a powerful tool that would be beneficial to large and very large organizations. That being said, the company faces some challenges that, if not addressed, will potentially inhibit its overall success.
Stacksafe is one of several suppliers who have come up with a way to take control of the environment back.That, in a nutshell, is the largest challenge the company faces. How can Stacksafe get an IT decision-maker's attention, present the details of why that person should care about the differences between a pre-production and a production environment, and, then, why Stacksafe's tools are better than those offered by, say, Scalent Systems, Surgient, or even VMlogix.
How is your organization dealing with this issue? Have you developed your own tools and scripts? Have you purchased a product to help?