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Testing frameworks boost with healthcare provider and HP

Insurance company Independent Health turns from inefficiency of using multiple testing frameworks to a unified app testing environment with the help of Hewlett-Packard.

As part of its mission to provide healthcare services to 365,000 residents of western New York, the non-profit insurance company Independent Health Association Inc. operates five websites along with a mobile app that first launched in May 2012. As these systems evolved, testing became fragmented, employing multiple techniques and a pastiche of incompatible tools.

To eliminate the inefficiency of using multiple testing frameworks, Chris Trimper, application services manager for quality assurance engineering at Independent Health Association Inc., set out to unify quality assurance. The goal was to perform testing under a single umbrella framework, one compatible with Web and mobile existing technologies, yet extensible for whatever unknowns lie ahead. "We did not want to bounce around multiple testing frameworks," Trimper said. "Some were good for testing, but did not integrate well with our reporting and data variability requirements."

Independent Health's application portfolio consists of home-grown programs written mostly in Java or .Net, along with commercial packages it has run for years. "We needed to test Siebel for [customer relationship management], .Net for our own desktop applications, various Web display layers with Java thick clients and APIs either directly or integrated with front-end interfaces," said Trimper. His team had long-used Selenium WebDriver to automate Web applications for testing, including Siebel and .Net.

"We wanted a testing toolset that could cover Web and mobile apps, make us more agile and help with scripting and automation."

Hewlett-Packard products test for performance

Independent Health, based in Buffalo, N.Y., turned to Hewlett-Packard for a suite of testing tools that include Unified Functional Testing (UFT) for automation, LoadRunner for performance testing and  AppPulse Active software as a service (SaaS) for production performance monitoring of the browser-based and mobile apps.

The HP products are designed to help programmers adopt a DevOps approach to software development and testing, a strategy being widely adopted, according to Genefa Murphy, HP's vice president of product and partner marketing for application delivery management. The goal is to provide a way for IT to run testing as part of a unified, integrated cycle, she said.

An essential ingredient for making this testing approach successful is the use of real-world data, according to Trimper. "Proper testing requires large amounts of realistic data," he said, explaining that use of manufactured data doesn't measure up because it can never be a true reflection of a live, geographically dispersed operation.

As for security concerns, Trimper said Independent Health worked closely with HP engineers to ensure they were addressed, including  meeting regulatory requirements, such as HIPAA, and protection of subscriber data within applications and during transmission.

"When we see customers dealing with DevOps and scaled Agile, they need automation for build testing and deployment," Murphy said. "We are bringing into the development environment and performance application lifecycle the ability to automate script generation for monitoring user data."

Doing so allows developers to identify and eliminate application performance bottlenecks and improve accuracy between development and operations teams. This method is crucial for attaining high customer-satisfaction rates, according to Roy Ritthaler, HP's vice president of product marketing, IT operations management. "If you can't bring field results back into development, you'll lose out with an app that isn't responsive, and that leads to a user-abandonment rate of up to 50% if an app does not respond in two seconds or less."

Responding to high customer demand

Independent Health considers fast response times a hallmark of customer service. "When subscribers visit healthcare providers and the providers do a lookup, our service center gets calls if performance is slow," said Trimper. That's especially true during winter blizzards and open enrollment periods, when demand is especially high.

HP recently announced that several of its development and testing products, the SaaS-based StormRunner Load for Web and mobile performance testing, LoadRunner for testing performance under load, and the HP Vertica OnDemand analytics solution are now available for use with Amazon Web Services.

For Independent Health, these tools will help as the organization steps up its cloud efforts. Though only now dipping a figurative toe into cloud computing, Trimper said tools of this nature will help aid the transition process without jeopardizing service levels. "We are working with HP to make sure these cloud efforts will be healthcare compliant, and that the performance our subscribers and provider partners expect will be maintained."

Next Steps

Three types of application testing tools

Streamline app dev processes with ALM tools

Analyze the AppPulse suite of APM software from HPE


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