Use Service Virtualization to Increase Test Coverage and Improve Quality: An Interview with Kenneth Merkel


In this interview, Kenneth Merkel of CA Technologies explains how service virtualization has changed the way organizations handle their testing. He also details how improved coverage can lead to better quality, a happier QA team, and remove any blockers preventing you from release.

Jennifer Bonine: All right. We are back. Thanks for, too, audience for joining us again for more interviews. Here, I have Kenneth from CA.

Kenneth Merkel: Yes. Thank you.

Jennifer Bonine: Great to have you here today. I thought it would be kind of relevant, so CA is a company, for those out there that have been testers for a long time, have probably seen some changes. Right? About what CA was and where they are today.

We were talking about before we got started, a little bit about your journey just inside CA and transformation, so if you could talk a little about that, I think that would be great.

Kenneth Merkel: Yeah, so, I've been with CA for a couple tours and seeing CA, kind of what I call classic CA was around operations products. Originally I was involved with some of the operations products around application full respond turning. It was all about ... There was just a lot of just various products from an operations perspective.

When I was with ITKO and we got acquired, we came in and CA really built this DevOps vision. It was really a big transformation inside of CA to see going from just being operations focused to now more focused all the way across the SDLC and a vision of okay, here's what we're looking at and here's how we're going to get there.

It was a story around where are the gaps and then we either built products in house or acquired other companies to fill those holes. That was in as, I tell people, it was like turning the Titanic.

It has been a great journey. It's been an incredible transformation to see CA go through.

Jennifer Bonine: Yeah. I know for some of the folks out there that say, "How do you do that?" What were some of the critical components to be able to turn that ship, right? Because it may seem insurmountable when you're in an organization that has a lot of legacy and history and has a brand, so to speak. Right? Of being known for a particular thing. Getting people to see you as more than that or getting people to see you as different or current in terms of the tools and technologies. Any words of wisdom or advice for folks on what you seen work?

Kenneth Merkel: Yeah. To make the digital transformation happen, is the first that has to happen is your kind of have a culture change. Right? It's getting people bought into it. It does take some work. It's once people start seeing success, then they start buying in. Then they're like, "Wow. Why didn't we do this earlier?"

That's what I've see within CA and with even our large customers. It's taking those baby steps. I say, it is turning a very large ship in that right direction and you can't just do it on a dime. You got to take those steps to go forward. Once you change the culture, then you can start changing the processes to make things fit in and then it's about once you have the processes, then it's about making sure you have the right tools in place and right solutions to make it happen.

Jennifer Bonine: I think chunking it out, right, and saying are we willing to make a culture change and understanding that's required. How do we decide where to focus and then deciding which area are going to be key creating those processes making sure those work. Then implementing the right tools to help you do it and get visibility to it.

Kenneth Merkel: Right. Right. That's been a challenge at times, but it has really paid off. Once we got a lot of people bought into it and starting to swing in towards agile methodologies and stuff, it's really changed the way all the software at CA is developed and how we're developing and releasing our software.

Jennifer Bonine: In terms of your talk here, so you spoke on service ritualization?

Kenneth Merkel: Yes.

Jennifer Bonine: Maybe give a little insight to the folks out there on what your thoughts are in that space and how to get started on that and think about it if you haven't.

Kenneth Merkel: Absolutely. Yeah, so I've talked about DevOps as our original vision and it kind of evolved into continuous delivery, which the foundation has continuous testing. Look at, I need to evolve in an organization and to continuous testing so that we're checking code in, we're testing it all the time across all the environments before it goes to production.

To make that happen, you have to have automated test cases. To have an automated test case means I have to have the right environments and the right data, so that when I send something down, my test case knows what to evaluate against. So I'm always evaluating against known data.

The problem that I've seen has been not having stable environments. The lack of environments, only got short windows, those kinds of things really kind of jam things up. So service ritualization, we developed the concept about ten years ago and it was the idea of, hey, I can listen and learn and I can replace that application downstream. I can stand it up in a developer's environment. I can set it up in Key Way environment. I can stand it up in a performance test environment.

So we see rapid changes from an efficiency and quality perspective and getting ... Because now everything's about ... We talked about brand. Digital transformation, your app is your brand.

Jennifer Bonine: It is.

Kenneth Merkel: If you don't get that right, you're in trouble. Your competition will eat you alive. It's now about not only getting things to the market fast, but they better be fast and work.

Jennifer Bonine: Yeah, and be good.

Kenneth Merkel: So, yeah, exactly.

Jennifer Bonine: Yeah, yep. Absolutely.

Kenneth Merkel: Otherwise, the app store, you're a one star on the app store and they're ruthless, the app store with comments.

Jennifer Bonine: Well, they are and people look at those, right? And they see that and they're making buying decisions just based on that, right? A lot of people see that one data point and go, "Done. I'm not even bothering with this."

Kenneth Merkel: Banking, one of my favorite stories is in banking. Look at the first company that put out "I can deposit checks with my phone." Now all the other banks follow suit.

Jennifer Bonine: Yep. Yep. Absolutely.

Kenneth Merkel: It's the, "Hey, I'm getting this out there earlier, making things easier for my customers and I'm going to pick up some more cts." You don't have to worry about customer churn.

I have a tel co back ground as well and that was big in the tel co world was customer churn. You've got to find a way to slow that down. It's now more rapid with the digital transformation.

Jennifer Bonine: Oh, yeah, and people are less... You know what I find interesting, too, consumers have transformed just like organizations are. The brand loyalty is very different, right? If you would look at people before, again, take your banking example. People would pick a bank and you would stick with it for your entire life probably.

Now, with the way consumers are, if they have a bank and they don't like it, they're not afraid to say, "But I'm done. I'm moving my money."

Kenneth Merkel: Exactly.

Jennifer Bonine: They'll be gone and they'll be off to someone else.

You look at cell phone companies. Right? Cell phone companies, people will switch those on a dime. Providers for their cable and internet service will switch those if they're not keeping up. Like you said, that churn exists there for a lot of consumers on a lot of different fronts.

Kenneth Merkel: Things are so much more accessible. It's just happening so much faster. Back in the tel co days in the nineties, it was there, but it wasn't as rampant. Now, yeah, you're right. Cell phones. I go online and, "Oh, this carrier has a better plan. I'm gone." I can walk into their store or even do it online and take my number with me to the next carrier.

You don't have to worry about, "Oh, I got to change my number and get a new number." There was always that fear. Now when they put in local number portability, that really changed the game.

Jennifer Bonine: Oh, it did. It changes a lot. There's a lot of advancements. They're helping consumers be more savvy and be able to switch more frequently. Having the tools, the right technologies to help ensure you're testing before you get it out that consumer is solid is so important.

I remember it used to be in companies you would talk about for environments to get ready for testing just when they would move code into an environment, you were talking hours, if not days to get it where it worked. All the code was working just where you could run a smoke test, everything passes and now I can actually do my real testing. That could be hours to days to get there. That's huge if you waste that much time just waiting for your environments versus having them readily available spun up with the right data that's consistent to run those automated tests to get your results.

Kenneth Merkel: Yeah and that's in fact, we seen a lot with our customer base is we're taking wait time on schedules and collapsing those schedules down. So you have a domino effect. If I can make development more efficient and ship higher quality code to QA, QA becomes more efficient and they can get done sooner and get to 100 percent test coverage, hitting our quota in productions, so the whole thing domino affects and slices down.

You would see easily a customer go from a twelve-week release cycle to an eight-week release cycle in no time. I can see testing cycles going from a three months pre-performance testing. Now it's a matter of hours. Now I've got full access to things. I don't have to wait and I can do full production performance loads that I expect to see.

Jennifer Bonine: Right, that you couldn't do before.

Kenneth Merkel: Yeah. As opposed to the ... Before it's like, "I can test to this point and then we're going to extrapolate and see what happens." That never works.

Jennifer Bonine: No. Right. Having that access and that capability. Now when you guys go into organizations and you're saying, "We're going to help you figure out what the right process is," and then help set that up because it's not just the tool part of it. It's actually getting the process correct so that they can leverage the capabilities of the tools. What does that cycle look like or how long on average are we talking to get them to a point where they're seeing some of these benefits?

Kenneth Merkel: You actually start seeing the benefits right away as we go through ... We're doing value releases for many years. What we call the value release for the customers. We would typically see about a twelve-week cycle. Anywhere from six to twelve-week cycle for implementations because depending on how large the implementations work. But, you would see within the first couple of weeks, you would start seeing the benefits come out immediately.

It was one of those you didn't have to wait six or twelve weeks to say, "Did I benefit or not?" You knew right away because I can get access to things. They're like, "Wow. We used to ... Hey, you just took out three days of wait time right away because you now gave me access to a system that took me until mid-month to get." That kind of thing.

Jennifer Bonine: Right. Yeah, so you can see that value a lot quicker, which again, a lot of times executives barrier to entry is how long until I see something, right? How long until we can actually see an improvement or a benefit or ROI against these things.

Kenneth Merkel: Yeah, buying software has changed. Back in early 2000, it was, "I'll buy anything. I don't care." Now, if your ROI is not at least a maximum of one year. If it can't be one year or less, if it's not that, you're out.

That's something that we really focus on with our customers is we don't want to just see what your technical challenges is, we want to understand what the value behind that is. Because if there's not a value, your company's not going to invest in making that change. Right? I think that's worth some of the frustration in change exists because "Whoa, I had this one light problem." Okay, well, let's find the big problem. We look at that big problem and I guarantee your company's going to change that. They're going to want to change that because of the value behind it.

Jennifer Bonine: The value behind the bigger problem.

Kenneth Merkel: Yeah, exactly.

Jennifer Bonine: We were talking to someone the other day about part of transformation is value stream analysis. Right?

Kenneth Merkel: Yes.

Jennifer Bonine: So you look at your value stream and your process and what you do and then find those big boulders that you've got to move that are creating large delays in your releases. This can be one of them obviously.

Kenneth Merkel: Absolutely. We do a lot of that value stream analysis with our customers to talk about what are those big rocks> what does it really mean from a cost perspective? If you change it, does the company care? Does it move the needle?

Jennifer Bonine: Yeah. Is it going to make a difference?

Kenneth Merkel: It's amazing. Sometimes like, "Oh, if we just do this. We're going to buy it if we do this." You start really analyzing and it's like, "No." I've seen it. I've been around it too long. I know what's going to happen. That kind of thing our customers really appreciate that to see that we're trying to partner with them.

We want to make sure you're successful and doing the right things because that's what then gets the big win. Then going forward then you start getting that transformation going out across their company.

Otherwise, you go do this step and you don't succeed. Now everybody that just wants to be against the transformation is winning.

Jennifer Bonine: Yep. Exactly. They have ammunition, right, for why it didn't work. So you do want it to be successful. Unfortunately, people create opinions based on points, so you get really one shot at that, right? Just like you do with consumers when they delete apps when they don't work. You get one really good shot at this. You want to do it right.

Any suggestions for people out there who are saying, "Okay, this all sounds amazing. How do I engage or start to get more information on where my big hurdles are and if this fits the problems I'm seeing or if there's value there for me?"

Kenneth Merkel: The biggest thing to do is look at what you today and look at what you're doing today and then look at what the things that are blocking you from where you want to go.

We call it a current state versus future state. Then it's when you look at those things that are blocking you from getting to that point, then it's like why is that? Right? Why can't I get there? What can I do to remove it? Once I know why I can't get there and if I remove it and what the value is, then we can talk about here's the solutions to make that happen.

Jennifer Bonine: Yeah. That sounds great. It's hard to believe we're almost out of time here.

Kenneth Merkel: Yeah. It went fast.

Jennifer Bonine: It goes fast. But if people say, "Kenneth, I want to talk to you. I want to know more," how do they find you?

Kenneth Merkel: You can go to and you can look under the ... There's many solutions there, but look under our development area and you'll see things for service ritualization. You'll see things for continuous delivery director, tested management agile requirements designer. That's a lot of the stuff that we'll build into the continuous testing portion.

Jennifer Bonine: Very good. Thanks, Kenneth, for being here.

Kenneth Merkel: Thank you. I appreciate your time. Thank you.

Kenneth Merkel TestingKenneth Merkel’s twenty-two year IT career has covered development, test, and operations. From developing in the telecommunications industry to helping customers with development platforms, testing frameworks, and operations platforms for monitoring applications, Kenneth has spanned the entire SDLC. For the past seven years Kenneth has focused on service virtualization at both iTKO and now CA following the acquisition. Kenneth has been addressing customers in multiple industries about the need for service virtualization, which he views as the cornerstone for continuous delivery and continuous testing. Kenneth enjoys spending time with his wife and four-year-old daughter—with an occasional round of golf thrown in.

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