Compuware Updates Application Testing Tool

QACenter gets on-the-fly parameter testing, drag-and-drop reporting on canned metrics

If application testing is the lifeblood of enterprise development efforts, users of Compuware Corp.’s flagship performance testing tool are getting a fresh transfusion in the form of a new version.

Compuware today announced version 5.0 of QACenter Performance Edition, its application performance-testing tool for distributed environments.

Highlights of the new version include user interface enhancements, a revamped reporting facility, limited support for agent-less monitoring, a new pricing structure, and—most compelling—a new feature that lets developers adjust testing parameters on-the-fly.

Thin client technologies such as Web browsers and application servers were supposed to simplify application development, but, paradoxically, introduced new problems, says Rich Pugh, QACenter product champion with Compuware. As a result, he argues, a testing tool such as QACenter is more important than ever. “[Web browsers and thin client technologies] offer a lot of reach, because they’re lightweight. You can reach a lot of users, but companies are finding that like with everything else, they’ve got to do it faster, they’ve got to do it cheaper, with less errors and less downtime.”

On top of that, Pugh contends, is the issue of application testing brain drain, which has been exacerbated by the economic downturn. “There is a skill shortage by a lot of these companies, where they’ve had to move talent to other projects, so they’re a little bit short with the skills that are available when it comes time to do the testing.”

QACenter 5 addresses these issues by virtue of what Pugh calls its enhanced visual navigation, which supports the display of captured application Web pages. This allows developers to step through an application and correct common problems, in many cases—but not all, of course—without having to modify the underlying script, Pugh says. “There are instances where you have to look at the script because of the complexity of some of the technologies out there, and the non-standard approach that some folks take when designing applications,” he concedes. “People like to do things their own way, so those have to be taken into consideration as well when you’re [using this feature to correct problems].”

Compuware has also improved QACenter’s reporting facility, introducing support for drag-and-drop reporting on several canned metrics—just drag a system over to a chart to create a report instantly. The new release also supports real-time reporting, so developers can monitor the results of a test as it’s in progress and—using QACenter’s dynamic test execution feature—adjust testing parameters on-the-fly. “This lets them look at metrics while they’re [running a test], and make the changes that they need, which decreases the meantime to resolution,” Pugh explains. “Before, what you had to do with a lot of the load-testing tools was shut down the entire test, and you didn’t have any dynamic controls to see what would happen if you backed off a few users.”

Remote software agents are the bane of the IT administrator’s existence, and, for that very reason, many vendors have moved away from agents wherever possible. Mindful of this trend, Compuware introduced limited agent-less support in QACenter Performance Edition 5.0, such that it’s able to pull information from SNMP or—on Windows systems—from Perfmon counters. While the variety and quality of data isn’t on par with what an agent offers, Pugh notes that for many environments, agents are simply an impossibility these days. “Some [customers], if they’re hosting providers especially, may have [service level agreements] which forbid the addition of extra software to the server, and that includes agents. So we went forward with agent-less monitoring to give low-level statistics and system statistics without having to load software.”

tly, the revised QACenter features a new pricing structure that makes it possible for a company to share a pool of virtual users among any of several instances of QACenter in use by developers across the enterprise.

About the Author

Stephen Swoyer is a Nashville, TN-based freelance journalist who writes about technology.