Surgient delivers virtual test labs
Impressive performance offsets VQMS's complexity
At this point, the configuration is still not ready for deployment. A reservation must be made on one of the virtualization servers to deploy the machine. After a reservation has been made, the administrator can run the configuration or release it to a team member for deployment. This reservation system is a key distinguishing feature of VQMS; Akimbi Slingshot has no equivalent. It enables sites to plan usage on their virtual servers. You cannot schedule more jobs than there is available capacity.
The price for this benefit is high, in my opinion. Nearly every operation in VQMS is intimately tied to this concept of reserving resources. For example, if you want to increase the amount of RAM on one of your VMs (something that normally requires a simple restart of the VM), you cannot do so in Surgient without shutting down the entire configuration, reconfiguring it, and redeploying it -- provided a host server allows you this extra RAM.
In contexts such as Surgient’s own hosting business or the training application discussed earlier, this approach makes sense, but in a QA-style lab, I don’t see it. Lab setups frequently require on-the-fly configurations and deployments (for example, QA discovers a bug, captures the VMs at the point of the bug, and sends a link to the developer, who can then run the configuration to see the bug). Likewise, tech-support usage is frequently configured with the customer on the phone. These activities tend to be ad hoc, one-off uses that are encumbered by reservations.
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An item that all managers will appreciate, however, is the reporting system, which is elegant and easy to use. It, too, is unique. Akimbi does not have this feature. Picking up on the familiar theme, these reports mostly focus on resource allocation and availability.
Surgient staff normally installs VQMS. This is the right approach. Although the manuals provide instructions on installation, the process is fraught with difficulties. Surgient also recommends training VQMS administrators. This, too, I would recommend. The operations manuals are decent, but it’s simple to become entangled in the details of configuration and deployment. Unfortunately, the manuals have no explanations of error messages nor is there an accessible knowledge base on the Web site, so when a problem occurs you have no option but to call tech support.
Despite these difficulties, after VQMS is installed and you’ve learned your way around, you’ll find it provides a capable, enterprise-level lab-automation solution. It is easy to recommend that it should be evaluated by any prospective customer, because it is one of only two available products. However, even if this were not the case, its comprehensive feature set and enterprise orientation would clearly warrant thoughtful consideration.