What is it?
Testing is big business. Y2K brought it out of obscurity. E-business turned it from something that could be skimped on, since the people who suffered were internal users, into something that had to be got right, since the users were customers and partners. Suppliers of testing products have got into the testing services business, continually monitoring e-business environments to deal with rapid changes in applications, user populations and client devices.
Where did it originate?
Getting things right was hard enough in the closed, centralised environments of the past. These days you can't predict the size of the user population, what hardware they will use, what browsers and applications, and what versions. System upgrades are also much more frequent.
What is it for?
First comes reliability testing and functional testing to ensure the application does what it is supposed to without falling over.
Load testing establishes whether it can support the predicted user population with acceptable response times. Stress testing is load testing over time to ensure stability and reliability.
Capacity testing determines the maximum number of concurrent users an application can manage.
Regression testing makes sure changes do not affect other parts of the environment.
What makes it special?
When systems were built solely for internal users, testing was seen as the stage that could be dropped when projects overran. These days, nobody - except perhaps Microsoft and Oracle - would dare treat their customers as live testers, by releasing software before they are confident that it is stable and reliable.
In e-business, of course, faulty software means lost customers.
How difficult is it?
Automated testing removes much of the hard grind of manual testing, such as emulating large user populations, co-ordinating the interactions of many different applications, databases, servers and networks, and building test suites that can be used consistently as systems evolve. But gaining a certificate in automated testing involves one or more courses, gaining experience, and then completing an extended examination. Mercury Interactive's certification exam takes 160 hours over three months.
Where is it used?
Testing should be built into the development lifecycle from the outset.
What does it run on?
Most testing products come in Windows or Web versions.
A test suite with a Test series, though both can leave you stumped and humiliated.
Few people know that
Microsoft was rumoured to have employed twice as many testers as developers on Windows 2000.
What's coming up?
Testing solutions for .net and other Web services.