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Volume 9, Number 37 -- October 13, 2009

MKS Adds Test Management to ALM Suite

Corrected: October 13, 2009

by Alex Woodie

IT organizations that use MKS' application lifecycle management (ALM) software can now count on the vendor to handle one more aspect of their day-to-day business: test case management. With the recent releases of MKS Integrity 2009, the Waterloo, Ontario, company has delivered a framework that makes software testing--including setting test criteria and storing test results--just another part of an overall ALM strategy.

The way MKS iSeries product manager Marty Acks sees it, there are certain tasks and procedures that IT personnel do that belong on something he calls the "ALM bus."

When a bug is reported and a request is formally submitted to the IT department, that belongs on the ALM bus. When a developer checks out a segment of source code to make modifications, that belongs on the ALM bus. When the changes are re-incorporated into the source code and promoted to production, that also needs to find its way onto the ALM bus.

This ALM bus, of course, is MKS Integrity, which keeps a detailed log of material changes to applications--including changes to traditional RPG-based i OS applications through Implementer, which integrates right into MKS Integrity. This ALM bus (i.e. MKS Integrity) serves as the "single source of truth" for a variety of IT processes, without which a development organization would have difficulty tracking what it's done and where it's been, Acks says.

The new test case management capability provides a framework for managing test requirements, test scripts, and test results, and for hooking up testing tools to the all-important ALM bus. MKS is not delivering software testing tools per se; it relies on best-of-breed vendors such as Hewlett-Packard's Mercury unit and Original Software to provide its customers with the actual tools that provide regression, functional, and stress testing capabilities.

MKS built test case management into its software because it realized that organizations were incurring too many unnecessary expenses and delays when their testing tools existed in a vacuum, outside of that big yellow ALM bus.

For example, customers might lose track of which test scripts they ran, which can put the test results in doubt and require re-testing. "We can take the results from all these projects, capture them into MKS Integrity, and prevent the turnover, or change to production or the next testing level, until all the test criteria have been met," Acks says. "So you can actually set these things up so if they fail, they prevent the change from moving on to the next step."

Another benefit of including test case management is it gives IT managers in charge of testing access to MKS Integrity's integrated reporting capability.

Acks has run into this problem before, as a product manager at MKS. Before implementing this feature, Acks would have to carefully parse Word documents to make sure that every test requirement was met by the quality assurance (QA) testers. "You'd have to go through the Word document, literally line by line, to make sure what you requested was actually built," Acks says. "You can have a disconnect."

But now that those requirements exist in MKS Integrity's database, it's much easier to ensure those requirements are met. "I can press a button and run a report to see if changes have fulfilled every one of those requirements," Acks says. "So everything is extremely tightly tied together. There are no bridges going back and forth to pull data in and out. It's got built-in charting, reporting, and dashboard reports coming out the same engine."

MKS has pre-built integrations into many testing tools, says MKS spokesman Scott O'Neill. "We have a framework for connecting to commercial, off-the-shelf, and bespoke test automation tools that rolls up into test management capabilities," he says. "We have requirements management on the front-end, and that links to the source code developed on iSeries or elsewhere. So you're doing test case authoring and saying 'Here's all the things we need to test,' and that then feeds into the automated test tools."

MKS' software has come a long way from the early days of basic source code management to the current days of comprehensive ALM. The addition of test case management capabilities follows moves MKS has made recently to bolster its ALM capabilities with requirements planning and bug tracking (through a partnership with BMC Software), and test case management is one of the last gaps to be filled in MKS' quest to provide an end-to-end ALM solution, according to O'Neill.

"Looking at the platform as a whole, we've now got soup-to-nuts application lifecycle management, from requirements through development and testing on through release management," he says.

As part of the release of MKS Integrity 2009, MKS also issued a new release of Implementer, which provides i OS-specific ALM capabilities, and which serves as a connector for System i customers to utilize the capabilities of MKS' flagship product, which is MKS Integrity.

More than 200 changes were delivered with Implementer 2009, most of which were minor feature enhancements and fixes requested by customers, Acks says. One of the most important new features is a reworked plug-in for Rational Developer for IBM i (RDi), IBM's strategic development tool for i OS shops.

For more information on MKS Integrity 2009 and Implementer 2009, visit www.mks.com.


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This article was corrected. MKS headquarters are in Waterloo, Ontario, not Toronto. IT Jungle regrets the error.



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