Is there a need for commercial testing tools?
Many years ago, if any company wanted to automate their set of test cases, the only real options were expensive tools which few companies were willing to pay for and so just stuck with getting all the software manually tested. Thankfully, many companies saw a need to rather pool resources together and create open source tools that could enable more people to jump on-board the automation bandwagon and since then more and more companies have been fine-tuning open source solutions to meet the ever-changing software development and testing landscape.
So, with so many open source solutions available, is there a need for big software testing tools in our current development landscape? Well, it depends on the nature of your business and how importantly you view software development as part of your overall company strategy.
I want to start off by defining what I mean by testing tools. Essentially testing tools are any tools that are required for test case management, track defects or automate testing. For all these tools, many superb and excellent commercial options exist that are often far superior to their open-source counterparts, but come at a massive cost. The open source market is fast catching up though and for many, these tools are perhaps irrelevant.
There are still many benefits to spending the money on these expensive commercial tools – such as:
- Ease of use and familiarity of the tool to other engineers on the market as well as the availability of good documentation. Many commercial tools are intuitive, easy to install and can often 'just work'. Which for many companies alone, this benefit is worth the investment.
- Support, which is essential especially if software development is not your main business and you don’t want to waste many hours supporting and changing open source frameworks to meet your needs.
- Integration. Big companies are going to ensure their tools integrate with other similar wide-used tools and will make it easy for teams to do so. So if you’re looking for a hassle free approach to software development, commercial tools can certainly offer this.
However if you’re an apt software development company or take your development seriously, it’s easy to bypass a lot of these benefits and handle them yourself. Open source tools are robust enough that you can generally configure them to your needs without missing out on major benefits upgrades provide. Also, with many open source tools becoming even more popular than the big commercial ones, it’s easy to find documentation and resources that can work with it.
Open source tools are often more aligned with future trends as they are developed by teams closer to the actual development process and so you often find the more progressive and innovative feature-sets among these tools. Yes, they might require our testing to be more technical in nature, but that is the trend testing need to get into and the closer to the code the automation framework, the faster and more aligned your automation efforts will be towards true continuous integration.
In my opinion open source tools in particular, aside from the obvious cost factor, offer the following benefits:
- Customisation – A lot easier for teams to adapt the too around their development preferences unlike commercial tools which may force you to align to theirs. While you wouldn’t want to play with things too much to ensure it can still be updated, this flexibility does make a significant impact.
- Closer to development cycle – The world is moving away from UI testing and into lower levels of testing and open source tools are developed to cater for these more than commercial tools. Obviously, if you rely on 3rd party systems without access to the code, you won’t get this benefit, but if you develop your own software, then it’s a massive saving.
- Benefits of innovation – Because start-up development houses and companies actively support these tools, they are more likely to bring their innovation into the testing sphere and any companies which use the tools are able to benefit from these innovations.
I have only touched on many of the basics here, but in my opinion – any company which takes its development seriously needs to drop commercial tools and embrace open source as much has possible. There will always be a need for commercial tools, especially for companies that makes use of lots of 3rd party software or take a slightly less technical approach to their development because it’s not their main focus. These companies can often afford the massive subscription costs anyway.
For many other companies, it’s perhaps more beneficial to go the open source route and take advantage of the incredible innovation taking place in that space.