CA World 2013: Is service virtualisation for dev/ops a management disaster waiting to happen?

CA Technologies’ CTO, John Michelsen, took to the stage at the company’s annual event in Las Vegas this week to tell customers and partners that most companies have a “mess of test environments” and that what they should be doing is transforming their organisations so that there is a quality relationship between development and operations.

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CA Technologies’ CTO, John Michelsen, took to the stage at the company’s annual event in Las Vegas this week to tell customers and partners that most companies have a “mess of test environments” and that what they should be doing is transforming their organisations so that there is a quality relationship between development and operations.

Simply put, CA is looking to take advantage of the up and coming buzz word in the IT industry – dev/ops. How does CA propose bringing development and IT operations closer together? Michelsen believes that this can be achieved through service virtualisation, the simulation of live production environments to test new applications. This differs from the traditional approach of testing a newly developed application and then throwing it into a real-life production environment and hoping for the best, so says CA.

Although this theoretically makes sense, is there potential for IT departments to face a management disaster a few years down the line? Of course service virtualisation is sensible, companies would definitely benefit from checking the impact of new applications on services in a simulated environment before propelling that application into a live environment. However, with companies already having had to tackle hardware sprawl in years gone-by, which has since been replaced by unruly virtual machines, is simulated environments for dev/ops the next management headache?

“Dev/ops isn’t something you can buy from us [CA], but it is a transformation that you have to go through yourselves. We have a mess of test environments that don’t really look like production - we have to solve that,” declared Michelsen.

“That’s the fundamental capability we deliver with service virtualisation. As we think about helping you make the dev/ops transition, the first cornerstone to that is service virtualisation. Creating live-like development and test environments that are always at your disposal.”

Michelsen proposed three core components to CA’s approach to a successful transformation to dev/ops – service virtualisation, continuous delivery system, and data mining. He outlined each of these components as follows:

Service virtualisation – This is at the core of everything and is based on CA’s LISA service virtualisation tool. Instead of creating a test environment for a new order management application before putting it into production, a company would virtually put the new system into a simulated environment to carry out performance testing.

Continuous delivery system – This component is made possible by CA’s recent acquisition of Nolio, and aims to speed up the promotion of technologies through development environments, through test environments, through to production environments. Michelsen said CA can fully automate this process and reduce deployment and promotion activities for most companies from days and weeks, down to minutes or hours.

Data mining – This creates the feedback loop that is required in dev/ops to make development more effective. Michelsen said that it was easy to understand what was going on with an application in production when applications were being delivered every other year, but automated mechanisms are now required to bring back that feedback due to the frequency of releases.
Mechelson provided an example of a company developing a new order management application to illustrate CA’s vision for dev/ops in the enterprise.

“An order management application gets a lot of transactions at peak and it has to maintain its scalability and performance SLAs for it to successfully keep running in production. Currently, we would stand up a test environment for performance engineering, with a little bit of performance testing to see how it goes when we deploy it into production,” he said.

“That’s not good enough. What we should do is virtually put the new version of order management in production and then data mine the service assurance products to understand exactly how order management is being used. What’s the load pattern? What does it look like? What are the response times at peak?”

He added: “Underneath order management, what is the ERP system doing? How fast is it responding? We virtually put the new version of order management into production, so that we are certain that it will support the peak load when it arrives.”

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