David Gehringer, the VP of market for Fanfare Software allowed me to interview him earlier in the week. Fanfare Software is a leader in system and device testing, designed to simplify system and device testing for all team members, maximizing productivity throughout the quality workflow.
Virtualization has been a real cost savings to the carriers and the concept of a virtual test bed caught my curiousity.
DG: Fanfare was founded in April 2004, actually April 1st, which is good for a laugh. We shipped the first product in early 2006, which was the same year I joined.
CF: You work on helping with the roll out strategy of new devices with the technology, who is your customer at that point, the carrier or the vendor?
DG: We focus on the testing side of technology, specifically making automation a reality. While we started with manufactures, we are now finding half of our customers to be the carriers themselves. While the magnitude of the problems differ between the two, they are both roughly testing in a similar manner.
DG: Yes, from a macro perspective, the time to tests has eclipsed the time to develop. I think in the next five years those companies that are successful will reverse that trend. This is simply due to the fact the developers have been getting tools that accelerate their development capabilities and speed, and yet today testers are still using manual and dated scripting techniques. Testing tools, while late, are helping testers get the productivity tools they need to stay abreast of development.
CF: With the switch to 4G OFDM and MIMO will be a major part of the testing, How does the change impact the metrics?
DG: I would be willing to say it will add many more metrics, but the core quality metrics will remain, QoS, latency, drops, resiliency, and reliability. What it does mean is the hetrogenious lab just got bigger. I need all the hard line gear, as well as wireless equipment, and possibly actual handsets. The need for simplicity and automation will grow out of this. A typical wireless lab setup can take 2 hours for a single test, that has got to change.
DG: In North America, I still feel the testers are not given their due, and must work to prove themselves. Frankly this is an opportunity and time is now to show they contribute to the company and are not just a necessary cost center; the IT department did the same transformation in the late 90s. I will contrast that with Europe where testing in an established profession, with actual curriculum in colleges focusing on testing. Asia has a mix of both NA and European testing stature based on specific countries.
CF: Can you explain a Virtual Test bed strategy?
DG: The concept of a Virtual Test Bed (VTB) is the ability to create and validate a test case without access to a device or even a whole test bed. This request has come from our customers for a multitude of reasons. From a business perspective, this allows test development to start while development is just starting. This means the day a prototype shows up on a testers' desk he or she already has automated tests created and validated, and starts testing immediately, versus the current situation where they only have a test plan and need to start creating tests with the prototype arrives. This can speed time to market by months because testing can start that much sooner. VTB also means expense labs are not tied up with test development and can be more effectively utilized for running of actual tests. This focus of capital equipment utilization has been coming but the economy is making this a laser focus right now. A couple of real values from the testers has been, "you mean I don't have sit in the lab (the noisy wind tunnel) all day? I can go a coffee shop and develop tests?" In some ways it is ironic that those who enable the world to be remote and connected are stills shackled to their desks. Lastly VTB can allow people validate negative use cases, what if X failed, and I wanted to test it, how do I make this device fail to validate the right test response, or procedure invocation? VTB.
DG: Not sure if this is service models offered to triple / quad play offerings of the home. Or the different wireless plans, or testing service models. This thought does occur, first they are going to get more complicated, and user expectations will continue to go up. This means that testing service offerings will continue to valued by companies that need to do testing whether that is carriers or the manufactures. Even with downturn economics which have hit consulting groups hard, the way out is automation and many times the QA teams are flat out just getting basic coverage. So to end the cycle and survive, you have to get help to either help automate or do some of the testing so QA team can automate.
CF: Netbooks are being offered as networked devices on the 3G/4G networks, do they represent a different type of testing procedure?
DG: The strategy and metrics, noted above remain. But the complications and size of the system test will grow. Automation is key.
CF: Any thoughts about the mix of media, voice, data, text, video and the special characteristics that impact testing?
DG: Again the complexity of the testing is growing. That means not only the configuration is paramount, but you may find that you need orchestrate more than one traffic generator to initiate different types of traffic. However validation operation will be looking at hundreds of metrics and at several locations along the network. No longer can I just look at the round trip of a traffic generator, I need to look at firewall, routers, switch, and check their stats and compare them to other devices. I think the over point I would make is the converged application, days are fading that is the "network" and the "application", the quad play era is end that. How do I test the network and application will add another layer of testing.
DG: What I love about kids is the lack of complacency. Yeah that is cool, I don't care it took 20 years to commercialize that technology, but this is what I want next. If you can think that way, you will know where the industry is going.
David will be speaking at 4GWE on September 3rd in Los Angeles.