Tuesday, 07 February 2012 17:40

ITKO LISA simplifies testing of composite systems through simulation


How can you test composite systems realistically without running a complete test system? CA subsidiary ITKO seems to have found the answer: simulation.

Testing composite systems involving multiple applications running on multiple systems is complicated. And time consuming. And expensive. And what happens if you need to test a public-facing system under loads that it only bears on one day per year?

Well, what if there was a way that you could implement changes to one subsystem and *know* that it still work with all the others, and test it under perhaps 100 times the normal load - completely independently of the rest of the system?

That's where CA subsidiary ITKO's LISA platform comes in. LISA can capture transactions passing between subsystems, and then simulate the rest of the system when a component is being tested. Sources of data include CA's Wily application performance management and NetQoS network performance management products.

This proves that the individual applications continue to work together despite the changes, and allows stress testing by increasing the rate at which the simulated load is played back.

John Michelson, ITKO's chief technology officer, told iTWire that giving software developers and testers access to LISA is like giving aircraft wing designers a wind tunnel rather than expecting them to attach a redesigned wing to a complete aircraft for testing. "It is a transformational technology," he said.



Rather than needing to run a complete test environment, LISA replaces all but the component being tested with a virtualised service that realistically represents the rest of the system.

This allows the parallel development of the individual pieces of composite systems, and Mr Michelson noted that one telco had to change 38 interrelated systems before its LTE network could go live. Being able to develop and test each application separately telescopes the overall development time.

In such situations, LISA has the ability to compare the modelled behaviour with the actual behaviour when any new module goes live. The virtual services that represent the rest of the composite system to each component can then be updated without causing any disruptions.

It is also possible to model the effects of moving components to more or less powerful hardware, of changes to the performance of external systems such as credit card processing services: "the volatility of external applications confounds dev and test activities," said Mr Michelson.

For example, FedEx provides its customers with access to a LISA virtual service that they can use for testing their applications. The speed of the virtual service can be adjusted to represent the response of the real system at different times of day.

Using another analogy, Mr Michelson likened LISA to a flight simulator. Rather than trying to find a wide range of weather conditions in the real-world, pilots learn how to cope with those conditions in a simulator. Similarly, LISA can test applications under a wide range of conditions including the most arduous that are anticipated.

Other advantages include more successful integration (thanks to more thorough testing) and more effective outcomes.



ITKO concentrates on the big end of town. Mr Michelson says that's because companies that are defined by their technology - notably banks and insurance companies - stand to gain the most value from LISA because of the size of their investment in software.

"If you solve it for the biggest companies in the world, you've solved it for the little guys," he observes. It makes commercial sense to address the top of the market first, as that makes it harder for potential competitors to gain a toehold.

The product could be useful to organisations with a few hundred developers, he said, "but we don't go looking for them." Instead, the company partners with dev/test specialists who can then introduce LISA to their clients.

Existing customers in Australia include the all of the big four banks - ANZ, Commonwealth, NAB and Westpac - Telstra, and Hydro Tasmania.

No local customers were available for comment, but according to Mr Michelson big US customers have found LISA can save them millions of dollars and slash 30% from the time needed to get a product up and running. The company's customers also include AT&T, Best Buy, Citigroup, General Motors, IBM, Intel, Kaiser Permanente, Lockheed Martin, Oracle, the US Army, the US Air Force, and Vodafone.

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Stephen Withers

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Stephen Withers is one of Australia¹s most experienced IT journalists, having begun his career in the days of 8-bit 'microcomputers'. He covers the gamut from gadgets to enterprise systems. In previous lives he has been an academic, a systems programmer, an IT support manager, and an online services manager. Stephen holds an honours degree in Management Sciences and a PhD in Industrial and Business Studies.



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