Director, QA Infotech
As Director of Engagement, Rajini Padmanaban leads the engagement and relationship management for... more>>
Let's take a simple example: For an integrated development environment, you can use commercial options such as Microsoft Visual Studio or open source options such as Eclipse. Such choices run even at stack levels and not just at one tool or technology level. E.g. the LAMP stack which is completely open source, with Linux as the Operating System, Apache for the http server, My SQL for the database and PhP or Perl or Python for the programming language. Sometimes engineers use variants where there is a combination of commercial and open source software which runs half way in the spectrum I talked about initially. For example instead of the LAMP stack, they can use the WAMP or MAMP stack where the operating system alone is commercial either from Windows or Mac. Thus the permutation and combination options are plentiful.
In this post, I want to highlight the salient points to keep in mind when a software testing group makes its choice on whether to go the commercial off the shelf tools (COTS) or the open source route:
1. Understand what your needs are, be it functional test automation, performance, security testing etc. to take on a tool feasibility analysis, understand tool limitations, tool's development plans including existing and upcoming features, in the near future
2. Look for existing options and any associated pain areas - e.g. if a commercial system is already in place, look for pros and cons, before deciding on changes, and include change factor as one of the cons since migration often times can be cumbersome
3. Look for support options; obviously support for commercial tools is going to be better but given the active community involvement lately, open source tools are catching up very well
4. As a part of the test team, open source tools might sometimes offer exciting customization options to build on the technical capabilities of the testers, especially in areas such as reusable frameworks, enhanced reporting capabilities etc.
5. Look for integration features, on how the tool will integrate with the other pieces of product development to facilitate test results and defects tying back with the product design and implementation
6. Commercial tool usage can often get tricky with the fine print license details especially when multiple testers from across the board use the tool. Similarly when the same license is shared with the developer for reproducing the defect, it might lead to usage violations. That said, having multiple copies of the license, may not be very affordable especially when budgets are tight. Open source is less cumbersome in this regard
7. Deployment and usage: Commercial tools definitely offer great deployment options and save a lot of time for testers in ted bed setup, especially with how several of them use the SaaS - software as a service option, lately. This is an area where the open source tools fall short off, at least as of today
8. Cost is obviously a major factor which will come into play, where open source tools offer great advantages. Determine what your group's budget is as one of the factors but not the only factor in making your choice. If you truly think that commercial tools are the ones needed to address your needs, but the group does not have budget for it, look for ways to solve the problem such as: starting off with fewer licenses, going with a limited SKU (of restricted features), going for a mix spectrum such as the WAMP, MAMP stack that I talked about initially etc.
9. If you are a testing services company, you may not have much choice and may have to go with the tools your client has. Even if that were the case, if you have recommendations to provide on better tool set options to address their needs, do not hesitate to do so. Such inputs go a long way in not just helping test the product better but also establishing a great rapport and trust with your client
Choosing the right set of tools is a very important decision. As rightly said, a job well begun is half done and this is an important preparatory step in the overall test effort. So, make an educated decision and look for ways and means to keep yourself informed of the industry changes, so you continue to evaluate better options along the way!
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