Desktop virtualization can ease IT’s own efforts, not just lighten the burden of end-user support. Testing is a prime example. Setting up and tearing down development and QA environments is hard, time-consuming work. But with desktop virtualization, developers and QA staff can quickly create a new environment or load a preconfigured one from a library. They can even create snapshots of an existing environment’s state for troubleshooting purposes.
Two companies provide virtual test bench software: EMC VMware (through the recently acquired Akimbi) and Surgient. Both use the same basic approach: creating image files, deploying them within virtual machines on remote servers for access via the network, modifying them as needed, and saving them if desired for reuse.
Catalog retailer Coldwater Creek recently adopted the Akimbi technology to move the server teardown and buildup responsibility from the IT staff to the developers themselves. After Coldwater Creek began using VMware on its servers, developers started asking IT to do provision test environments as virtual machines, because that was faster than doing so on actual server boxes, recalls Stewart Hubbard, IT director for the server engineering group. But the requests multiplied because it was easier. “We started running out of capacity and became a deployment bottleneck. So we wanted a tool that put the control back in the developers’ hands,” he says.
So Coldwater Creek deployed Akimbi’s VM image library system, and the IT burden has all but disappeared. “Things have just gotten easier,” Hubbard says.
For developers, things are easier, too. With more control of their configurations, they don’t have to wait for IT. And they can troubleshoot problems more easily, because QA staff can snapshot a problem and provide a link to that saved image for the developer to load and explore.