Pierre Frigon is a seasoned expert who has worked with a number of companies in lab automation solutions empowered by technologies and methodologies including Lab as a Service (LaaS) and DevOps. In this latest installment, Pierre shares his insights on the benefits of adopting LaaS solutions.
The journey is worth it. In my previous blogs, I examined the heartburn caused by the J-Curve effect and the short- and long-term challenges of solution adoption, as well as pointers on facilitating team culture change. All the blogs focused on expediting the main objective of solution adoption: the vast improvement of an organization’s capabilities. In order to communicate to their organization the how and why of a solution, solution leaders must be conversant in the range of improvements that LaaS and DevOps provide.
In this blog, I examine LaaS in greater depth. These perspectives can aid solution leaders – with network service providers, NEMs, enterprises, and more – in shaping and communicating the solution’s vision, goals, and objectives to all levels of the organization. This shared understanding helps set proper expectations throughout the lifecycle of the solution. It facilitates, as well, forward progress in an adoption, implementation, and integration, with all stakeholders and team members involved. It also helps define the metrics of success in a prospective solution adoption.
Overcoming the challenges of digital disruption. Digital disruption compels organizations to remain competitive. To do so, they must answer a series of critical questions, such as:
How do enterprises get their products and/or services to market faster, with reliable quality?
To achieve this goal, what changes are required to maximize the speed and productivity of labs?
How is state-of-the art orchestration of all testing resources realized?
How can reliable lowering of CapEx expenditures in testing be delivered?
When will realistic ROI of implementing such a complex solution be achieved?
This blog provides a selection of technical viewpoints to consider while answering these questions for your environment.
Identifying the new normal in test efficiencies. The challenges associated with the questions above involve ensuring that all virtual, and especially all physical resources, interface in seamless functionality. Traditionally, a scalable and stable vendor-agnostic automation framework is used to facilitate this. A solution of this class should offer robust, easy-to-use tools with the appropriate interface and built-in support for validating a wide range of SUTs, DUTs, and testing devices. In addition, built-in functionality for utilization report archiving, logging all data to the reports database, should be a component of the solution.
The evolution of beneficial change through automation. The benefits of having lab as a service that organizations enjoy today were simply impossible to experience 20 years ago. For over last fifteen years, I’ve worked with companies in the build acceleration business. If we achieved a 20X improvement in build speeds (i.e. how fast code can be compiled), it was a game changer. Now, with lab as a service, those kinds of improvement metrics are commonplace. And today, more benefits are being realized in numerous ways. These benefits materially impact a business’s ability to deliver products. Many companies today could not competetively deliver a product in pace with the marketplace without some automation in place.
The value of consolidation and amplified orchestration. While the cost of operating an individual piece of hardware in a lab is significant, it's nothing compared to operating an entire lab infrastructure, which could possibly involve other physical environments, either regionally or globally. In order to have a platform built up and tested, and a product moved along its test cycle, it’s essential to be able to orchestrate and manage an entire organization's inventory of hardware. This is especially the case with organizations that are dealing with thousands of hardware devices. All organizations in this space need to have an infrastructure that allows them to rapidly create what they need from a testing or a development point of view, to do the work required, and then move forward without needing someone to walk to a machine and start connecting wires and cables. With this in mind, a key benefit of LaaS is the ability to consolidate lab infrastructure globally. An organization can span multiple states, countries and continents. Laas enables management to see the waste from underutilization of resources and seek smart ways to consolidate their assets to make this expensive infrastructure more efficient and usable. Organizations with external entities such as partners and customers, or other end users, can similarly benefit.
Components of lab consolidation. The consolidation effort usually entails orchestration software for lab management providing: user permissions control and device scheduling, multi-calendaring, reservation locking, enhanced conflict resolution with scheduling authority and administrative “approver workflow.” Other efficiencies include: configuration management capabilities, topology editing enhancements, VM’s deployed as a sandbox to test upgrades and new features, utilization by user reporting, and daily configuration health check.
LaaS consolidation improvements typically include:
Expanded configuration capacity, from 8 hours per 5 day week, to 24/7 and enhanced flexibility to access and automate any device in the network
Global lab optimization through transformation and change
Maximized capital investment with measurable gains delivered with enhanced device and human-resource efficiencies
Budgeting management improvements via reports on equipment usage (CapEx) and resource utilization (OpEx)
Realizing a new normal for lab capabilities. Numerous base technologies benefit from lab as a service. It’s a powerful enabler for them. Whether you're building a phone or a large piece of hardware, the LaaS advantages have become attractive and relevant. The ability for an organization to orchestrate a test harness that allows them to test the product they're trying to release, becomes incredibly powerful, and an essential functionality. The robust capabilities of a LaaS solution will change the way businesses operate within the next four or five years and will ultimately become table stakes.
A decade ago, organizations considering a solution adoption of this class and would have rightly estimated a seven to ten years ROI for a project like this. This is longer than the life cycle of most products today, a factor that often discourages adoption. Today, however, technologies are capable of shrinking that timeframe. When acceleration is achieved in your environment and productivity increases, the speed with which an enterprise can deliver a product increases accordingly. This solution capability is one of the big knobs businesses can turn to achieve that ROI, often in less than half the typical time it was five years ago.
The new normal for ROI potential. Today, organizations can realistically expect to achieve an ROI in the two to four year range easily, and to gain acceleration that simply wasn’t possible three years ago. Other considerations come into play, depending on factors such as location and distribution. For example, the range of costs for operating a large data center in California, versus that for a facility located elsewhere, is factored in. Yet one of the large contributors to rapid ROI is the acceleration you gain from your investment and the ability to quantify the metrics. How acceleration translates into tangible productivity represents one proof point of ROI. There are many other ROI factors, including the value of maintaining a smaller footprint of hardware, with accompanying reduced maintenance and power costs, and of maximizing of global resources, minimizing the need for redundant personnel now that all users have global access to the lab 24/7.
The LaaS solution’s promise of accelerated time to market, empowered productivity, cost savings, and enhanced resource management are easily appreciated by all members of the organization. Once a solution is in place, adjustments in the long tail of the solution will continue, and should be accounted for in the holistic planning process.
Following a successful LaaS adoption, the next phase of testing optimization involves enhancements with people and process. That’s where DevOps comes in. Looking at the emerging generation of labs, I believe DevOps and lab infrastructure will ultimately become melded into one another. This fusion of LaaS and DevOps with organizational objectives is the direction smart organizations are taking. I’ll cover the benefits of DevOps in a forthcoming blog. While the overall requirements of LaaS and DevOps are considerable, the journey is worth it, and may determine an organization’s prospects of success in the future.
The 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.
To learn more about Spirent’s Automation Platform Technologies, click here. To learn more about Elements of Successful LaaS and DevOps Solution Adoption, download the white paper here. To learn more about DevOps methodology, click here.