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In December 2023, Cisco announced a wave of Webex new features to its videoconferencing service. This month, it is starting to roll out real-time translation as a test for more than 100 languages on Mac and other platforms.
This feature is coming this month, with general availability planned for May. At first, Cisco expected to start testing real-time translation in February, but things were delayed until now.
With this new feature, language won’t be a barrier anymore. People will be able to translate from English to more than 100 other languages, such as Spanish, French, German, Mandarin, Portuguese, Arabic, Russian, Dutch, Japanese, and more.
‘The inclusive features of Webex help create a level playing field for users regardless of factors like language or geography. Enabling global Real-Time Translations is another step toward powering an inclusive future and an important component of driving better communication and collaboration across teams,’ said Jeetu Patel, SVP and GM Security and Applications, Cisco.
The company still has other new features on the way. For 2023, Cisco is launching a lot of new things:
In-meeting gestures: You can give a “thumbs up” with your hand and AI translates your motion into a thumbs up on the screen for all to see. Coming later this year;
Immersive sharing: You’ll be able to share your presentation, video, or application as a dynamic background with your video overlaid, for a more immersive experience;
Really big meetings: Need to host a Webex Events session with up to 25,0000 fully participating attendees? You’ll be able to host up to 100,00 using the new Webex Events native live streaming;
Meeting templates: Give everyone a chance to speak with round table templates and more. Put time limits on your meetings with quick syncs.
It’s not only Cisco Webex that is adding real-time translation to its service. Google Meet has had this feature since January, allowing users to use Otter’s AI-powered transcription tool to caption their meetings.
Skype also offers real-time translation via Microsoft Translator, but the feature has yet to be added for Microsoft Teams meetings, which can only translate messages between users.
Now, it’s time to try out Cisco’s new feature to see if it has the potential to transform conferences involving people from all over the globe.Microsoft Teams to add end-to-end encryption
Also today, Microsoft announced during its Ignite event that Teams is finally receiving end-to-end encryption, among other features.
For now, E2EE will be available only for one-to-one Microsoft Team calls. The company says IT will have full discretion over who can use E2EE in the organization and will be available to commercial customers in preview in the first half of the year.
Little by little, Microsoft intends to expand end-to-end encryption in more situations, including conferences, scheduled meetings, and more.
The company announced today a new smart speaker feature that can identify and differentiate the voices of up to 10 people talking in Microsoft Teams Rooms.
These speakers were created in partnership with EPOS and Yealink, and allow attendees to use the transcription to follow along or capture actions, by knowing who in the room said what. To enable privacy and security, users are in full control and can turn attribution on or off at any time.
FTC: We use income earning auto affiliate links. More.
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In software development, testing is the most important stage in the process of delivery of any application or software as it is only testing that not only validates the quality of an application but also provides an opportunity for the developer to improve its product.
Every application is being developed in some high or low level language which means some code has been written for its development so based on the knowledge of the tester about the application there is a classification of testing namely White Box Testing and Grey Box Testing.
In this article, we will discuss the important differences between white box testing and grey box testing. Let’s start with some basics.What is the White Box Testing?
The software testing technique in which the internal structures like data structure used in the code, internal design, code structure, working of the software, etc. are analyzed is referred to as white box testing. White box testing is also called structural testing or glass box testing or clear box testing.
The entire process of white box testing includes various tests such as – path testing, loop testing, condition testing, testing depending upon the memory perspective, and testing of the performance of the application.
In white box testing, the software developer tests every line of the program code and then sends the software to the testing team. The testing team performs black box testing on the code to verify the software along with the requirements. The testing team also identifies the bugs and sends the code to the developer to fix them.
Therefore, white box testing is performed to identify the internal security issues, check the functionality of conditional loops, and test the statements, functions, and objects at an individual level.What is the Grey Box Testing?
A software testing technique used to test software with partial knowledge of the internal structure of the software is termed Grey Box Testing.
Grey box testing is performed to identify the loopholes in software due to improper code structure. This technique is commonly used to identify context-specific errors related to web systems. Basically, grey box testing is a combination of two software testing techniques namely white box testing and black box testing. Therefore, grey box testing provides the ability to test both the code part and presentation layer of the software.
The major techniques used for grey box testing include Matrix Testing, Regression Testing, Orthogonal Array Testing, and Pattern Testing. Grey box testing is widely used for testing applications for GUI, security assessment, web services, etc.Difference between White Box Testing and Grey Box Testing
The following table highlights the important differences between White Box Testing and Grey Box Testing −
Key White Box Testing Grey Box Testing
Definition White box testing is the type of testing in which the tester knows the internal functionality of the application and thus does the testing on a functional basis. Grey box testing is the type of testing in which the tester is not aware of the end to end internal functionality of the system or application, so testing is mainly focused on the primary functionality of the system instead of end to end coverage of internal functionality.
Also known as Along with primary functionality testing, internal functionality is also covered in white box testing so it is also known as clear box testing, structural testing or code based testing. Grey box testing only covers the primary functionality testing of an application hence testing is also termed as Translucent testing
Performer White box testing requires knowledge about internal functionality of the application, so it is generally performed by testers and developers who have such knowledge. In case of Grey box testing, no such knowledge required, so it is generally done by end users along with testers and developers.
Basis of testing As testers are aware of internal functionality of the application hence they prepare the test data accordingly and tried to test almost every code scenario through these test cases. In Grey box testing, the primary functionality knowledge is provided through high level data flow diagrams and database flow diagrams so these are the basis for this type of testing.
Execution time It is obvious that as internal end to end functionality along with primary functionality is tested in this type of testing hence time of execution for this testing is more as compare to Grey box testing. Only primary testing is tested in this type of testing hence execution time for this testing is less as compare to White box testing.
Automation As most the part of this type of testing is based on the internal implemented code, hence automation of this testing is possible and also algorithms for this testing could be developed. In case of Grey box testing, no exposure to the internal implemented code, hence possibility of automation of this testing is less as compared to that of White box testing.Conclusion
The most significant difference between white box testing and grey box testing is that white box testing requires the knowledge of the internal structure, thus performed by the developers; whereas grey box testing requires partial knowledge of the internal structure and is performed by endusers along with developers and the testing team.
Cisco Stops Flip Video Production
RIP to Flip! This is so sad! I really liked this little video camera brand, but not it seems that Cisco has decided to close down shop and stop all production of all models. All those of you who’ve already got a camera from this line (yours truly included) will continue to receive support from the group until they’ve figured out what they’re going to do with the brand. This may well mean that they plan on selling the camera line to another group or indeed just chopping it down to the ground. But they’re so cute!
In a press release sent out to press today, Cisco has noted that they’ll be moving on five “key company priorities,” core routing, switching and services, collaboration, architectures, and yes, video. This appears to be part of a much more grand scheme and not just a ratatat on the single brand. Instead it seems that Cisco is moving toward supporting their enterprise and service provider customers in turn expand their offerings for consumers.
What does that mean for you? Not a whole lot unless you planned on purchasing a Flip camera in the near future – you’ll probably be able to pick up a cheap one now! And those of you who already have one, again, will continue to receive support as you keep on flipping. Check out the full press release below:
Apr 12, 2011 08:30 ET
Cisco Restructures Consumer Business
SAN JOSE, CA–(Marketwire – April 12, 2011) – As part of the company’s comprehensive plan to align its operations, Cisco (NASDAQ: CSCO) today announced that it will exit aspects of its consumer businesses and realign the remaining consumer business to support four of its five key company priorities — core routing, switching and services; collaboration; architectures; and video. As part of its plan, Cisco will:
• Close down its Flip business and support current FlipShare customers and partners with a transition plan.
• Refocus Cisco’s Home Networking business for greater profitability and connection to the company’s core networking infrastructure as the network expands into a video platform in the home. These industry-leading products will continue to be available through retail channels.
• Integrate Cisco umi into the company’s Business TelePresence product line and operate through an enterprise and service provider go-to-market model, consistent with existing business TelePresence efforts.
• Assess core video technology integration of Cisco’s Eos media solutions business or other market opportunities for this business.
“We are making key, targeted moves as we align operations in support of our network-centric platform strategy,” said John Chambers, Cisco chairman and CEO. “As we move forward, our consumer efforts will focus on how we help our enterprise and service provider customers optimize and expand their offerings for consumers, and help ensure the network’s ability to deliver on those offerings.”
In connection with the changes to the consumer business, it is anticipated that Cisco will recognize restructuring charges to its GAAP financial results, with an aggregate pre-tax impact not expected to exceed $300 million during the third and fourth quarters of fiscal 2011. The charges will be disclosed in upcoming earnings conference calls and quarterly Form 10-Q filings. Additionally, the company expects this will result in a reduction of approximately 550 employees in the fourth quarter of fiscal 2011.
This press release may be deemed to contain forward-looking statements, which are subject to the safe harbor provisions of the Private Securities Litigation Reform Act of 1995, including the company’s plan to align its operations in support of its network-centric platform strategy, Cisco’s consumer focus going forward, the maximum size of the anticipated restructuring charges, and expected employee reductions. Readers are cautioned that these forward-looking statements are only predictions and may differ materially from actual future events or results due to a variety of factors, including, among other things, how well we execute on our strategy and operating plans, business and economic conditions and growth trends in the networking industry, customer markets and various geographic regions, global economic conditions and uncertainties in the geopolitical environment and other risk factors set forth in Cisco’s most recent reports on Form 10-K and Form 10-Q. Any forward-looking statements in this release are based on limited information currently available to Cisco, which is subject to change, and Cisco will not necessarily update the information.
At the core of Cisco’s traditional networking business is its networking routers — and specifically the popular ISR (Integrated Services Router), which has sold more than 7 million units. Now the ISR is getting a major refresh with a new generation of routing, processing, video and scalability features.
Cisco’s router enhancements comes on the heels of a pair of major multibillion-dollar acquisition bids in areas adjacent to its core network routing business — for telepresence player Tandberg and 4G wireless technology player Starent.
But for now, it’s back to its roots for Cisco, with the ISR “generation two” (G2) refresh as part of a larger Cisco effort to revamp its networking portfolio for what it calls the area of “borderless networks” — an idea that hinges on divorcing software from hardware to enable easy-to-manage virtual services.
“We are bringing together routing, switching, mobility, security, WAN optimization and some of our green technology into a single solution set that we will deliver,” Inbar Lasser-Raab, director of marketing for Cisco’s Network Systems solutions, told chúng tôi “The first step is the ISR G2 that implements a lot of those capabilities.”
The first-generation ISR platform came out in September 2004 and offered users the ability to plug in add-on module blades that provided additional services and functionality.
With the G2 platform, the module approach is getting revamped, as is the core services functionality on the platform itself. Using a technology called the Services-Ready Engine, Cisco is going to be expanding its services with a general-purpose computing platform integrated into the ISR G2.
“We have the capability of plugging in a general-purpose compute engine that will allow customers to take both Cisco services and partner services and be able to customize applications and deploy them,” Mick Skully, vice president of product management for Cisco’s Access Routing Technology Group, told chúng tôi “It’s a true ‘branch in a box’ that includes both communications, service and compute capabilities associated with a branch environment.”
One of the popular modules that Cisco has had in the market for ISR users is the Application eXtension Platform (AXP) Linux server platform. Previously, users could run applications on top of a Linux operating system provided on the AXP module. With the new Services-Ready Engine, AXP as a service will continue — though there will be no need for a separate module.
“The difference between the new iteration and the older one is before you had to order an AXP module, and that was hard-coded,” Lasser-Raab said. “Now you just buy the service engine and if you want the AXP capability, it’s an option you can add on later.”
Adding such capabilities is now far more simpler and quicker. Skully said that with the first-generation edition, ISR customers were forced to order the service software they wanted from Cisco and then have it installed on their hardware. With ISR G2, the product includes a single software image, enabling Cisco to use a license key to unlock platform features when purchased.
Because processing can now take place on the ISR G2 itself, AXP isn’t the only module that’s being phased out.
Another is a hardware-based cryptographic acceleration module. The ISR G2 is powerful enough that it can do the cryptography at line rate, making the first-generation ISR’s separate hardware acceleration module unnecessary, Skully said.
Skully said that ISR G2 platforms have doubled the memory footprint over Cisco’s earlier models and now all use multi-core processors. According to Skully, the baseline ISR G2 platform provides a five-fold increase in performance over the first-generation ISR platform.
Speedier performance also comes by way of an overall modernization of the routers’ components, he added.
“It’s just the march of technology — it’s the fact that we’re using today’s modern network processor technology,” Skully said. “We’ve upgraded the fabric and we’re using technology today that represents the state of the art.”
Cisco is launching the ISR G2 lineup with three core products: the 3900, 2900 and 1900 series. The platforms differ in their port configurations and performance, with the top-end ISR G2 3900 unit providing up to 150 Mbps of bandwidth with concurrent services enabled, according to Cisco.
With the new ISR G2 launch, Skully noted that Cisco will have an upgrade program in place for current ISR customers. That said, he noted that Cisco has no immediate plans to End-Of-Life (EOL) the first-generation ISR platform anytime soon.
“We anticipate that it will be two to three years while our current customer base transitions,” Skully said. “It’s not as if we’re turning off our existing products and saying ‘go buy this tomorrow’ — that’s just not happening.”
FIX: Failed to initialize connection subsystem – Cisco
Cisco AnyConnect is a popular business VPN solution that lets users access corporate resources remotely from any supported device.
However, sometimes it may face certain technical difficulties. The connection subsystem initialization failure error is by far one of the most common issues.
Check out our Cisco Hub to discover more Cisco-related guides, news, and fixes.
Visit our VPN Troubleshooting section to learn how you can fix more common VPN issues.
INSTALL BY CLICKING THE DOWNLOAD FILE
To fix Windows PC system issues, you will need a dedicated tool
Fortect is a tool that does not simply cleans up your PC, but has a repository with several millions of Windows System files stored in their initial version. When your PC encounters a problem, Fortect will fix it for you, by replacing bad files with fresh versions. To fix your current PC issue, here are the steps you need to take:
Download Fortect and install it on your PC.
Start the tool’s scanning process to look for corrupt files that are the source of your problem
Fortect has been downloaded by
readers this month.
Cisco AnyConnect is more than just a VPN, as it empowers your workforce to be able to work from any location, on any device, and at any time.
However, this doesn’t mean that it’s free of errors. In fact, it has quite a few issues, but thankfully none of them is without a solution.
One of the most common problems is the failed to initialize the connection subsystem in Cisco AnyConnect error.
Apparently, it mostly occurs for Windows users, but it also happens in the following scenarios:
Establishing VPN connections with Cisco AnyConnect Secure Mobility Client app on Windows 8.1, RT 8.1, or Windows Server 2012 R2
After installing Windows update 3023607 on your computer
Microsoft has confirmed that the failed to initialize connection subsystem in Cisco AnyConnect error is related to Microsoft products.
Windows Server 2012 R2 Datacenter, Standard, Essentials and Foundation, Windows 8.1 Enterprise and Pro, Windows 8.1, and Windows RT 8.1.
Check out some solutions that can help you work around this error and fix it on your computer.Failed to initialize connection subsystem in Cisco AnyConnect error fix
You can install the most recent cumulative security update for Internet Explorer directly from Windows’ built-in update tool.
Alternatively, you could download and apply the update manually.
However, if you choose the latter, you should check the Affected Software table in Microsoft’s Security Bulletin MS15-018 for download links.
If this didn’t do the trick, move on to our next suggested fix.
The failed to initialize connection subsystem in Cisco AnyConnect error usually has to do with a recent Windows Update.
Having issues while installing Cisco AnyConnect? Check out our guide and learn how to bypass them easily.
However, you can also use Cisco AnyConnect’s proprietary troubleshooter tool to try and solve it.
All you have to do is follow these steps:
Note: For chúng tôi – the local service that supports the client user interface – you may need to repeat these steps.
Sometimes the failed to initialize the connection subsystem in Cisco AnyConnect error could happen because the Internet Connection Sharing (ICS) is enabled on your LAN.
Here’s how to resolve this:
If you have the failed to initialize connection subsystem in Cisco AnyConnect error, you can fix it by making a small edit to the registry using the steps below:
Check whether you are able to connect.Conclusion
All things considered, if you encounter the failed to initialize the connection subsystem in Cisco AnyConnect error, there are ways to fix it.
We recommend you try our suggested methods one by one. We’re confident you’ll find one that eventually does the trick.
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How much has the Web changed the face of enterprise application development? Let us count the ways. Start with HTML, pervasive clients, fat servers, distributed architectures, and application servers.
Move to object messaging, server-side components, decoupled frameworks, and enterprise information portals. And let’s not forget the year’s big buzzes: eXtensible Markup Language (XML), enterprise application integration (EAI), electronic data interchange (EDI), and global supply chain optimization.
And that’s just scratching the surface. Call it what you will: e-business, e-commerce, e-service, e-tailing, e-tc.–from IT’s perspective, it’s all e-ssential. Indeed, to say the Web has redefined IT, and done so overnight, would not be an understatement.
Yet for all its impact, the Web’s most fundamental change to the fabric and essence of enterprise development remains largely unnoticed. That change is the transformation of IT from a plodding corporate function to a fast-running independent software vendor–an ISV.
“The moment you put a dynamic application on the Net, you’ve shifted from an IT organization that builds solutions for internal consumption, to a company that develops software for external consumers,” says Larry Freed, director of the e-commerce practice at Compuware Corp., in Farmington Hills, Mich.
This shift also requires adjusting application development priorities. Technologies many IT organizations have long ignored, such as automated graphical user interface along with function and load-testing tools, suddenly acquire strategic importance.
Walk like an ISV
Growing numbers of IT leaders, consultants, and vendors agree with Freed’s assessment: IT is taking on the attributes of ISVs. To succeed today takes more than migrating sales, marketing, purchasing, and customer services to the Net; and more is needed than adopting new architectures and platforms to keep pace technologically.
According to experts, success requires thinking and acting like an ISV, and adopting proven practices and development methodologies that have long separated successful vendors of shrink-wrapped apps from abject market failures.
In fact, IT organizations that ignore the best practices employed by leading ISVs do so at their own peril. Consider this stunning prediction issued in September 1999 by analysts from the Gartner Group Inc. of Stamford, Conn.: 75% of e-business efforts will fail. This is due in large part to lack of adherence to best development practices and methodologies.
“You need to look at some of the best development practices that [ISVs] have used for years to be sure their products make the grade,” says Mickey Lutz, VP of IT at PHH Vehicle Management Services, in Hunt Valley, Md. “For most IT [shops], that usually means one thing: They have to get serious about software testing for the first time.”
Lutz should know. As head of the information technology arm of Avis Rent-A-Car Systems Inc., his PHH group was charged with rapidly evolving Avis’ UNIX-based client/server environment to the latest bleeding-edge distributed architecture.
Web terminology glossary
Application servers: The software that serves up an application in a three-tier distributed system. Essentially the runtime platform for distributed apps, the app server lives on the “application tier” (the other two tiers being the database and the client-side presentation). First and foremost, the app server executes source code and provides traditional middleware services such as transaction processing (TP) monitoring, pooling of connections, objects, and data. They may also provide or otherwise support fault tolerance through clustering, failover, etc.
Decoupled frameworks: An application architecture built with reusable, fully encapsulated components. These components can be snapped in or out at will. This makes upgrades and maintenance far easier compared to traditional monolithic applications, where much of the code is tightly integrated and interdependent.
Distributed architectures: Application systems that run across multiple computers, also known as “tiers.” Tier 1 is the presentation tier, most often a Web browser or a desktop PC. Tier 2 is the application tier, sometimes referred to as the middle, business logic, business rules, or business components tier. Tier 3 is the database. While the architecture consists of three virtual tiers, in reality, the actual implementation of a distributed “three-tier” architecture might comprise hundreds of application servers, dozens of database servers, and millions of clients.
Electronic data interchange (EDI): An industry-standard means of formatting a data file so that it can be shared among multiple computer systems.
Enterprise application integration: The process of tying multiple enterprise software programs, systems, or databases together, so they can seamlessly share data or objects.
Enterprise information portals: A Web site that provides enterprise knowledge workers with an information “dashboard” as a home page. For example, the page might include the company’s latest stock price, human resources links, and a menu of the company’s master applications for sales, accounting, customer service, etc. The site could also provide a company address and telephone book, a company directory, maps to various office locations, the latest company news, and so on. The enterprise information portal is an employee’s one-stop-shop for company news, information, communication, and software applications.
eXtensible Markup Language (XML): A “markup” language that allows programmers to define ways to share information between applications. XML is to data what HTML (HyperText Markup Language) is to documents. Just as HTML defined a standard way for documents to be exchanged through Web browsers, XML allows IT shops to define how enterprise data is shared among applications and across platforms.
Fat servers: Servers that house all or most of the database and app logic, leaving only or mostly the user interface logic on the thin client.
Global supply chain optimization: Improving the efficiency of an organization’s end-to-end supply chain through application of software algorithms.
HyperText Markup Language (HTML): The tag-based programming language of the World Wide Web. HTML defines how documents are formatted and displayed. It is interpreted by a Web browser at runtime, which converts the text-based HTML document into the lovely display you’re looking at now.
Independent software vendor (ISV): A company that designs, develops, markets, and supports software products. Microsoft is an ISV.
Integration tester: A member of an application development team who validates that two or more software components are communicating properly and without error.
Object messaging: Using software objects or components to communicate inside of or among programs, systems, or processes.
Pervasive clients: What some believe is the next great era of computing, where computer clients will be everywhere, in many shapes, sizes, colors, and form factors. This includes wearable computers (such as Star Trek style communicators), Internet appliances, palm-sized devices, smart cellular telephones, and interactive TVs, in addition to traditional desktop, laptop, and server PCs.
Server-side components: Software objects that reside exclusively on a server.
Software algorithms: It’s a series of software commands that, when executed in sequence, solve a problem and produce a result. Algorithms may contain other algorithms. In fact, a complete program is a collection of algorithms, and itself can be considered a large algorithm.
Unit tester: A member of an application development team who validates that software components are performing according to spec, behaving properly, and executing without error.
The new requirements called for transforming Avis’ legacy enterprise architecture from one that served a handful of internal agents, to a publicly accessible fleet management system that thousands of Avis clients could access live, direct from their desktop PCs.
Lessons learned about automated testing technologies
Think like an ISV. Development in the e-business age requires IT organizations to conceptualize systems as commercial apps. To maximize application system quality, adopt proven best practices long used by successful ISVs, such as heavy use of automated testing tools, technologies, and development methodologies.
Test early and often. Integrate your QA testing team into the development process from day one. The more the testers know about the application requirements, coding, and resulting app, the better they’ll be able to devise test scenarios and regression scripts.
Prototype the user interface first. Send the resulting user interface (UI) demo out to customers, partners, and other users for early feedback. By defining the UI early, the IT team limits show-stopping usability bugs late in the development lifecycle.
Test the application’s technology as well as its logic. Your application code might be robust, but a single bug in your vendor’s app server or OS can bring your organization to its knees.
Build a multidisciplinary QA team. Software quality assurance today involves far more than GUI regression and load testing. Web apps are inherently complex, leveraging multiple new technologies and heterogeneous legacy systems. QA teams need to test integration points, database integrity, object messages and communications, and more.
Evaluate all the major test tool product lines. Most vendors have completely updated their offerings to address the requirements of e-business development efforts.
Have contingency plans. Be sure your IT team is prepared for a major system failure, and have a disaster plan in place to bring systems back up as quickly as possible. Test the contingency plans often with drills.
Ambitious from the start, Avis aimed to do more than just surface marketing and reporting schemes on the Web. The new architecture would touch literally every customer, every driver, and every one of the 350,000 vehicles in the company’s corporate rental fleet.
The first application targeted was a huge vehicle fleet maintenance solution, where clients could go online and manage vehicle histories, repair costs and operational expenses, driver profiles, and safety training reports, as well as analyze accident records.
It was a high-velocity U-turn for Avis. The company historically relied on its customer call centers to support client queries by telephone, with monthly reports generated by computer and delivered to fleet managers by snail mail.
“When we started this effort, we were a principal vendor, but not a principal app on the fleet manager’s desktop,” Lutz says. “Today when they manage their fleet, we are the principle application they use. We’re no different from Microsoft [Corp.] or Sun [Microsystems Inc.] in that regard. We have become a mission-critical software provider.”
Lutz’s team decided the shift from mission-critical vendor to mission-critical ISV called for mission-critical testing. It was a fortuitous call: had the company not applied automated stress-testing technologies, the system would have collapsed on its first day online.
“The application just wouldn’t work under load,” Lutz recounts. “It ran great with a small team of QA testers exercising it, but when we applied the load-testing software, it wouldn’t work.”
Using the LoadRunner load-testing software from Mercury Interactive Corp. of Sunnyvale, Calif., Lutz’s team was able to simulate 10,000 concurrent users banging away on the app. The problem was traced to a bug in the ColdFusion app server from Allaire Corp. of Cambridge, Mass.
After Allaire issued a patch, the system was again subjected to a round of load testing. This time, it passed. As the development process ensued, Lutz’s team brought more customer data online, eventually facing Avis’s entire 600GB data warehouse to the Web.
Each step of the way, the team repeatedly threw app modules into a load-testing pressure cooker. Lutz says that, at the time, without Mercury’s LoadRunner product, this extreme level of load testing would have been beyond the realm of possibility.
That’s because most load-testing products required pools of PCs. The server-based LoadRunner required only one central server.
“Typically with client/server or Web stress testing, you have to drive it from multiple PCs,” Lutz explains. “I would have had to commandeer entire buildings of PCs. It would have been impossible to test the kinds of numbers we’re talking about.”
In terms of predictability, the testing results have been “right on,” Lutz says. The Avis site zoomed to an average of 90,000 hits per day soon after it was deployed, with a one-day peak of 141,000.
“We’ve had no problems due to load,” Lutz says. As PHH gets set to scale the site again with a new development phase to open the app to more online customers, the group has purchased an additional LoadRunner license to enable scalability testing beyond 30,000 simulated users.
“No architecture can scale infinitely,” says Lutz. “Every time you add or change something, you have to test. We want to take it up further, and stay ahead of the curve as far as numbers of users. Load testing lets us do that.”
On the razor’s edge
Spurred on by extreme market pressure, companies are forced to stay ahead of the curve. They must relentlessly update, upgrade, rev, improve, add features, embrace trends, and technologically innovate within the context of the software development process.
The hallmark of any successful ISV that needs to ship shrink-wrapped product to a fickle enterprise marketplace is the aggressive release mentality one would expect to find at Microsoft, Sun, or Red Hat Inc.
It’s not the kind of thinking normally associated with IT organizations, which historically deal with internally driven business requirements that take months to refine, development cycles that are measured in years, and application systems that are built to span decades.
Examine the cycle time of any e-business shop, though, and you’ll find development lifecycles pegged to monthly, weekly, daily, even hourly release builds.
“IT used to operate under the notion that you write perfect requirements, and everything flows from there,” says Sam Guckenheimer, the Lexington, Mass.-based senior director of automated testing products for Rational Software Corp., in Cupertino, Calif. “But the Web is iterative. The requirements change daily. We’ve seen some dot-com organizations with six-hour release cycles.”
E-business developers agree, and add that compressed application lifecycles aren’t the only challenge in maintaining high-quality customer-facing e-apps. The architecture of Web-based systems is inherently complex, heterogeneous, and fragile.
“We might do five releases in three months,” says William Flow, manager of software quality assurance for Frontier Corp., in Rochester, N.Y. “And it’s not just the Web client we’re revving. We have to test all the stuff–integration, databases, other Web apps we hit, e-mail systems–it can be hundreds of things. It’s become impossible to do it manually.”
Frontier personifies the diverse community of platforms many enterprise organizations struggle to integrate as they fight their way to the Web. The company’s architecture is a mix of mainframes, with Solaris UNIX and Linux IP servers running on Intel, SPARC, and UltraSPARC machines.
Born over 100 years ago as Rochester Telephone, a small local telco, the company started buying up small Baby Bells after the AT&T breakup. A long string of acquisitions later, Frontier emerged as the country’s #5 domestic long-distance carrier.
For the past two years, Frontier’s IT organization, under the leadership of CEO Joe Clayton, has been charged with aggressively moving the firm’s entire computing infrastructure to the Web. The initiative is dubbed TMN, for Telco Management Network.
The e-business programming team at Frontier is turning to automated testing technologies to maintain the highest service levels of the firm’s customer-facing apps. The reason: With literally all of the company’s systems headed for the Web, a failure of any company system means wasting money.
“There was a time when application downtime didn’t directly impact revenue,” Flow says. “Today the revenue for our company is based on these Web-based apps. If any aspect is down or not doing its job properly, I’m losing revenue.”
Linda Hayes, Datamation’s Quality Quest columnist, wrote: To win at software development, change the game. You’ve got to discard old-fashioned methods and mindsets, she says, and come up with new ways to create good software.
“My QA engineers have a dual role,” Flow explains. “They play unit testing, and they play integration QA.” Flow says he integrates QA engineers directly into the development process from day one. This way they can understand the user requirements and application specs, and ensure the code delivers.
Once the development team declares a unit “code complete,” Flow has his QA testers switch gears. “When [the developers] say something’s complete, my QA engineer has to change his hat from a unit tester to an integration tester. That’s where the automated tools come in.”(see: Stressed out from stress testing)
Multiple points of failure
For example, Frontier’s Inventory Management System (IMS) is the needle’s eye through which five other enterprise Web systems are threaded. Virtually every conceivable interaction between these business-critical, codependent application systems must be rigorously tested.
“We used to just test the GUI,” Flow says. “Does the app ask the right questions, do the forms work, is the data saved, and so on. But now we have to make sure every app hits IMS, and that the data interacts properly with other apps in the dependency chain. This is where integration testing takes over, and why we had to find an automated tool.”
Because the complexity of the integration testing was beyond human means, Flow’s group turned to automation–specifically, Compuware’s QA Director. The product allows multiple applications and databases to be scripted and executed simultaneously–a key feature for integration testing.
Flow’s team uses QA Director to hit upon all the applications and their databases and to generate reports that flag errors in system interactions. “Application A touches application B, and B hits C and D, while E might hit A,” Flow says. “QA Director can actually manage this kind of elaborate test.”
Now, whenever Frontier prepares to issue a new release, it is first subjected to an entire integration regression test suite, managed by scripts running under QA Director. This ensures previously tested functionality is unchanged, and validates the accuracy of new features.
Flow says that, without the availability of Web-savvy integration testing tools, Frontier’s entire application portfolio would be at risk. “If we didn’t have these automated tools, we simply couldn’t do the testing,” he says. “We’d be in a world of hurt right now.”
“As a [testing tool] vendor, I hate to say that our tools can’t perform a certain function, but the truth is, usability testing is the one thing no automated tool can do,” says Diane Hagglund, senior manager for e-business product marketing at Mercury Interactive.
Hagglund says usability testing might never be automated, because it has to do with responding to human emotions–something that has yet to be computerized. “We’re seeing more and more traditional IT shops doing what ISVs would call beta testing, under the guise of usability testing,” she says.
That’s exactly what’s happening at Acentris Wireless Communications, a telco services reseller in Seattle. There the beta test process has been integrated into the overall development lifecycle, with a core group of developers, internal users, and customers comprising Acentris’ beta test team.
The company recently migrated from its legacy Microsoft Visual Basic 4 (VB4) client/server system to a fully distributed platform. The new system is built in VB6 and leverages several beta technologies itself, including a COM+ framework and Windows 2000 Beta 3 RC1 servers.
“We prototyped the Web UI first, and sent it out to a small group of customers and internal users for beta testing,” says Acentris VP Darren Lang. “That gave us a huge head start, because we were able to fine-tune the user experience and hand the UI off to the programmers early in the development process.”
Acentris’ development team was then free to focus on the migration’s nuts and bolts, and use automated tools to stress and regression test the application architecture, knowing usability was already in hand.
“The reputation of the IT department no longer rides on how well they manage the printers, back up the servers, or get a new PC on your desk,” says Michael Marquardt, president of Internet Operations Center Inc., an e-commerce application hosting company in Southfield, Mich. “It’s now the software development arm of the business, and that means we need to think and act more like ISVs, and less like islands of technology.”
Rich Levin covers IT for CBS Radio and the Coast to Coast Radio Network. He can be reached at [email protected].
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