April 10, 2008, 9:54 AM — Seattle startup Skytap is set to debut virtual labs-as-a-service software that will let development teams create multiple test machines in various configurations without tying up much hardware.
Although virtualization has often been linked with matters such as server consolidation, programmers have used the technology for years to test and debug software. Users can employ virtualization to create test machines in various configurations, without tying up as much hardware.
Skytap's offering provides users with a hosted platform for setting up and managing virtual labs. The concept of centralizing and automating virtual labs is not new. Companies such as Surgient have had offerings in this space for years.
But that vendor is "going after the higher enterprise play," while Skytap's SaaS offering might be able to gain inroads with smaller shops, said Theresa Lanowitz, an analyst with Voke.
Initially, Skytap's offering is more likely to appeal to customers with an existing setup, said company CEO Scott Roza. "You usually don't get to a customer who has no labs. It's usually someone who has labs, but [the setup is] too small for the requirements," he said. "In that case, rather than replace their labs lock, stock and barrel, we can augment them."
Resolute Solutions, a systems integrator in Bellevue, Washington, recently signed a licensing agreement with Skytap after testing the service. Resolute needed a flexible test environment, with the ability to create an extensive number of virtual machines, but didn't want to get into the business of buying and configuring a lot of hardware, said product manager Jack Nichols.
"One of the big things that was really big to us was the advanced management stuff," such as the ability to take a "snapshot" of the state of a VM at any given point, he said. "It's very easy for us to replicate bugs."
As for what could be improved, Skytap will hopefully beef up the service's reporting capabilities down the road, Nichols said. Right now, Skytap presents users with a dashboard that displays a summary of ongoing activity.
Other features include a software library with images of major operating systems, databases and applications in a number of languages, which helps users build out virtual labs more quickly, according to Skytap. The service also allows customers to set up project teams and manage user permissions.
Skytap, which was initially known as Illumita, did not provide pricing information.