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The Next Frontier: The Role of Testing in Mission Critical Software Systems

By Candice Arnold | 4/23/19

A recent Bloomberg headline proclaimed, “Human Spaceflight Could be a $23 Billion Industry by 2030.” The article examined a UBS report on space travel, which predicts that “spaceflight” will compete with long-distance airline flights in the not-too-distant future.

It’s a fascinating prospect, and one that underscores how critical it is for software to perform optimally in mission critical environments. Eggplant’s Antony Edwards recently explored this theme in detail in a DigitalisationWorld article, highlighting some of the key technology challenges facing space exploration.

Chief among these is the conditions in which computers and software systems are expected to perform—after all, it’s difficult to envision a harsher or more extreme environment than outer space. It’s also essential that mission critical technology be able to function even in high-stakes, tense situations.

As Antony put it, “For example, if something goes wrong while in space, the astronauts onboard will enter a stressful state, and might start using software more vigorously. Users might begin switching between screens rapidly, or rebooting programs or software quickly.” Depending upon the nature of the issue, if the technology can’t absorb this pressure without impacting performance, human lives could be at stake.

This is why intelligent automated testing is so essential to mission critical software. Rather than focusing simply on code, the technology facilitates testing of the entire user experience. As a result, NASA and the other organizations involved in space exploration can implement “real-life” scenarios that mimic some of the stressful situations astronauts might encounter on board. In addition, automated testing can test hundreds of scenarios quickly and scale as technology matures—a particularly crucial element given the current advancements taking place in space exploration.

Eggplant is currently working with Orion to deliver the above advantages, and ensure that all the onboard software and equipment is performing as it should. Orion, NASA’s latest spacecraft, is in the development process of taking humans deeper into space. It is equipped with three displays to monitor and control the spacecraft, which have been recreated in a cockpit mock-up at NASA’s Rapid Prototyping Lab. The team is using Eggplant Functional to dynamically test the software’s user experience even under simulated highly stressful conditions. Given the sheer amount of code involved in the software, manually testing all of the programs would produce an undue time and resource burden. Eggplant enables Orion’s testers to address this issue, reducing testing time and increasing efficiency while easily accounting for the entire testing lifecycle.

Time will tell if spaceflight becomes available within the next decade but, regardless of whether the UBS predictions are realized, one thing is clear: with an increase in mission critical systems the need for rigorously testing this technology will only grow.

Of course, space is far from the only example of mission critical technology. Utilities and power systems, healthcare and transportation are just a few of the other industries in which software performance can be a life or death imperative. To learn more about how Eggplant works with companies from these and other verticals check out our case studies, and you can read more of Antony’s thoughts on space exploration in the DigitalisationWorld article.

Topics: digital automation intelligence, intelligent automation, digital transformation

Candice Arnold

Written by Candice Arnold

Named as one of the Top 50 most Influential Women in the UK Channel and shortlisted as CRN's marketeer of year 2018, Candice firmly believes that Marketing breathes life into brands and services, and loves helping clients make their workforce more productive with technology. Candice is a Fellow of the Institute of Sales & Marketing Management (UK).

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