Software Testing in Telecommunications Devices

Alcatel Lucent Logo

Business overview and challenge

Alcatel-Lucent is a leading global provider of telecoms solutions with products covering areas from IP and cloud networking to ultra-broadband fixed and wireless access. With over 70,000 employees, Alcatel-Lucent provides technology to virtually all major service providers worldwide.

A key division of the company is the Small Cells Business Unit, which develops ultra-small base station products supporting both 3G and 4G mobile networks. These devices allow users to obtain a better signal in areas where network coverage or capacity has historically been poor, such as inside large buildings, in remote homes, or within crowded stadiums. 

Due to their role in the network, Alcatel-Lucent products have to have the highest levels of reliability so that customers are never without service. Ian Jordan, Senior Technical Manager at Alcatel Lucent comments, “Our products simply have to have the reliability that service providers need to deliver excellent service to customers. When a telecoms service is offline for an extended period of time it can make national news. More importantly, things like emergency calls might not be possible. As a result high availability has to be a top priority for all our products.”

The need for high reliability and availability means that Alcatel-Lucent has to rigorously test all products at every stage of their development. This is an expensive process to complete within the short release cycles required by the rapidly expanding Small Cell market. Software code is no exception to this process and with millions of lines of code involved, it must be checked comprehensively to ensure that there is a minimum number of defects. With set deadlines in place for the delivery of products, being able to accurately predict the quality of the code within a product is key to the development process. 

Due to the nature of this, any tool that can speed up the testing process, reduce the costs involved and improve code quality is invaluable to the delivery of high availability products. Predictability is another key area, as other parts of the wider business are dependent upon the Small Cells unit hitting its deadlines in order to meet customer commitments. Given this range of complex pressures and demands, Alcatel-Lucent selected Coverity Quality Advisor (QA) to support the production of its small cell products. 

Solution evaluation

When the Coverity demonstration was reviewed in the product evaluation process, it became clear that irregularities were being picked up by Coverity QA that weren’t being picked up elsewhere. Ian Jordan goes into further detail, “Initially when we looked at the results from Coverity QA, we didn’t believe them and they seemed incorrect. But on closer examination we found that QA was identifying issues that were extremely difficult to spot from basic analysis. This gave us real faith that the solution would be able to support our long term testing needs”.

Following the introduction of Coverity QA, Alcatel-Lucent subsequently began utilizing Coverity Test Advisor (TA) to target specific areas of the code base that were proving to be difficult to validate before introduction to the field.  In tandem, the two products helped Alcatel-Lucent save time and money in the lengthy process of meeting customers system availablty targets. Crucially, the development process has given the Small Cells Business Unit a new level of predictability to product development.

Coverity deployment and benefits realized

With a large number of developers spread across the globe working on a particular project at any one time, the introduction of Coverity products has made a significant impact upon the small cells business. The integration of Coverity QA in 2008 and TA in 2013 enabled an organizational shift to an agile development process, with automated testing of code by QA and TA every night. As a result around 500 new tests and over 50 product changes have been made to the product code to date through TA, in addition to defects found by QA.

“Both QA and TA have improved the quality of the code in our Small Cells family and ultimately this enables us to deliver a higher quality product to the customer as we are ‘Coverity clean’,” Jordan highlighted. 

Benefits have continued long after the first installation of Coverity QA, as Ian Jordan details, “When we first ran QA, it helped to find the cause of some memory issues we had identified during testing. The addition of new C++ checkers makes the testing process even more rigorous.”

The use of Coverity solutions is also helping developers within the Small Cells business, “Coverity QA and TA are really helpful as tools to drive our standards to an even higher level,” Jordan commented.

By using Coverity QA and TA we are ensuring that the code we deliver in our 3G and 4G Small Cells to customers is of the highest possible standard, ensuring consistent reliability and performance.

Ian Jordan

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Alcatel-Lucent

Business Benefits

  • More predictable development process
    By testing code on an ongoing basis it is now easier to identify and rectify issues as they are found, avoiding costly delays at the end of a project. 
  • Improved reporting processes
    Coverity QA and TA gives Alcatel-Lucent greater insight and visibility into the quality of the code, improving the overall reporting process. 
  • Increased operational efficiency
    By automating testing, Alcatel-Lucent has seen improved efficiency with less time spent manually testing code and more time spent on delivering innovation in the product.

 

Conclusion

Reliability is of paramount importance to Alcatel-Lucent’s Small Cells business , and as a result the quality of its code has to be of the highest standard. The ability to automate testing ensures that the organization delivers products to customers that they can rely upon time after time. Through Coverity QA and TA, the business unit is now better able to predict and manage the entire release process, understanding the areas that need to be addressed within the code throughout its development, not just at the end. This improves the time to market of all products and serves to improve the competitive advantage.