Cost and Scalability

By Darryl K. Taft  |  Posted 2005-01-17 Print this article Print

In addition, besides lessening the systems testing time, VSTS enhanced the quality of the testing. "By using prewritten test scripts, we were able to ensure that each time the application received the same level of testing. When a person is doing repeated regression testing, the odds of missing a step or function are much higher than when you are running scripts."

After initial testing, Ajilon took the system through a complete system-level test to ensure that all the pieces worked together; then the system moved to a UAT (user acceptance testing) period.

"Using an automatic set of testing tools was a big help during UAT," McCabe said. "While we had worked very tightly with the end-user community and did many demos, discussions and prototypes, there was still a normal level of change requests during UAT."

"No matter how hard you work together, there are always a few things that pop up when users work with the entire product and discover and desire some process modifications," McCabe said. "Having a set of scripts allowed us to make those changes late in the cycle but still have the ability to rapidly and completely test the functionality of the product."

John Keefauver, Ajilons service director of applications development and support, said, "Ajilon has a series of best practices and lessons learned from over 30 years of building software. We understand the importance of software quality assurance and how it affects the product that we deliver to our clients. Ajilon tailors our SQA approach on a project-by-project basis because obviously a small projects SQA needs are much different than a large-enterprise application. In the case of DTS, the SQA efforts were closely coupled with the development cycle to enable us to move very quickly and deliver a quality application."

Montague said DTS went through about four weeks of user testing on the system. "We let the actual users use it and make suggestions on what would make it work easier for them," he said.

Meanwhile, McCabe said Ajilon selected the Microsoft products based on two requirements: cost and scalability.

"First, we were looking to control that overall cost for the project, but the second concern was scalability," McCabe said. "We project significant growth in the business as a result of the release of this system. This meant that while we needed an economic solution today, it had to be able to scale up to massive sizes in short order."

"We looked at various open-source solutions on the market but settled on a Microsoft-based solution. We were able to build our solution on products such as SQL Server Express and Windows SharePoint Services with limited licensing fees," McCabe said. "As the business grows, we have a very clear upgrade path to SQL Server Standard or Enterprise editions and also SharePoint Portal Server."

Moreover, "By managing our cost on these parts of the solution, we were able to spend more on advanced features like the Interactive Voice Response system that uses Microsoft Speech Server 2004," McCabe said.

In addition, all the core business processes are in a set of Web services, McCabe said. "These same services are used on the Web interface, the Windows Forms interface and the Interactive Voice Response interface. Some call it SOA [service-oriented architecture]," he said.

Future versions of the system will include support for PDAs and mobile devices, McCabe said. "We have designed the system based on an SOA model with a core set of Web services supporting the current Web, smart-client and IVR interfaces," he said. ".Net provides users great support to develop a mobile interface [that] will easily plug into our architecture in the next version."

Benefits of the new system include increased turnaround time on transcriptions, with the pop-up messages alerting users when work is available. The systems new search and help capabilities are also key system benefits, Montague said.

In addition, Harlan said he likes the new systems search capability. "I can pull off any notes Ive dictated, ever," he said.

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Darryl K. Taft covers the development tools and developer-related issues beat from his office in Baltimore. He has more than 10 years of experience in the business and is always looking for the next scoop. Taft is a member of the Association for Computing Machinery (ACM) and was named 'one of the most active middleware reporters in the world' by The Middleware Co. He also has his own card in the 'Who's Who in Enterprise Java' deck.

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