Cloud 101: Part 4 – Automation in the Cloud

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By Divya Kathuria, Jim Lyle, and Robert Corvino 

Having applications on the cloud provides a standard for common interfaces among cloud applications, and an overall improvement in network performance.

Cloud automation is the practice of using specialized software tools and methodologies to automate some or all of the manual tasks associated with managing and operating cloud-based IT infrastructure and applications. IT organizations and software development teams can leverage cloud automation in public, private, and hybrid cloud environments to reduce administrative overhead and achieve workflow targets like continuous integration and continuous deployment.1

See Part 1 of this blog series for a description of private, public, and hybrid clouds, and why companies move to the cloud.

Cloud automation software tools can be configured to automatically control the installation, configuration, management, and testing of cloud computing systems, enabling businesses to make the best use of their cloud-based resources. Having applications on the cloud offers several conveniences for your IT team, including a defined standard for common interfaces among cloud applications, and an overall improvement in network performance.

As organizations continue to rely on the cloud for critical applications and services, the role of cloud automation as a time-saver and enabler of effective cloud management practices will become more apparent in IT organizations. For example, several processes can run concurrently and unattended; there is no need to wait for one to finish before starting another. While this is possible with on-premises infrastructure, it is costly to set up and maintain the computing resources to make it possible. The cloud lets you do it from your desktop. Also, since many cloud application vendors release changes to their customers on a frequent basis, automated, ongoing software testing can help ensure that regulated systems remain in a state of compliance.

Considerations for Automated Testing
One of the first things to consider for automated testing is the frequency of releases or updates. Daily, weekly, or monthly updates needing operational qualification (OQ) or performance qualification (PQ) re-execution are excellent candidates for automated testing solutions because they save time and money over manual efforts.

Second, look for one testing effort that can be leveraged for multiple users. As a follow-on, specific use case tests can be developed to supplement the core testing. USDM’s tools work well with web-based platform GUIs, although some internal document model structures require more crafting effort than others.

A document management system would normally be considered an indirect system, with less associated risk in relation to the development, manufacturing, and distribution of medicines and medical devices. However, a customer’s use case for this system could possibly result in a higher risk-determination, requiring a more frequent or continuous end-to-end test suite execution with real-time incident reporting. USDM’s tools and methods can address these higher-risk use cases.

Before taking on an automated testing tool (ATT) effort, know that tests require a significant initial development investment and require ongoing maintenance, so make sure they have a long “shelf life.” The ATT life cycle also requires ongoing monitoring, troubleshooting, review, and approval to remain operational and compliant. An ATT effort for regulated companies must include strategies and formal SOPs for ATT validation, administration, maintenance, use, incident and change management, reporting, and quality review.

If you’re ready to enjoy the cost-saving benefits of automated tests, continuous testing, and solutions for day-to-day repetitive tasks, USDM Life Sciences has created its automated testing tool for Cloud AssuranceTM to automate the daily testing of GxP requirements. Contact us to learn how we can make this happen for you.

Cloud 101 Blog Series
In Part 1 of this Cloud 101 blog series, we introduced the three cloud service models with examples, and provided links to digital transformation resources.
In Part 2, we talk about vendor management and scaling to the cloud.
In Part 3, we address several constraints from which your company will have to break free before it can embrace the cloud.

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