Vagrant makes the QA Professional’s Life Easier

Previously on the Betica blog, we talked about Docker, a software container application used to package programs with their dependencies. In short, it makes the QA process go more smoothly, especially when migrating applications between servers dedicated to development, testing, and production. It is a fine example of the maturing concept of virtualization throughout the IT industry.

As shops try to fit more virtual environments and software containers onto a server, managing them can become a headache. Enter Vagrant. This open source management software helps you to run and configure virtual machines of all kinds, ultimately making the software development task an easier one.

Vagrant supports the Entire Software Development Process

Vagrant serves as essentially a lightweight software container — similar to Docker. Instead of encapsulating a software application, however, Vagrant packages an entire development environment. It provides a simple to use workflow easily supporting the way software gets written today.

Working with most major virtualization frameworks — KVM, VMware, AWS, and more — Vagrant belongs in the toolbox of any software development shop looking to facilitate the management and portability of development environments. Considering its status as an open source project, expect continued updates as the overall development world evolves. The application is compatible with today’s most popular operating systems — Linux, Mac OS X, and Windows.

Setting up a Vagrant virtual machine is a breeze. Simply tell the application the desired machine type, any software to be installed, and the means for accessing the VM. After a single command line entry, the new machine is installed and configured, and most importantly, the process is easily replicated on the desktop computer of every team member — software engineer or QA.

Even though Vagrant is written in Ruby, the tool is compatible with projects leveraging many other popular programming languages, including C#, Java, Python, PHP, and JavaScript. The application also provides an architecture that supports plug-ins, which means enterprising developers can add their own functionality to the software. Over Vagrant’s six-year history, many enhancements have been developed as plug-ins, which is another testament to the usefulness of the open source community.

Vagrant as a Compliment to Docker

While some feel Vagrant and Docker are competitors, essentially performing similar virtual functions, many shops leverage the two tools in a complimentary fashion. The infographic on this website clearly illustrates how to use both applications together to streamline the configuration and management of virtual machines as well as the virtual environments containing the application (in addition to its libraries and dependent components) to be coded and tested. Depending on the specific scenario, choosing one tool over the other is also warranted.

As the software development process continues to operate at an increasingly faster pace in this era of Agile and DevOps, smart shops need the tools that allow them to make enhancements and bug fixes at the speed of business. Vagrant is another application worthy of further exploration for those involved with software development and the QA process.

Keep tuned to the Betica blog for additional insights into the wide world of QA and software development.

Docker — Another QA Tool of the Trade

We recently discussed the advantages of using the KVM open source server virtualization tool to facilitate the creation of QA environments during a software development project. Virtualization also brings a myriad of conveniences to other areas of modern IT. Docker, an even newer virtualization technology, leverages a container framework to provide other significant advantages compared to KVM and older virtualization tools.

In addition to an improved virtualization model, what does Docker bring to the table for the QA professional? Is it something your team needs to consider implementing on a trial basis? Let’s take a closer look at the details.

Docker encapsulates Applications within Software Containers

In its simplest definition, Docker allows you run applications within their own software-based container. It is a relatively new open source project that saw an initial release in March 2013. Over the past three years the tool has rapidly grown in popularity among IT professionals of all stripes.

A major difference of Docker’s container model compared to a typical VM is applications are able to share binaries and libraries as well as the underlying server operating system. This lets you encapsulate an application’s entire infrastructure in one package, making deployments of all types — including QA — an easier process. This is one of the reasons for Docker’s wide popularity in the Agile era of enterprise development; IT departments are able to accomplish more with less.

In fact, the financial industry was an early adopter of the nascent container technology, with three large banks using version 1.0 of Docker, according to company vice-president, James Turnbull, in a discussion with ZDNet. The conservative financial IT world still has COBOL apps in production, and to see it embrace Docker so quickly truly speaks to the efficacy of the technology.

A More Efficient Form of Virtualization

Docker’s container technology uses less server horsepower than standard VM virtualization. This allows companies to run four to six times as many applications on one server instance inside a container compared to using virtual machines. All container apps need to use the same operating system, though, unlike VMs which can each run its own guest OS.

The potential for significant cost savings in server hardware is immense.

Docker’s Advantages for the QA Process

The container model leveraged by Docker makes an application highly portable.  Deploying software on different servers now becomes easier, which is a boon for QA professionals needing to run an app through performance and acceptance testing. This standardization of containers also enhances interaction between the different roles of a software development team, as the Docker model is supported by many other collaboration tools like Chef or Vagrant.

QA engineers are also able to run Docker on their own local machine, which provides another mechanism for accomplishing more without having to depend on network engineers to manage their own test environments. Ultimately, Docker is a tool that fits perfectly with the new methodologies ushered in by the DevOps era. Expect its popularity in the technology world to continue to grow.

Watch for future posts on the Betica blog as we take a closer look at the ever-changing world of the QA professional.

KVM Virtualization and QA

As we’ve previously noted, the advent of Agile and DevOps methodologies puts the onus on QA professionals to wear many hats, which also includes completing any software testing at a much faster rate. In the current fast-paced business environment, QA teams increasingly depend on a variety of tools and technologies to make their work more efficient. One of these technologies is virtualization; a tool offering benefits to other aspects of Information Technology, including software engineering and network administration.

KVM virtualization, the “KVM” stands for kernel-based virtual machine, is a Linux technology facilitating the creation and management of virtual computing environments used for development and testing, among other purposes. This article provides an overview of this technology and its use for software QA.

A Closer Look at the Kernel-based Virtual Machine

Even though KVM is a Linux technology, it is able to host virtual environments running most major operating systems, including Windows, OS X, and, of course, Linux itself. As noted above, the use-cases for virtualization are numerous, and the technology’s status as arguably the most popular open source virtualization framework for the x86 processor family is a major reason for its popularity in many IT and software development shops.

KVM continues to see wide adoption among Cloud-based service providers, covering a myriad of applications. Enterprises leverage the technology to provide virtual environments for production software, as well as for development and QA. In short, virtualization offers a cost-effective and “green” solution, allowing businesses to concentrate their resource spending in other areas or simply improve their profit margin.

With KVM being a standard part of the Linux operating system, a wide array of support is available from the open source community.

Virtualization facilitates QA “Farm” Development

The Open Source Automation Development Lab (OSADL) is an organization championing the use of open source software in industrial and business applications. The group’s QA farm illustrates the advantages of using virtualization for quality assurance. Virtual environments leveraging KVM are used for both software testing as well as for computer hardware — PCs and embedded circuit boards.

Their work provides a great example of the wide range of applications made easier, cheaper, and more efficient by using KVM virtualization.

Managing Testing Environments using KVM

When considering the QA process, the easy management of test environments is the most obvious use-case illustrating how KVM virtualization benefits software testing. The advantages are numerous, with benefits ranging from saving money on hardware expenditures to the time saving gained from using virtual test servers and their easier management.

Since companies are able to create virtual testing environments quickly and easily, this is advantageous whether a software development shop is following modern methodologies like Agile or DevOps or even a traditional QA model. QA engineers can focus on ensuring the quality of the software without needing getting involved in network administrator tasks better left to the experts. In short, software shops of all sizes need to consider using KVM virtualization to make their work easier.

Stay tuned to upcoming entries on the Betica blog, as we look at other topics of interest to QA professionals all over the world.