By July 21, 2014 Read More →

Running IT at Two Speeds

Imatwo trains, IT.gine this: two trains leaving the station, side by side. One is a freight train, ambling along at a very predictable pace, carefully transporting the raw materials a company needs to conduct basic business. Nothing glamorous, but it gets the job done.

The other is a bullet train—sleek, aerodynamically designed, zipping along at high speed; using less energy as it goes. It’s no wonder that everyone wants to get on board.

Now put these two trains on these two different tracks under one roof and you’ve just illustrated most company’s current IT infrastructure. The freight train is the traditional environment; the bullet train is the new style of IT: cloud, mobile, “as a Service” offerings—all of the innovations that accelerate the pace of business.

With all of the benefits of the new style of IT, it comes as no surprise that companies everywhere are examining the contents of their traditional IT structures to identify which applications can be offloaded to the new, more efficient environment.  The challenge is they have to get those apps from the freight train to the bullet train without either one coming to a stop.

Oftentimes, under pressure to make the move as rapidly as possible, they fling the applications over, cross their collective fingers and prepare to fix whatever doesn’t work in production.  Best case scenario, this approach leaves a trail of cargo that missed its mark. Worst case, there’s a crash, bringing business as usual to a standstill.

Testing…One, Two, Three

The reality is there is one sure way to prevent potential train wrecks when applications move from traditional to new-style technology—and that is testing. Unfortunately, testing is the step that most often gets cut. Sometimes it’s to save money when budgets get slashed. Other times, it’s to save time when deadlines move up. In nearly every instance, eliminating the testing phase ends up costing companies in the long run. Fixing applications in production can double or triple the cost. More importantly, those unexpected downtimes could result in lost revenue, lost customers and an eroded brand name.

In this microwave society, no one is waiting to make an online hotel reservation on an unresponsive site, or standing in line while a sales associate tries to reboot the POS system.  No one cares why warehouse operations came to a standstill because of system downtime; all they know is that their product didn’t get to the store on time.

Working things out as you go always comes with a consequence.  Whereas failing in a test environment means the application is ready when your customers, employees or partners start to use it.

Although most technology leaders look at testing as a preventative measure, a process that reduces the chance for a crisis down the road, those aren’t the only benefits. Testing actually helps companies speed up the deployment process, so companies move applications to the new environment not only more safely but more quickly.

Yes, you read that last sentence correctly. Companies can actually slow progress down by eliminating testing.

New Style Testing for New Style Technology

Traditionally, testing was regarded as a necessary evil; a time-consuming process using preset templates and arduous documentation around test scenarios and data. To go back to our train analogy, the process was like building a mile of tracks, then stopping, manually inspecting the tracks, making the changes and then moving the train up a mile and repeating the steps until the track was complete. There were a lot of starts and stops, and painful inefficiencies, along the way.

The sole purpose was to find the defects.

Applications running in the new style of IT environment have many additional requirements, all focused on delivering business value to the user. So, the scope of testing has expanded beyond finding defects to also encompass the user experience; and the tools have changed to include automation and the capability to test as you go. Testing has morphed into a repeatable, automated process that enables companies to test effectively without stopping.  It’s like giving the same machine that lays down the train tracks the mechanisms to test levels and realign these as it goes. Nothing comes to a stop; no surprises along the way. It’s a constant flow of “build and test” that happens in near real time.

In the past, companies had to physically build out a test environment, including servers and software. To justify the expense, the designated staff tested a large number of applications simultaneously.

Today, cloud enables companies to spin up images of test environments as needed, and engage the latest testing tools on demand. Not only does this improve agility, it enables companies to test smaller portions of applications, without waiting for a large grouping, but also test different types of applications in different environments at the same time.

In addition to testing the applications, it’s crucial to validate the data flow between locations, particularly in a hybrid cloud environment. If you’re hosting your applications on new technology, don’t assume it will scale up to meet your projected demand—test it, so you know how it will respond.

Before You Make Your Move…

Without question, the benefits of moving the appropriate applications from the traditional IT freight train to the sleek bullet train of new-style IT is a game changer. The speed, agility and scalability gained can transform an organization.

But, to be successful, companies have to go “old school” when it comes to planning; allocating a realistic amount of time, adequate testing and a solid understanding of what it takes to successfully make the transition. If you’re using the same plan you used to move from mainframe to mid-range, it won’t work. The world of new-style IT is far more complex, with numerous operating systems and device options, and simply, more moving parts.

The good news is you don’t have to go it alone.

HP can help you make the transition more smoothly, providing the sophisticated testing tools and guidance you need to optimize the benefits of new style technologies, while keeping your traditional environment operating at its full potential. We’ve helped numerous clients keep both trains on track, and can do the same for you. Ultimately, you’ll improve your user experience, save money and get to your destination faster—even traveling at two speeds.

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