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Cloud service provider releases Windows 7 testing sandbox

Cloud computing service provider Skytap has announced a cloud-based testing environment for Microsoft's new OS, Windows 7, which could push 64-bit desktop adoption to a tipping point.

With Windows 7 nearly ready for the enterprise, one cloud computing service provider has readied compatibility testing software to help application developers and IT shops adapt to Microsoft's new OS.

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With the potential to push 64-bit desktop adoption to a tipping point, Windows 7 could create a large shift in the industry. The last major desktop OS migration was from Windows 2000 to XP. Last January, the Cambridge, Mass., consulting firm Forrester Research Inc. reported that Vista had only 10% enterprise PC penetration. Windows 7 is shaping up to be the next dominant Windows OS.

Developers may want to test for Windows version compatibility, 64-bit memory system usage and Internet Explorer 8 compatibility issues. Now, with its cloud-based Lab Manager for testing Windows 7, Skytap Inc. offers a virtual sandbox at a starting price tag of $250 per month for 1,000 hours of testing.

In May, mortgage loan software provider Ellie Mae Inc. began using Skytap to reduce continual hardware upgrades. Ron Yun, Ellie Mae's director of quality assurance, said the company has a local test lab with 15 to 20 machines.

"To upgrade and maintain our lab is a lot of work," Yun said. "And every few years, the hardware in our lab becomes obsolete. It's not uncommon that a new configuration comes out, like Windows 7."

Though Ellie Mae has used Virtual Lab for only a few months, Yun said it's made creating new testing machines much faster. When a customer has an OS version-specific problem, IT can spin up a test environment in less than a minute and have it configured in less than an hour.

"It's just more of a black box than our in-house QA system," Yun said.

Skytap provides Software as a Service virtual labs and a library containing a variety of common virtual machine images. The company's on-demand services are priced by the minute and can be scaled up or down in real-time.

Rob Barry is a news writer for Write to him at

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