Last February, I talked about seven modern load testing trends that would make their mark in 2018. Because I always like to keep tabs on performance (mine and everyone else’s), let’s take a look back to see how I did for some of the pieces I thought would make headlines: Artificial Intelligence, the Shift Left movement and the Internet of Things.
AI: Going beyond the Big Boys
I thought AI would analyze test data better and faster. I speculated that it would be able to apply a higher degree of granularity to performance testing activities resulting in the identification of hidden trends while predicting danger. I recall feeling that more companies would start using AI to implement Smart Service Level Agreements.
For the most part, it seems that these happened, for the “big boys” anyway. Take consulting giant, Accenture, who offers a testing service (Teach and Test) intended to help companies apply AI into their testing practices. This is a dramatic breakthrough if you happen to be a big corporation with the budget flexibility for emerging technology investment. For smaller companies, however, AI remains a big-ticket nice to have. Such is the case at Stitch, a fifty person, data aggregation and analytics company. I asked Harrison Rose, the company’s QA Lead about how he planned to incorporate AI into their testing practices. His answer reinforces my point. According to Rose, “… We don’t have AI experts. We’re a small organization, and if anything, are waiting for AI to be incorporated into QA tools rather than implementing it ourselves.”
Let’s face it, Rose’s situation is not uncommon. There are thousands of companies on the planet that want low cost AI enabled testing services. The question is whether the industry plans to deliver on this need.
My thinking is that AI testing will follow the path of other technologies in which market share increases as a result of a lower adoption cost. As AI testing technologies mature along with increased efficiency in vendor R&D practices and production techniques, we’re going to see more low-cost tools emerge. Think about Alexa; the first Internet-enabled, interactive voice agent available – the underlying technology wasn’t cheap at first. At the onset, adoption was limited until a $99 price point introduced. Then, the technology took off.
Perhaps 2019 might be the year when common testing tools jump on this bandwagon.
Shift Left by Another Name
I talked about the relevance of the Shift Left movement, the practice of moving the testing effort earlier in the development process, and how it’d maintain its prominence in 2018. Why not? It just makes sense. Testing early increases the focus on pre vs. post-release “bad” code prevention. This is not to discount the time-honored rite of passage where the tester earns his or her stripes through a firefighting catastrophe. However, shifting left promises a reduction of bad code and the cost associated with reconciliation. By design, it improves the bottom line, by circumstance, the need for the firefight is diminished.
There’s a lot of anecdotal support touting the benefits of the practice. Nobody I’ve talked to says that Shift Left is for the birds. In fact, on more than one occasion, the company was surprised to learn that their IT department has been following the principles of Shift Left without actually calling it that. A good number felt a sense of pride to be inadvertently part of such a popular trend.
Many testing professionals contend that Shift Left has raised the awareness in IT about the importance of empowering testing professionals to have direct involvement from the getgo. Also, they affirm the added benefit of the role expansion that performance engineers are playing throughout the enterprise. As Gayatree Nalwadad, Principal Quality Assurance Engineer at Fidelity Investments states, “[Shift Left is] a shift to Agile processes for faster delivery… Performance engineering is becoming critical for all implementations as technology evolves. Shift Left was just the beginning. Now, it’s Shift Right, top, bottom, and center!”
The questions remain:
- Does Shift Left work?
- Are costs being cut? Is the bottom line improving?
- Does Shift Left make life easier for those in IT?
Such inquiries deserve (verifiable) answers. Hopefully, 2019 will be the year that analysts take a deeper dive, describing in exacting detail the benefits of the practice. The truth is companies will continue with Shift-Left adoption, or whatever name they’re calling it. A set of professional studies will go a long way to speeding up the adoption process.
IoT: Big “Things” on the Horizon
Two things that showed up and not disappointing this prognosticator in 2018 were the proliferation of robots in the IoT landscape and the need for speed as more mission-critical IoT devices that rely on real-time data to work safely and effectively.
The evolution of robotic labor has gone well beyond the growth expected in typical areas such as manufacturing and warehouse management. Here’s a surprising statistic I’m sure you haven’t heard before. The increase in the use of robots that milk animals grew over 8% in 2018 – the spike coming from Europe, the Middle East, and Africa. (Pay attention to the Africa part. There’s significant expectation for Africa to be an IT growth region.)
According to ITProPortal, the growth of IoT in 2019 is going to go beyond the current 3.6 billion devices already in operation. The simple fact is that more information needs to move faster. This demand will tax the existing mobile communication structure, which is where 5G comes in.
5G is designed to be the next step in communication technology that will meet the need for increased speed and capacity mobile computing craves. We saw its introduction this year, but maybe 2019 is the year it takes off providing some significant hurdles are overcome.
The benefit of 5G is that it’s able to handle 1000 times more traffic on the Internet, at speeds 10x faster than current 4G standards. It accommodates this by transmitting mobile data using shorter millimeter waves broadcasting at 30 to 300 GHz. There are obstacles currently in the way. Shorter radio waves get blocked by common impediments in the physical environment such as buildings, trees, and rain. To make 5G practical, innovators are working on a new system of small cell receivers to replace standard cell towers. Implementing this type of system is a significant overhaul compared to the current digital environment. However, it needs to happen if the promise of 5G is to be realized. Strange as it may seem, it will have an impact on the practice of performance testing.
Presently most performance testing is applied to traditional business applications that involve human to machine interactions using desktop or mobile computers, or direct machine to machine interactions void of human activity. Performance testing IoT is different – performance testing IoT under 5G even more so. First and foremost, IoT devices move through physical space. Performance testing an application that’s traveling at 60 MPH (the test condition for a driverless vehicle) requires a different approach to testing than the one used for a business application residing on stationary computers in a data center. Throw in the notion that mobile testing under 5G requires acute location awareness (given the reliance on the special hardware compatible with 5G technology), and your testing complexity increases.
As with any technology subject to mass adoption, testing practices, and tools need to include some degree of standardization to keep adoption costs down and reliability up. Standardizing IoT performance testing still has a way to go to catch up to the standards set forth via traditional performance testing. The good news is that the demand is there. And, if history has taught us anything, if a demand (real or perceived) is strong enough, some entrepreneur is bound to take advantage of the need. I wouldn’t be surprised if 2019 brings the emergence of reliable, affordable performance testing tools geared to the corporate and consumer IoT ecosystem. It’s an opportunity too good to pass up.
Conclusion about 2018 Performance Testing Trends
While I didn’t revisit all of my 2018 predictions, one thing’s for sure, the technologies evolving today in both business and consumer environments are not going away. This is just the beginning of what will dominate the tech headlines into the next year. Stay tuned my take on what’s in store for 2019.