Every enterprise struggles with performance testing. You never have enough hardware, you can’t mimic production, the build up and tear down process is far too time consuming and let’s not even get into the hassles of scheduling. Virtualization can help in that environments can be stored as templates easing setup and with tools like VMware Lab Manager, scheduling and environment management are made easier, but the hassles of shared time, resource constraints and stress testing remain.

Virtualization can free you from the hardware-based confines you currently face and may illustrate that you don’t need a test lab at all – at least not for your x86-based virtual workloads. With x86 virtualization, hardware differences are abstracted away from the virtual machine, which means these application environments can really be tested on any commodity hardware. Cloud computing platforms thus become candidate test platforms. Need to know your application can support 200,000 simultaneous connects? Can it run in a 10-node cluster? Can it process a TB of data? Load up a series of VMs on Amazon EC2 or Layered’s GridLayer and find out. Whether the test requires 10 or 10,000 servers there’s a cloud that can accommodate you – and without a long term commitment to these resources.

Need to test 15 applications simultaneously? No problem. Even the set up of virtual machines is made easier in the cloud. CohesiveFT’s Elastic Server on Demand and SkyTap simplify the assembly and archiving of virtual machines. And these services now have deployment relationships with Amazon Web Services, XCalibre’s Flexiscale cloud and Google App Engine.While you will still need to ensure all new applications run effectively in your specific infrastructure configuration and with your management, monitoring and security schemes, the application and code performance testing phases can be now be offloaded.

The one major hiccup today will probably be a difference in hypervisor, however. Most cloud infrastructures are Xen-based while most enterprise virtual infrastructures are VMware. Elastra, an 11-month-old startup is building a cloud infrastructure layer based on VMware which might address this issue and I wouldn’t be surprised to see Microsoft enter the cloud business in the next 12 months with HyperV (ServePath’s GoGrid cloud already supports Windows Server.)

As the cloud computing market matures it will slowly start to meet the requirements of enterprises for a variety of uses, test simply being one. Are you using cloud computing today? If so, let us know how. I’ll be keynoting LTPact in Las Vegas on June 26 discussing the cloud computing phenomenon. Come engage in the dialog.

By James Staten

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