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Cisco Live, or why virtualisation is about quality, too

This week's Cisco Live event was a busy one, and we were helping out NetApp by speaking on their stand out on the show floor. It's always an interesting task, talking to an audience which can get up and leave at any moment, and very different from the usual lecture theatre or breakout room. To me the most interesting part came from putting together our presentation, which involved explaining why and how we're moving our Highlight service onto a Virtualised environment with our hosting partners, Claranet. We listed the usual, obvious benefits such as scalability, and resilience - but then got to thinking about Testing.

Testing ? Yes, really. Our web-based reporting and visibility service collects a solid, continuous stream of data, in real-time, from tens of thousands of devices in 60 countries around the planet and presents clean, cool performance information to their Enterprise and Service Provider owners. It's very, very hard to simulate this in the lab and in the past, building and reinitialising parallel test servers has been a major effort with  lot of associated cost.

No more. With the virtual environment it takes six minutes to create and spin up an exact clone of a production system, with as much CPU and memory as we need. Resetting the test environment is just as quick. And we only pay for the time the test server is actually live, rather than having to maintain a permanent, high-spec server which is idle much of the time. There are other related benefits which I won't go into here, but the overall effect is to speed up, and improve, our QA process, and allow us to push more features into the product. Not a benefit I'd expected, but a very welcome one.