By Donna Moyer
Test labs: we know that we need them. But getting one off the ground can seem an insurmountable task! So to help you roll up your sleeves and get started, here is a summary of how we set up test labs for our customers at Uptime, plus some practical ideas to help you get the most out of your test lab after it is up and running!
Hardware: In previous years, getting approval to set up a test environment was tough due to the number of devices and the class of hardware that were needed. As hardware has improved and virtualization technology has moved forward, we can now build a test lab using a single workstation!
When I set up a test lab for customers who are involved with developing application objects, both traditional and virtual, I recommend that, if possible, they dedicate a machine to the task. For customers who are testing servers, new applications, or a new operating system, setting up virtual machines on their personal workstations is a great option (particularly if they have a laptop). They can then work on the testing environment whenever they have time. Either way, here are some recommendations:
Make sure the hardware is relatively new. While it is tempting to re-purpose an older machine, you will quickly become frustrated if you don't have enough RAM or disk space.
Put as much RAM possible into the machine. Most testing can be done on machines with 4G of RAM. However, keep in mind that for testing products like ZCM, you may need even more. My dedicated test machine has 8G of RAM, a 1TB hard drive, and runs Windows XP 64 bit.
Purchase an inexpensive external drive. This is great for moving, sharing, and storing your virtual machine library. You can also use it for backup. Just be sure that you do a backup of this environment periodically, for obvious reasons!
Software: There are lots of free products out there to use when creating virtual machines. Of course, some are better than others. While it is tempting to use free products, you may quickly become frustrated with their limitations. Paid-for-products have features like unlimited snapshots and cloning. Be sure to check the software licensing particulars when creating clones to be sure that you are in compliance.
Virtual Machine Use: Here are just a few of the many ways you can use your virtual test lab!
- Application Development: First, create a Windows Application Development virtual machine that just contains the base OS with patches and any application development tools needed, and take a snapshot. Then, for each application you develop, return to the original snapshot, develop the app and take a new snapshot. This creates a library of snapshots that you can return to when patching or adjusting settings for a given app.
- Application Testing: You can also create a second VM with just the base OS, patches, antivirus, Novell client, ZEN agent, etc., for testing the applications. Be sure to take a base snapshot so that you can return to it after each test. (You don’t need to keep a snapshot of the app tests: just the base.) Whether you are developing virtualized applications or MSIs with AdminStudio, this environment will serve you well.
- Pre-migration Testing: Set up one or multiple servers to mimic a production environment. Again, take a snapshot prior to making any changes. Then test the migration you are planning, such as upgrading GroupWise, migrating to OES Linux, etc. By keeping a library of base virtual machines, the sky is the limit on the types of testing you can do.
Teaching, Training, and Demos: Keep a library of virtual machines on an external drive. This gives you a great way to quickly set up for classes or provide a product demo for your staff or end-users. For example, you can:
- do a lunch and learn to show your user community GroupWise tips and tricks.
- get your techs up to speed on ZCM.
- present new software to management to show off its capabilities.
Virtualization software has become a must-have tool in our consulting practice. Hopefully the ideas presented above will give you just the encouragement you needed to get started!
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