Nunn said that virtualized testing is crucial to ALM, and not just because it eliminates the cost of maintaining a physical test infrastructure. It also makes it easier for ALM teams to share highly specific information about the test environment in which the error occurred, he said. That gets around a common problem: Testers pinpoint errors and report them to developers, but developers are often unable to replicate the error, he said.

Asked why virtualized testing has been slow to take off, Nunn said, “Operations need to be more comfortable with [providing virtual test environments]. There is a time investment in moving from one way of doing things to another.”

Microsoft expects virtualized testing to take off in the next couple of years, according to Nunn.

Not happening in ALM
Also in ALM’s future is product portfolio management (PPM). “ALM efforts today typically focus on a single application,” said Nunn. A portfolio management approach takes all of a company’s applications into account, deciding which applications to build, which to keep and which to retire, he said.

Organizations have been slow to adopt PPM because it’s difficult to “insert life-cycle management on an existing set of applications,” he said. In addition, organizations tend not to plan end-of-life for applications, but they should.

“As apps age, they become expensive to maintain. Documentation is out of date and they become difficult to look after. And developers who wrote them may no longer work for the company,” said Nunn.

Another area that may eventually fall under ALM’s wing is the customization of line-of-business applications, such as those offered by SAP. There is no good support for that in ALM today, even though organizations invest an enormous amount of time in that activity, said Nunn.

“Will packaged software vendors implement life-cycle management in their own tools? Or will ALM efforts ultimately support these applications?” he wondered. “No one is sure which way it will go.”