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DevOps Testing: TCS Takes the IP Way

TCS has briefed NelsonHall on the recent launch of its DevOps related IP, Non-Production Environment Tracking and Release Automation (NETRA).

With NETRA, TCS Assurance Services Unit (ASU), the main testing unit of TCS, is pursuing its strategy originated with Intelligent Testing Systems (ITS) to develop broad-reaching IPs, encompassing open source software, COTS, and TCS-developed accelerators. ITS is focused on the full testing life cycle, from test design to automation and execution, relying on tools including those from Informatica (for information life cycle management) and CA (largely for service virtualization). See “TCS to Release V3 of Intelligent Testing System To Automate Full Testing Lifecycle” comment.

With NETRA, TCS ASU has focused on DevOps/continuous integration/continuous development activities from development, to testing and deployment, onto production, with the intention of offering a comprehensive automated offering encompassing the software testing lifecycle. NETRA targets primarily client organizations using agile development and testing methodologies. NETRA aims to address in particular issues related specific to DevOps i.e. putting into production frequent releases (through a pipeline approach). NETRA also aims to tackle traditional issues e.g. provisioning of development testing environments involve production and application stakeholders that work in different units of a client (or third party) organization; and conflicts arising from environments being shared across different stakeholders.

NETRA includes:

  • Provisioning of test environments (including booking and tracking ) and of test data
  • Continuous integration
  • Release automation
  • Monitoring services (of databases, IT infrastructures and of URLs).

NETRA includes at its core CA Technologies tools, mainly release automation (RA, the tool from the former Nolio) as well as open source tools such as Jenkins CI, COTS such as Microsoft Team Foundation Server (TFS), and other monitoring tools.

NETRA also includes other offerings and IPs from TCS, namely integration with test execution tools (Selenium and HP QTP), performance testing (JMeter) and test support services such as test environment management and provisioning (based on VMware technologies or from Amazon Web Services), and test data management; as well as code quality analysis (SonarQube).

Essentially, TCS ASU markets NETRA as a suite of pre-integrated software tools and IPs. Yet, the company can also deploy NETRA’s functionality with a modular approach. TCS will also deploy NETRA accommodating client specificities, e.g. a client using continuous integration tool CruiseControl rather than Jenkins CI (the default CI choice within NETRA).

NETRA shares with CA Lisa Release Automation several features e.g. automated deployment (“zero touch”) and using pre-populated software options e.g. a specific database (“provisioning by templates”). The company has worked on making NETRA based on “service consumption”. Service consumption refers to having to use a single screen for a service irrespective of different application technologies, COTS or release.

NETRA also has a feature to define,  during the various phases of an application, services to perform under each phase. This helps creating a service pipeline and automating execution of this pipeline.

Deployment time for NETRA is varies from 4 to 6 weeks to up to three to six months:

  • TCS is able to reduce deployment time to 4 to 6 weeks (“jumpstart”), when the client has selected software products to NETRA (CA Lisa Release Automation, Red Hat JBoss, IBM Websphere, Oracle WebLogic, Oracle databases, Microsoft SQL Server, MySQL, and Microsoft IIS). For those software products, TCS has developed automation scripts (“manifests”) and processes to deploy applications automatically
    - TCS is currently working on developing similar manifests for HP QTP, Selenium and JMeter
  • Three to six month deployments occur when TCS has to develop new manifests and processes for CA Lisa Request Automation, for tools other than Jenkins CI or for specific tools.

TCS has currently two clients deploying NETRA, one of those clients being an energy firm in the U.K. and the other a large banking client in the U.S. Interestingly, TCS is piloting with clients active on major initiatives including SAP Transport and J2EE/.NET development languages.

TCS is therefore positioning NETRA for all kinds of applications and technologies, whether front-office or back-office. NETRA does not accommodate mainframes nor does it accommodate COBOL applications.

In its roadmap, TCS wants to further enhance the features of NETRA. One priority is to integrate with SaaS ITSM tool ServiceNow to process service and change requests from the service desk into NETRA for handling continuous development and continuous integration.

Analyst Comment

TCS continues its IP approach, this time focusing on DevOps and taking a full lifecycle testing approach. The automation approach plays well in DevOps and especially in the continuous development/continuous integration space: agile development comes of course to mind and also front-office applications, with its approach based on short development and testing cycles, frequent releases, and overall need for IT reactivity.

TCS ASU with NETRA is not offering an off-the-shelf product but a journey, taking a best-of-breed approach and pre-integrating all tools and software. In so doing, TCS brings experience and repeatability to its clients. The company also takes a pragmatic view of technology and will use open source software, whenever it is feasible, rather than COTS. Also, TCS ASU will be reviewing its technology elements within NETRA and potentially will turn to alternative software products when necessary. This should help reduce potential lockup in a given technology and ISV.

Additionally, the pre-integrated approach means that implementation times required for NETRA are likely to be relatively short: an implementation duration of three to six months may seem a long time but is acceptable given the potential benefits of creating a continuous development/continuous integration strategy.

A business case will be required to understand the financial implications, not only because TCS is selling its tools as an IP, but also because of the license price of embedded COTS.

Finally, one area of development for DevOps is to expand from an asynchronous continuous development/continuous integration approach into a true bilateral journey where experience of IT operations will automatically provide feedback to development and testing teams. Current monitoring activity is the start of this approach, and the next step is TCS’s integration of ITSM tools into NETRA. TCS can then write the next chapter of IT server management, providing feedback into software design.

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