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With the official launch of Windows 7 coming in just less than two months,
ISVs, custom developers and Microsoft solution providers are scrambling to test
their applications on the new platform and make sure every glitch is gone, bug
is squashed and line of code is doing what it’s supposed to be doing.

Traditionally, developers do their testing in an in-house lab, but
increasingly many ISVs and solution providers are looking to the cloud as the
place to test and noodle their software for the Windows 7 platform. There are
several good reasons to look to a virtualized test lab.

 Op-ex vs. cap-ex: This has become an industry mantra during the
recession and a reality that reasons to stay with the industry even after the
recovery. This basic cost premise holds true for application testing: It’s
cheaper to pay for data center time on an on-demand basis—especially for
dynamic usage—than it is to buy, implement and manage test servers that can lay
dormant much of the time.

 Virtual machines: It’s simpler to share virtual machines in the cloud
versus moving them around on physical hardware.

 More cost considerations: Many solution providers and ISVs wrestle
with inefficient lab setup and teardown internally that is not an issue with a
cloud-based environment.

Microsoft has been applauded for rolling out Windows 7 code to partners in a
more finalized, stable fashion than it did for Windows Vista. And many of the
feature changes seen in Vista remain in Windows 7, which
should mean less taxing updating of Vista applications
to the new OS. The problem is, there aren’t that many Vista
applications. Since estimates put Vista adoption at just
15 percent of enterprises today, most customers are currently running Windows
XP, planning to skip Vista altogether. The compatibility
differences between XP and Windows 7 are significant, making testing all the
more important.

From a cloud perspective, there’s a company called Skytap that’s offering a
new subscription-based cloud testing environment for ISVs and solution provider
developers getting their applications ready for Windows 7. The package provides
online team access to Skytap’s Virtual Lab SaaS Application, which enables
disparate development teams to collaborate across the virtual data center.
Participants also get Windows 7 virtual machine templates and 1,000 hours of
testing time monthly.

The company’s been offering services for 12 months now, and views itself as
an alternative to Amazon’s cloud solution and the forthcoming Azure platform
from Microsoft, even counting among its customers a number of Microsoft
solution provider partners looking to get their wares in shape for Windows 7’s

Unlike Amazon or Azure, Skytap’s services are built on VMware and will run
any application without changing code, according to Ian Knox, senior director
of product management at Skytap. Knox says one of the unforeseen uses of their
services was by solution providers that not only wanted to test their solutions
on Windows 7, but actually play around and use Windows 7—effectively as a
training mechanism.

Training and testing are a perfect use for the cloud, he said. “The cloud
doesn’t work for everything, but for dynamic use cases, where you use the
resources for a while, then not again, those are compelling.”

Is your company testing solutions for Windows 7? Have you considered using
the cloud to do so?