As Published In
Oracle Magazine
May/June 2007

AT ORACLE: Oracle News

Building a Better Beta

By Caroline Kvitka

With a broader testing pool, the Oracle Database Beta Program is better than ever.

Like any new product that hits the streets, a new release of Oracle Database is the result of a collaborative effort that involves many players. While Oracle developers play a key role in getting a new release to market, so do hundreds of Oracle partners and customers who serve as beta testers. With Oracle Database 11g expected to be available within the next 12 months, the Oracle Database 11g Beta Program is in full swing.

Beta testing has been the responsibility of Oracle's Server Technologies group for more than a decade, with the key goals of testing all new product features in a variety of environments and involving customers and partners across industries, platforms, and geographies. "We're trying to make sure that new features work as designed and that they work in a myriad of environments and situations," says Debbie Migliore, director of beta programs management at Oracle.

Traditionally, Oracle has recruited beta testers from its partner and customer community through Oracle's product management and sales organizations. However, with the Oracle Database 11g Beta Program, Oracle has cast a wider net by reaching out to end users via global user groups such as the Independent Oracle Users Group.

"Working with the product teams gives us a set of really good testers, but we need the breadth and depth of our customers and partners to fully test some of the newer areas," explains Migliore. "The individuals who are actively involved in the user groups are very much technology experts. They have a love for the product and for learning more about things coming in the new release. When they get involved in beta testing, they're very anxious to actually work the code."

More than 300 beta testers are involved in the program, which started in September 2006. Recruitment will continue until a month before the release goes into production. As part of the process, beta testers provide a test plan and background information on their current use of Oracle products.

"We want people who are going to test across the breadth of the release," she says. "We tend to look toward our strategic customers because they have the biggest investment in Oracle, so they're going to be using a large swath of the product set."

However, some testers dig deep into one specific area of the beta release. "There may only be one feature they want to test, but they want to test it in several different environments. Those are great testers for us because we can get comprehensive testing feedback on a single area," Migliore explains.

Three Ways to Test

The beta program includes three modes of testing: @customer testing, @Oracle testing, and iBeta, a hosted beta server supplied by Oracle. While the majority of testers install and test the beta software in their own environments, Oracle has expanded the @Oracle program for Oracle Database 11g.

With @Oracle testing, customers and partners test a particular product area in Oracle's test lab for a designated period. The Oracle Database 11g Beta Program includes more @Oracle test events than ever before, with events focused on application development, location services, content management, manageability, high availability, database security, and installation and upgrades.

"@Oracle testing gives us a very deep-dive test of a specific feature area, and it gives the customers exposure to other industry leaders and to the people who develop the features," Migliore says. "It's our most valuable way of testing."

Measuring Success

Next Steps

 BECOME a beta tester

A major measure of success for the program is identifying and fixing problems before the release goes into production. "Obviously our goal is to fix 100 percent of problems, but we can only fix problems we know about," Migliore says. "This is why rigorous testing by our customers and partners is an essential part of our beta-testing process."

In the end, a better beta benefits all Oracle Database 11g users. "By the time we ship a database release that's gone through a beta-test cycle of this size, scope, and duration, the product will have had more runtime in a more diverse set of environments than any other prior beta database release," Migliore says. 

Caroline Kvitka is senior managing editor for Oracle Magazine.

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