iTKO Bolsters SOA Load Testing Capabilities

iTKO has enhanced its testing solution for service-oriented architectures (SOAs). The company's LISA product now has improved load-testing capabilities that let users automate tests, save load test patterns and simulate traffic that may occur at different times in an SOA.

The load-testing capabilities aren't new to LISA, but iTKO enhanced them in response to customer requests. The improved capabilities are changes that iTKO has planned as part of a general product ramp up from version 3.5.

The nature of SOA environments has made testing difficult, according to John Michelsen, iTKO's founder and chief architect, yet testing is needed to support governance in an SOA.

"We focus ourselves on SOA-type problems, whether that's Web services or heterogeneous application architectures that are trying to service enable," he said. "And we do so from both the traditional QA-oriented unit, functional and load performance testing perspective and…the governance perspective, because we think that test is a critical part of governance -- and we're getting a lot of concurrence with that line of thinking."

Depending on the customer, iTKO's product may serve as a governance and testing solution, or be used to support governance. From the perspective of enterprise architects responsible for SOA, iTKO's solution serves more as a policy model and enforcement vehicle, which constitutes the governance aspect of it, Michelsen explained.

However, LISA is not a 100 percent governance solution since much of governance can't be automated, he added.

"Half of governance is around preferred vendor status, rates and payments, escalation procedures and all of these kinds of things -- how we communicate and negotiate -- and that's not an automated thing at all," Michelsen said.

SOA Test Strategy
The strategy of the past was based on manual testing, but that's going to hit a real failure point with SOA, according to Michelsen, because SOAs entail constant change. IT groups doing SOA need a transformation in their way of thinking, starting with the testing team. 

"I would submit that the greatest challenge for an organization to go to an SOA is with the testing team because they've been insulated from the technology stack itself," he explained. "They've been thinking about this as a UI testing problem; they've used process and manual testing to prevent critical bugs from going to production. And frankly, SOA can't do that. You really can't play that old story and test SOA effectively. The change is too constant, the technologies and machine-to-machine interfaces have to be tested from a functional point of view. The QA organization has got to retool in a much more significant way than even the developers have to do."

The way that iTKO's product handles testing, without bringing down the whole system every time a change is made, is to use a virtual services capability.

"In essence, you can take a certain part of the whole SOA infrastructure and virtualize it," Michelsen explained. "So, you're not talking to the real thing. We're simulating what the response of the real system is. And you've got to have a pretty rich testing infrastructure to make this happen."

LISA lets the user construct reusable test cases. You can observe the testing behavior and capture it, and then play it back. There's a way to make it dynamic and use additional data sets by pumping in Excel-based data or a table of scenarios, he added.

SOAs Don't Scale?
The common retort that SOAs don't scale is really just an indicator that "we aren't that good at this yet," Michelsen said. Moreover, the QA team may need an upgrade in skills, as well as process improvements, plus they need to think along the lines of best practices, he added.

The governance burden can't all be placed on the producer of the services, otherwise you can have an application breakage in an SOA, Michelsen said. And that's where iTKO's solution comes in handy by estimating service use.

"We have to have a system in place where the users of the service declare the workflows and the conditions under which they use the services so that there is a continuous validation of a spectrum of behaviors," he said. "And when I have that, I have a freedom to change things, but I also have an obligation to make your work flows work."

iTKO typically partners with SOA solution providers, such as Tibco and others, to integrate SOA testing capabilities. The company performs tight integration with SOA vendors' governance solutions, ensuring that the different components of the SOA infrastructure -- the app servers, integration servers, database solutions, etc. -- can be tested fully and natively, Michelsen said.

Almost 40 percent of LISA license holders are developers; the rest are quality assurance personnel, quality engineers, support engineers and people in the field doing implementations. The LISA product was first commercially released in 2003, and now iTKO has 50 or so customers and thousands of test product users, Michelsen said.

Company officials expect to release LISA version 4.0 in October of this year.

About the Author

Kurt Mackie is online news editor, Enterprise Group, at 1105 Media Inc.