Over at our QualityManager brother blog (broblog?), one of the most popular articles is “What is Rational Quality Manager” and “How do I get started“.  It’s one of those obvious things in hindsight.  The article is based on the fact that the two most popular questions about Rational Quality Manager are “What is Rational Quality Manager” and “How do I get started”.  So it only follows that an article that addresses a popular question will be a popular article.  It made me wonder why I haven’t written a “What is Rational Functional Tester” and “How Do I Get Started”? article.

Accordingly, I present for your perusal today my thoughts on “What is Rational Functional Tester” and “How Do I Get Started”.

First of all, “What is Rational Functional Tester”.  From the Rational Functional Tester website:

Rational Functional Tester is an automated functional testing and regression testing tool.  Provides testers with automated testing capabilities for functional testing, regression testing, GUI testing and data-driven testing.

Which, is actually not a bad definition.  I guess to simplify, I’d say Rational Functional Tester is a tool you use to automate functional regression testing.  With Rational Functional Tester you capture and create automated tests whose main purpose is to ensure that what used to work, still does work.  This type of tool becomes most useful if you are on a software delivery team that is continually updating your software and you need a way to keep running a core batch of tests.   Instead of manually having to go through and perform all the actions, you capture a test once using the tool and then from that point on the tool does the playback.  Typically, you’d group a whole series of tests into a suite, and run them day and night to ensure no regressions have slipped in.

To answer the “How do I get started with IBM Rational Functional Tester” question, I would suggest three simple steps:

  1. Watch the demo
  2. Read the datasheet
  3. Download the trial

The first two items will give you everything you need to know in the shortest amount of time.  The demo walks you though a basic scenario of how Rational Functional Tester would be used by a quality management team.  The datasheet should (hopefully) answer any questions you have about the details of the tool.  Total time investment at this point is about 15 minutes.

Then, I’d jump to the trial.  The trial is a much more significant time investment, but it’s the only way to know if the tool is right for you.  You get 30 days, from the time of installation, to try Rational Functional Tester out in your environment, against your application.  If you’re stuck, it includes support, so you can call 24×7 for help.  IBM will even send out a technical representative to help you if you’d like.  The IBM technical representatives will help you install the tool, create your few tests and give you a few pointers on how to be successful with the tool.  All free.

If you want more info, IBM provides a Rational Functional Tester eKit.    This eKit has all the above links, plus a few more whitepapers and a handy ROI Calculator. The ROI calculator in particular is useful for figuring out if Rational Functional Tester is right for you from an investment standpoint.  It will give you a ballpark estimate of the savings you’ll generate through regression testing.  It’s an estimate only, of course, but it will give you a ball park idea of what you’re looking at in terms of ROI.

Posted by: Brian | March 2, 2010

Sony PS3 Bug – Can You Figure it Out?

Ok, Tester’s – here’s a challenge for you…What do you think is the likely cause of the Sony PS3 bug that has shut down the PlayStation network?

Here is some background on the defect, from Sony:

As you may be aware, some customers have been unable to connect to the PlayStation Network today. This problem affects the models other than the new slim PS3.

We believe we have identified that this problem is being caused by a bug in the clock functionality incorporated in the system.  Errors Include…

Before I continue – let me say that I have no inside information here.  I have only an educated guess from years of testing experience.  Whether or not the truth ever gets out, I’ll never know – but I can tell you that this is a defect I would have caught.

I’ll say no more, but to find out what I think the cause of this issue is, you can read my guess on the Quality Manager Blog.

Posted by: Brian | January 15, 2010

Save 50% on IBM Rational Quality Management Solutions

Spotted an interesting new offer over on ibm.com…Until the end of June, IBM Rational is offering an additional 33% off the purchase of IBM Rational Quality Solutions when moving from a competitor’s product.  This is on top of the 25% that is already offered for competitive trade-ups, meaning a grand total of 50% off your total purchase. This is a spectacular deal which, to the Rational Tester’s knowledge, is the first time ever we’ve seen this level of savings.

For more information about this 50% savings on IBM Rational Quality Management Solutions, refer to ibm.com.

Posted by: Brian | December 23, 2009

Innovate 2010: The Rational Software Conference

Innovate 2010: The Rational Software Conference

It’s that time of year again.  The call for papers for the Rational Software Conference 2010 is now OPEN.  This year, the conference has a new name, Innovate2010.   The new name reflects the new reality of software delivery, where we area all trying to design and build the smarter products and services we need to build a smarter planet.

The Rational Tester will be chairing the Quality Management track at the conference, and looking for any and all topics related to smarter quality management.  As always, if you submit a paper and get accepted, you’ll get a free pass to the conference, which will be held in Orlando from June 6 to 10.  Some ideas for topics to get you going:

  • Innovative uses of any of our quality management solutions: Rational Quality Manager, Rational Functional Tester, Rational Performance Tester and/or Rational Service Tester
  • Quality Management strategies, tips and tips
  • Case studies on your quality management implementation

Really, the list is endless.  If you have something you feel passionate about, put it on paper – or in slides – and come tell us about it.  The conference is a great opportunity to share experiences, meet the engineers behind the solutions and network with IBMers and your peers in the Quality Management industry.  Hope to see you there!

Posted by: Brian | December 10, 2009

Attention, you have now left the IBM Web site

A quick welcome today to everyone arriving from the Rational mothership – www.ibm.com/software/rational.   Today, live on the Rational home page went a link to the Rational Tester Blog and our bro blog, Quality Manager Blog.

We’ve been running this blog since September 2007, and use it as a forum to discuss various issues on software quality management as well as insight into the IBM Rational software quality portfolio.   We’re glad to have you and look forward to hearing from you in the future.

I.  Am.  Amazed.

Before I discuss the source of my amazement, allow me declare my bias.  First, I work for IBM – and while there’s no poster in the lunchroom that says “Microsoft Bad” – there is definitely a strong spirit of competition here.  Parked in the bull’s eye on our competitive  dart board is Microsoft.   However, from a purely personal perspective, I have great respect for Microsoft.  I run Windows XP, I live in PowerPoint, and I generally respect their ability to run a software business.  I’ve even defended them when I thought they were unfairly attacked.

But…

This is too much.  Bing, the Microsoft search engine went dark for 30 minutes yesterday.  Why?  The following note appears on the Bing developers blog:

The cause of the outage was a configuration change during some internal testing that had unfortunate and unintended consequences.

Effectively, what they’re saying is that the were performing system configuration testing on a production system.   Whoa.  It’s one thing to perform functional testing on a production system; I can easily see how Microsoft testers would run Bing searches on their live system.  But to run configuration tests, where you are actively modifying configuration attributes on a production system – especially one of such strategic importance.  That’s risky – too risky, some might say.  That type of testing should be done in a lab, in house, in as close to a replica of the full production system as possible.  At least a scale model.  Microsoft has those types of resources.  Why that didn’t happen here, I can only imagine.  Surely, Microsoft knows better.  I hope.

Posted by: Brian | November 25, 2009

Old School Smarter Product Fail

Lately, Rational and really, all of IBM has been talking about Smarter Products.  Smarter products, in an oversimplified definition, not sanctioned by anyone in marketing, are the next generation of products in which hardware and software come together to deliver more than a single purpose, stand alone product.   The combination of hardware + software makes these new products instrumented, interconnected and intelligent.  The simplest examples you might have heard are things like the latest smart phones or the latest advances of automobile technology such as embedded guidance and services like OnStar.

For the most part, this is simply a reflection of latest innovations in hardware and software.   However, integrated, smart products have been around for long time.  As an example, anyone who has been on a air plane in the last 50 years has been aboard a smart product.   But what happens when these smarter products fail?

Last week, a “glitch” in the FAA systems caused over 2,000 flight delays.  The impact went far beyond frustrating flyers, impacting military operations and costing the airline industry an estimated $100 million dollars.  All of this in a span of 4 hours.  The cause?  One circuit board.

The case highlights the importance of quality management, and the broadened scope of quality management in this new smarter world.  With Smarter Products, not only will testers be required to validate the functionality of software, they’ll need to validate the functionality of that software on its target platform.  And validation will need to be done on the hardware components that host the software as well.  One can easily point in this case to a single circuit board failure, but should there not – in a system of such importance – have been a software based failover diagnostic warning system?   The definition of smarter products focuses on products being instrumented.   As Michael Ball, a University of Maryland professor who specializes in aviation operations research noted, “A good communications system should have enough redundancy that a failure shouldn’t hurt it that badly“.

Granted, this is a 50 year old system.  And our ability to engineer smarter products has advanced significantly since this system was created.  Hopefully we can learn from this outage, and adjust our quality management techniques for smarter products to prevent this type of failure in the future.

 

Posted by: Brian | October 29, 2009

Testing vs. Quality: Part 2

One aspect of the testing vs. quality issue is that of  scope.  Testing focuses on measurement of application fitness for use, while quality focuses on the process of creating, delivering and running an application.  As an illustrative example, from a quality perspective, requirements are a key element of application quality.  From a pure testing perspective, a requirement is merely an input, a given.  Something to be taken at face value, and perhaps worse, something that may not even exist in the first place.  Simply put, quality requires more than testing…it requires a process from requirements through development to delivery and operation.  (Now – whether a tester has much impact on all those areas is up for debate, but I digress.)

On November 5th at 1pm (EST), Brian Beveridge from Greenridge Business Systems will speak about his own experiences and the benefits of a collaborative process for delivering software quality with Rational requirements and quality management solutions.  His is more of a quality perspective – and the Rational Tester expects this to be an interesting interview.  I’ll be dailing-in, and I encourage you do to the same.  On my wish list of questions, Mr. Interviewer, I’m hoping there’s an opportunity to find out about  some of the most common problems he sees at his client sites with regards to requirements and quality management?

I love to learn from others ‘ mistakes.  Hopefully Brian Beveridge will have some good ones to share.

Posted by: Brian | October 16, 2009

The Rational Tester on Pulse 2010

The conference team at Pulse 2010 called for an interview earlier this week.  The transcript of this interview just went live.

For the uninitiated, Pulse 2010 is IBM’s annual service management conference.  For the first time at the conference this year, the conference team has invited Rational to participate.  As a result, there are three Rational Tracks each of which will have 12 sessions.  The Rational Tracks are:

  • Smarter Products Delivery and Management
  • Change Management for Applications and Services
  • Quality Management for Applications and Service

The Rational Tester was asked to chair the Quality Management track.  The main responsibility here is to weed through all the conference submissions to select the cream of the crop of presentation content for the conference.

During the interview, I was asked a couple of key questions: What content are we looking for?  and What makes for a good presentation?

To read my responses, please see the Pulse 2010 blog page with the Rational Tester Pulse 2010 interview.

Posted by: Brian | October 5, 2009

Pulse 2010: What Happens in Vegas?

The week of February 21-24, IBM will be hosting their annual Pulse 2010 conference in Las Vegas!  Woohoo!

In the past, the conference’s main focus has been on the IBM Tivoli tools which IT operations personnel  use to manage a dynamic IT infrastructure.   This year though, the focus is on the larger objective of Service Management.  The larger Service Management focus means that while it remains critical to keep your applications up and running, it is as important to focus on the development of those services.  Accordingly, at this year’s Pulse there’s a “Software Delivery Lifecycle Management” stream which covers the Quality Management, Change Management and Delivery of Services.

Pulse 2010

The call for papers is now open, and consider this your invitation to participate.   If you’re a software delivery professional creating, building and testing applications and services we want to hear from you.  Come share your knowledge and expertise with a larger service management community, and in turn hear what other software delivery professionals are doing as part of their service management efforts.

Speakers get a free conference pass, which entitles them to attend all sessions, keynotes, meals and events at the conference.  I haven’t seen the keynote line up yet, but last year Magic Johnson was on board – have a look.  The Rational Tester will be there – this is one not to miss!

Learn how IBM Service Management combines industry-leading software, hardware and services that drive innovation through visibility, control and automation.

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