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What is Service Virtualization and how can it help your business?

Today, most large enterprises, no matter what industry they serve, are software developers. The reason? The various ways through which employees and customers can, and want, to engage with businesses has grown exponentially; time, platform and frequency are no longer considerable barriers to achieving what you want to achieve.

Applications that are used by either staff or customers are developed internally by the development team and/or with their development partners. For many organisations, their applications, particularly those which are customer facing, are the differentiators between them and their competitors, so getting it right is crucial.

Development and testing teams are under immense pressure to speed up the testing process in order to deliver applications out to market as quickly as possible, but one of the main issues is the lack of pre-production infrastructure available to them. This is where the ability to create a virtual service, also known as service virtualization, comes into play.

Service virtualization enables developers and testers to remove these constraints by replacing dependent systems with virtual services. The virtual service simulates the behaviour, data, and performance characteristics of a dependent system whilst consuming a fraction of the infrastructure. It is then instantly available to each team as and when they need it. By removing these constraints, software can be developed and delivered faster, with lower costs and higher reliability. It is a fundamentally new technique in software development.

In July 2012, CA Technologies commissioned a research study "The Business Benefits of Service Virtualization". The survey, which was conducted by Coleman Parkes, includes feedback from over three hundred software development managers from large enterprises with revenues of more than $1 billion or equivalent in the UK, France and Germany. The vast majority of respondents (90 per cent) stated that they had problems with availability of systems and applications, such as databases or mainframes, for development and test purposes, the result of which leads to delayed projects, over-spending and lack of quality control.

The research suggests that organisations are taking steps to address their development and testing issues with nearly half of respondents (44 per cent) indicating they are moving to a cloud-based development and test environment. However, moving to a cloud-based environment is not the only answer as it is not possible and/or cost-effective to replicate certain types of infrastructure in the cloud such as a mainframe, third-party fee-based services or full databases.

Without these crucial pieces of the puzzle, the development project can't move forward. If it takes three weeks to get access to a mainframe that means it still takes three weeks to wait and provision a cloud lab. We call this the "wires hanging out" issue. Service virtualization can aid those moving their preproduction environments to the cloud. It does not force those testing an application to choose between the three critical criteria in application development and testing: cost, quality or schedule.

Respondents of the survey also recognised that better processes for developing and testing software applications can result in the following business outcomes: greater customer satisfaction (80 per cent), increased revenue (72 per cent), improved market reputation (72 per cent) and more competitive products (71 per cent).

The need from the business is clear. Leaders now expect the IT function to deliver greater operational efficiency, reduce time to market, increase revenues and, to some extent, build and sustain competitive advantage and be a driver for innovation. However, they also need to acknowledge that conventional approaches to software development and testing are costing money and impacting the organisation's bottom line. Business leaders need to invest in their development and testing teams now to get the results that will drive the business forward in the future.

As technical sales director for Service Virtualization in Europe, Middle East and Africa, Chris Rowett is responsible for driving the adoption of a truly transformative approach to delivering high quality applications faster, yet cheaper. Rowett leverages his 20+ years in the software industry to help enterprises and partners with this new approach.