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May 20, 2010

Old Software Learns New Tricks: HP’s Loadrunner in the Cloud

Nicole Hemsoth

Okay, so when I am talking about “old” software, I am not talking about Version 1.2 of The Oregon Trail. Everything is relative as far as technology is concerned.

I am talking about software that’s been around long enough to gain some loyal followers and to establish a name for itself based on reliability, functionality and general longetivity in its space. HP has some products like that–and on that list would be LoadRunner.

Although they have a defined cloud strategy (and who doesn’t these days) the news from HP has been scattered at best. This week, however, the company announced that it was taking its popular LoadRunner product into the cloud, which means that it will finally become a reality not just for large-scale enterprise (some of whom already use it on individual machines), but for their smaller enterprise counterparts as well.

While LoadRunner in the Cloud is currently in beta, we can expect that this service once made scalable and affordable will gain significant traction, even though there are some notable SaaS offerings from SauceLabs and others that are directly competing with HP’s offerings. Given that cloud-based testing and development is nothing new, however, the one advantage that HP seems to have is that there is already plenty of product recognition for LoadRunner—a fact that might make it a front runner when the service goes public at an unspecified point in the future. 

To get behind the news, I put some questions to HP about what it means for everyone (including HP) that they are pushing some of their offerings into the cloud—specifically, EC2. Priya Kothari, Product Manager for HP LoadRunner and HP Performance Center weighed in the company’s announcement via email in response to a few questions.

While we didn’t go into depth about HP’s overall cloud strategy, the company clearly has eyes on making their software products more broadly accessible. As Kothari stated when asked about leveraging the cloud and what it means for end users and HP alike, “HP LoadRunner has a huge customer base in the enterprise segment. We are leveraging the cloud to make our products more affordable to the smaller enterprises and the midsize enterprise segment. We strongly believe that if an industry standard product is available to a customer at a much lower price point and in a flexible, hourly model, they will not go with open source or other less expensive solutions that do not meet the requirements. We think end users will greatly benefit from the option of having our industry-proven technology at a much lower cost.”

So yes, it does come down to cost. But for something like testing and development, especially if the data does not require intense permissions and restrictions, this can be a huge benefit–enough of one, of course, to get companies who might have either handled their test and dev needs in a much slower way or with installed software that was much more expensive.

I first asked Priya Kothari to describe what LoadRunner in the Cloud will mean for HPC and the cloud—specifically, how leveraging the cloud will be beneficial for big data and large-scale undertakings on the testing and development front. Although there is some marketing rhetoric that is inherent to such a process, the fact remains that this seems like the ideal way to deploy a cloud for immense cost and resource savings in the right context. Especially, of course, if you’re a small to mid-size enterprise but of course also if you’re crunching at the behemoth level.

Testing is a very important part of the application lifecycle. Anytime there is a change in the application, you need to ensure that it will function and perform as expected. Any little change can break the entire application, and can cause a huge impact on the overall business. With HPC applications, performance testing becomes even more critical since you need to ensure that the system will scale under expected workloads and will continue to respond as expected under high data and volume conditions. This is true regardless of whether the system is on-premise or in the Cloud.

The rise of the cloud has brought the promise of infinite scalability and expandability. While elasticity and scalability are great to have, they can also mean an exponential increase in cost if the application is not tested and tuned properly. As an example, an application that has memory leaks will continue to consume memory endlessly, consuming more resources in the cloud. Or a SQL query that is poorly written will continue to respond slowly regardless of the amount of CPU or memory resources you throw at it. These problems get even more critical when dealing with HPC systems. Without proper testing and tuning, you may be hiding or delaying some of the symptoms, but the problem still remains and will surface at some point or the other. Hence, performance testing becomes extremely critical, especially when deploying in the cloud.

To meet these requirements, your testing teams need a full-featured performance testing solution, delivered by a technology partner that understands both cloud computing as well as performance validation. HP LoadRunner software, a comprehensive testing solution for predicting system behavior and performance, is currently in use by thousands of businesses around the world. HP LoadRunner can:

• Easily record scripts at the interface level

• Emulate thousands of concurrent users mimicking real users, so that you can apply production workloads to almost any application platform or environment

• Stress applications end to end and gather data to identify scalability issues and quickly isolate performance bottlenecks

• Provide a single view of end-user, system-level, and code-level performance data, so that you can drill down deeper and identify the root cause of the problems

LoadRunner in the Cloud makes our market leading product more accessible to organizations of all sizes by allowing customers to utilize a flexible, “pay as you go”, on-demand approach for performance testing of mission critical applications.
In addition to the benefits that HP LoadRunner in the Cloud can bring to your performance testing, HP also delivers SaaS-based testing services of our own that further reduce your costs and improve your results.

What differentiates LoadRunner from similar products like that offered by SauceLabs and others? What are some defining keywords describing the difference (cost, performance, etc).

What makes LoadRunner in the Cloud unique is that it makes the market leading performance testing product more accessible to businesses of all sizes. LoadRunner in the Cloud is available in a flexible, “pay as you go”, on-demand, hourly model. 

How will this service be offered to large-scale enterprise on a cost and use level or is this more geared toward small and mid-sized SaaS providers?

HP LoadRunner and HP Performance Center are already available for, and widely adopted by, large enterprise customers for on-premise deployments, and also available in a SaaS model by HP SaaS. This new offering, HP LoadRunner in the Cloud, is geared towards small businesses and midsize enterprise customers. However, larger enterprise customers may also leverage this new model to augment their existing testing solutions on an as-needed basis.

What partnerships have you formed during the creation and testing of this product outside of Amazon?

HP LoadRunner in the Cloud was initially introduced via Amazon EC2.  We will continue to evaluate our cloud strategy, but we cannot expand beyond this at this time.

While Kothari states that LoadRunner in the Cloud is more attractive than other simiar SaaS offerings based on performance and pricing model, it’s not difficult to make the argument that the brand recognition will go a long way when the company finally launches it service as publicly available. We’ll make an announcement when the project is out of beta, but in the meantime, this is a prime moment for the enterprise to evaluate existing testing and development structures, costs, and performance requirements since far more companies are producing similar offerings. This is one of the best examples of a best-use scenario for cloud computing as it highlights the often-proclaimed chance for decent cost savings, especially if you don’t need Homeland Security signing off on your data due to stringent security demands.

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