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Months to Minutes: Transforming Test and Measurement with As-a-Service Models

A Brave New World – just around the corner. Technology researchers widely agree the digital economy is actively reshaping customer experience. In the process, the supply chain of organizations offering the experience is forced to adapt. As a result, the digital disruption of new technologies and business models is redefining the value proposition of existing goods and services. By the year 2025, a host of new revenue-bearing business and service models for the majority of companies will dominate the global landscape. Artificial intelligence (AI), offering a quantum leap in machine intelligence and cognitive functionality, will usher in a myriad of accompanying benefits and challenges. But how do we get there from here? Is getting ‘there’ safely a forgone conclusion? Are there pitfalls along the way we need to be aware of?

How the Digital Economy in Communications is EvolvingContinuous change: the new normal. Digital Transformation (DX) is disrupting business models to deliver better customer experience. This evolutionary framework, driven by software, empowering interactions and relationships, propels widespread connectivity and innovation. As a result, new ways of doing business emerge. Driven by Millennials, this rising mega trend will unleash a new breed of connectivity-enabled solutions. This includes new product applications, business models and technologies, along with platforms and services. To compete effectively, businesses must embrace digital and software in a new paradigm. Software-based services are an important part of this process.

The ubiquity of XaaS. Service-based models driven by software are paving the way in computing, as “anything as a service” (XaaS) sees increasingly wider adoption rates. Software as a service (SaaS), infrastructure as a service (IaaS) and platform as a service (PaaS) are all well established. Providing scalability and flexibility, these models allow customers to scale up or down to address changing requirements. They provide on-demand access of the latest technology to utilize only the features needed, anytime and anywhere. These ever-evolving frameworks have already changed the landscape of computing and communications. This’s just the beginning. It’s clear, though, that the offerings they support must all be tested reliably, comprehensively, and at speed. This emerging paradigm demands new testing strategies in network communications.

T&M strategies in a state of flux. Markets for 5G, Wi-Fi 6, LTE-Advanced, SDN, SD-WAN, NFV, and NFVi test equipment, with cloud infrastructure testing, cloud-based application monitoring, along with Ethernet and security test equipment, are experiencing significant growth. This is in response to the explosion of new use patterns and expanding complexity of digital experiences. Yet as technology’s relentless evolution continues in rapid waves, test and measurement (T&M) customers question the enduring value of their T&M investments. Maintaining large test labs has become impractical. If you consider both physical and virtual assets, with software-defined networks (SDN) and network functions virtualization (NFV) in the mix, there are millions of test possibilities. The infinite complexity of testing across physical, virtual and cloud infrastructures is staggering. Meanwhile, powerful factors push both internal and customer IT priorities, along with those of QA and testing. These continuously evolving requirements, however, are driven by the unchanging business objectives of decreasing time-to market, and of increasing security, performance, and customer satisfaction.

Maintaining pace with continuous integration and delivery. Addressing these complex requirements within the ever-evolving framework of an organization’s value proposition is a serious challenge. Any new paradigm of testing solutions must be capable of integrating prioritized risk-based data from a wide range of data formats. Moreover, testing must also quickly identify and prioritize business-risk-based issues to facilitate quick resolution for timely releases. This must all be performed more frequently, at an increasingly faster pace – ultimately continuously – while providing reliable results at all times. Without such solutions, testing costs and supporting resource requirements will continue to grow with the same cumbersome complexity as that of equipment manufacturing. Throwing more resources at the challenge isn’t the answer. That’s why the demand for continuous integration (CI) and continuous delivery (CD) is gaining undeniable momentum that will continue for the foreseeable future.

The agile and DevOps factor. With the looming challenge of 5G adoption fast approaching, many organizations need to achieve CI and CD to maximize cost and productivity. A majority of these organizations, however, remain entrenched with manual testing strategies in their systems and processes, involving manual decision making, preparation, and execution. Effectively achieving CI and CD is where continuous testing (CT), powered by test automation and embracing agile and DevOps methodologies, comes in. This testing approach also includes incorporating lean manufacturing principles facilitating the identification and steady elimination of process waste in testing. The result: continuous improvement of quality, productivity, time to market and marked reduction in costs. All of these tenets are required for an effective next-generation 5G network. Here, CT transports an organization’s testing from the 20th century to the 21st century, expediting product and/or service delivery cycles from Months to Minutes.

Bringing test labs in sync with enterprise models. The paradigm of capability established by enterprises such as AWS and Google, with their IaaS virtual data centers, is a model for the next generation of test lab capabilities. Like these enterprises, XaaS enabled test and lab functions will empower unencumbered access and utility for anyone to use, delivering democratization of all testing resources, both physical and virtual. Embracing extreme transformation is the approach. This robust liberation of the IT infrastructure will allow all parties in the CT and CD testing cycle to effectively utilize all components of IT infrastructure needed for holistic and optimally accelerated testing. Delivering the maximum return on investment, this initiative elevates traditional test labs into the 21st century, on par with emerging virtual data center designs.

The evolution requirements of test and labs. In this digital transformation age, leading test solution businesses and test organizations must deliver more modern automated solutions and services tailored to facilitate these emerging requirements that enable:

  • Simplicity: Easy to use, with natural workflows for creating and deploying automated networks and tests
  • Scalability: Automated, with scalable self-service cloud for on-demand delivery of test and lab services
  • Collaboration: Virtualized, with real-time user collaboration and knowledge sharing of systems under test
  • Intelligibility: Intent and data driven, with closed-loop automation powered by machine learning (ML) and AI

The force multiplier of automation. Through the advancement of automated, on-demand services, end users who traditionally relied on manual operations in test and labs, which too often take man-months to setup a complex test bed, are now able to realize this capability in minutes, if not seconds.

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XaaS designed for testing. The emerging solutions include testing as a service (TaaS) and lab as a service (LaaS) platforms and or services. These 21st century platforms are built on XaaS design principles and technologies that enable organizations to consolidate, automate and democratize all physical and virtual networking test infrastructure into a unified self-service cloud experience. This state-of-the-art design improves employee productivity in development, test and operational deployments by over 10x, while reducing millions in cost, to deliver the same services – FASTER!

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The components of solution value. LaaS/TaaS opens up a utilitarian treasure chest for valuable testing tools and systems under test, leaving nothing stranded or unused at any time with any user. With their cloud-based user experience, these high-value test and lab capabilities are now accessible to the broader enterprise, and to your customers, as new automated customer services. These combined values equate to major cost savings and new revenue streams simultaneously. This fundamental change of evolving test and labs, from cost centers to revenue centers, will drive executives to invest more into improving the people, process and technology, for what was originally seen as sunk-cost business functions.

Proof points of solution viability. Researchers and customer surveys (check out Puppet’s 2018 State of DevOps Report) widely agree that development and testing challenges in the coming digital transformation era will be best addressed with anything as-a-service platforms. With increasingly wider adoption, these innovative platforms will drive data collection that enables us to learn and improve faster, via automation, ML and AI – in ways never envisioned. This collection of machine-based test and lab intelligence will unleash a quantum leap of potential, to shift organizations or services from delivering in months to minutes.

Strategies for achieving Months to Minutes. Smart leaders staring into the face of a new digital economy recognize the transformation of manual processes is the first place to start, before expectations of optimal development and test and delivery execution can be fulfilled. Once you make this commitment to automation, you’ve begun the months to minutes transformation. The next step is to set clearly defined goals and objectives. This planning process involves bringing in the required stakeholders, at all levels and across functions, who are impacted by the proposed migration to automation. Keep in mind, your greatest resistance will be people and culture, not technology. Driving this from the top down is critical, as all will need to understand the importance of this change before giving it the required time and effort needed to start. Focus on progressive achievable goals and early successes.

Aggregated steps for success. Start with sandbox deployments. These validate your automated workflows as you scale, where tools and skill gaps are incrementally understood, facilitating the adoption drive. This enables the ROI you expect and ensures your full deployment plan is realistic. Once you move through this phase, the bigger deployment plan begins. (Look for our coming Month to Minutes blog on deployments.) One last key point before you get started: whether you go big or small on scope of project, make sure you’re well-funded for success. This includes acquiring the best people and technology needed to deliver as expected.

Future proofing begins now. With the relentless pressure from the growing mega trends in the digital economy, it is essential to understand how XaaS and continuous testing – driven by proven test and lab automation solutions – provides critical value to an organization’s future-proof strategies. F5 and RedHat’s 2018 NetOps Meets DevOps – The State of Network Automation report states that 74% of their respondents employ automation and orchestration to support digital transformation initiatives. It’s no longer a question if XaaS and CT with DevOps is an option, but instead, when it will be adopted and how. The strategic decisions and budgetary bets product and/or service leaders make now will likely determine their organization’s prospects of success or failure for 2025.

SAA DevOps Months to MinutesThe Months to Minutes blog series highlights how continuous testing, driven by test and lab automation, optimizes the validation of an organization’s networks and business offerings amidst the growing challenges of digital disruption. The result: taking testing processes which too often take months to perform, and deliver improvements where it can all be achieved in minutes – with increased efficiencies and capabilities.

The next Months to Minutes blog will explore the Roadmap to Realizing Months to Minutes, which includes the steps organizations need to take to achieve productive change in their continuous testing strategy. Following that, other blogs will cover best practices in LaaS, TaaS, DevOps, and Lab to Production. Going forward, more topics will be added as well. To learn more about Spirent’s Automation Platform Technologies, click here.

 
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