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Software test veteran suggests: Set up a SOA Test Center of Excellence

SOA changes architecture, and savvy application development managers know it changes test frameworks, too.

SOA is a worthy successor to earlier ways of organizing software components. But the SOA journey has been neither easy nor inexpensive. SOA changes architecture, and savvy application development managers know it changes test frameworks, too. A SOA Test Center of Excellence can help organizations on their SOA journey.

After considerable experience in the world of test and configuration, Beverly Edwards, Senior Manager, Allstate Financial Technology, sees promising results from SOA deployment, although she admits that investments in time and resources are involved. She discussed her experiences with SOA testing at the recent Quality Engineered Software and Testing (QUEST) Conference 2011, held in Boston, Mass.

Edwards described efforts to set up a SOA testing practice within an existing Test Center of Excellence at Allstate Financial Technology.  It turns out that the tools, skills and even some best practices are different in SOA than they are in traditional development, she said.  

In SOA testing, she said, the integration layer takes on great importance, but it requires flexibility on the part of testers, as it presents a "gray-box" view (with some component elements visible, and other pieces remaining transparent). Edwards also says a test project manager should consider adding a SOA test practice to go along with an existing Test Center of Excellence (TCoE).

Keys to achieving success in the SOA journey, said Edwards, included the aforementioned establishment of a SOA test practice, finding team members with the right skills and adopting a SOA test practice framework. Add to that the eternal pre-requisite for new endeavors: obtaining buy-in from stakeholders.

"Our technology organization moved [to SOA], our testing had to evolve as well," Edwards told Quest conference attendees.

Allstate Financial’s SOA test program goes back a few years. The company had a long track record of using information technology to run its business, and managers realized that in order to mitigate risk, some of the firm's older software needed replacing. The firm thus entered the era of SOA and SOA testing. Allstate Financial Technology jointly set up a SOA testing practice with technology services firm Infosys, which had worked with Allstate to set up its existing TCoE based on functional and regression testing practices.

The move to test changes was endorsed and helped on by in-house enterprise architects. "Our architects understood the need for a new type of testing," Edwards said.

Edwards offered the following SOA testing tips for Quest conference attendees:

  •  It is valuable to create and reuse a master test strategy for every SOA component.
  •  It is important to realize that new testing requires new metrics.
  • Realize that collaboration is key. It is vital that services architecture team is deeply involved and that the testing team is brought in early in the process. ("I know that is nothing new," quips Edwards, while insisting that the enterprise architects' and the testers' roles in establishing SOA test practices are pivotal.)
  • Don't rely on a single test tool.

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