Cloud-based software testing good but unnecessary

Testing software, particularly mobile apps, in the cloud has cost advantages, but companies should balance this benefit with security and data compliance requirements.
Written by Jamie Yap, Contributor

Cloud-based testing of software applications brings cost benefits but this alone does not make it a top priority for most companies as they still have to contend with issues such as data security and interoperability of cloud systems.

Chandranshu Singh, senior analyst of IT solutions at Ovum, said the volume of software testing companies have to conduct has gone up tremendously in today's business climate which increasing relies on software to provide a competitive edge. So the most obvious advantage of cloud-based testing tools is that these bring cost effectiveness as there is better utilization of existing infrastructure, he noted.

Other benefits would include time savings in the setting up and tearing down of physical test laboratories, thanks to the preconfigured environment templates and instantaneous resource provisioning which allows IT staff to scale their tests on demand, Singh added.

Performance testing is particularly well-suited for the cloud, as load simulation can be done easily in the cloud, he pointed out.

Jeff Findlay, solution architect for Asia-Pacific and Japan at Micro Focus, added organizations also get the assurance that a huge volume of traffic will not dent the performance of a software. This would have led to much user frustration in the real world, he noted.

Agreeing with Singh, Findlay said cloud-based testing also eliminates the need to build and maintain required infrastructure for peak load simulations, making it far more convenient and cost-effective.

Not a compulsory capability
Compelling as cloud-based software testing tools can be, these are not an enterprise necessity right now, both observers stated.

Singh said most inefficiencies that plague software testing teams can be handled by first finding the proper balance between automated and manual testing. So rather than basing the decision on how to conduct the test, the better question would be "under what circumstances would cloud-based testing benefit my development effort?"

The Ovum analyst said another issue is the low level of interoperability between different clouds. He urged organizations to take that into consideration when selecting vendors, to ensure that migration to a different cloud platform for testing will not be a major problem should the need arise.

Furthermore, not every public-facing application is a viable candidate for cloud-based testing, Findlay stated. For example, certain apps may have industry-mandated security constraints, so the software and data's test conditions require a more tightly-controlled environment than online, he explained.

Data security and integrity in the cloud remain contentious issues to date. While vendors are making strides to address this, it is essential for organizations to keep control of their data and administer the structure of that data in accordance with their quality processes, the Micro Focus executive said.

Mobile apps key niche
Mobile developers and companies building their own mobile apps should utilize the benefits of cloud-based testing though, Singh said, adding it "makes a lot of sense" for such software.

This is because when it comes to testing mobile apps, the device and platform are key considerations but the fragmented market of mobile device operating systems makes it difficult for companies to test their apps for all platforms and devices, he explained.

Thus, engaging a software testing provider that offers access to the different platforms on a subscription basis saves times and costs, making it a "no-brainer", he noted.

That said, Findlay called on companies to be aware of the environments their mobile apps are being tested on, which could impact the accuracy of test results. Many mobile testing-as-a-service providers utilize rooted or jailbroken devices as test platforms. Apart from security issues, these test environments do not reflect the "real world" and could skew results, he cautioned.

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