The Scalable Test Platform

Testing may not be fun, but it's important; Open SourceDevelopment Lab and Scalable Test Platform want to help.
The Scalable Test Platform

The STP is a hardware and software configuration for automated testing. To run the back-end control and scripting of the tests, we developed Brimstone, a combined batch control system and automated test harness. Requests are submitted using Eidetic, a user-friendly web front end, or brim-gate, the e-mail gateway. Using these front ends, entire test sequences can be requested in less than two minutes.

How STP works begins with developers checking patches in to our kernel CVS tree and requesting a test sequence using their patch. After the tests are completed, detailed results are returned to the developer via e-mail and are also archived on our web site. To simplify the process even further, a developer could write a short shell script that, in less than five lines, would check their patch into CVS and submit a preformatted test request via e-mail. Then all it would take to check the effectiveness of their patch would be a single command. Everything involved in a full-scale test run would then be taken care of without a second thought.

The hardware dedicated to the STP by the OSDL includes a 1.8TB storage away network setup connected to each server (four-CPU and up), via multiple Fibre Channel connections. Servers include two each of 2-CPU, 4-CPU and 8-CPU boxes, as well as a single 16-CPU IBM NUMA-Q server. A second 16-CPU NEC AzusA server, containing Itanium CPUs, is on order. We also have over 50 client-load machines that can be moved into the STP at the press of a key. We are also looking into the possibility of including a few single-CPU machines to ensure kernel modifications don't adversely affect the vast majority of current installs.

Eidetic, Brimstone and the e-mail gateway are all under the GPL, so interested parties can use them when setting up their own labs for specialized testing interests.

Requesting a Test Run

The first step is to go through the free sign-up to become an OSDL Lab Associate, available at Next, enter a test request through the web page, which will involve something like this: choose the kernel tag to run (2.4.8 for instance), choose the distribution to use, choose the test to run, list the CPU details, list the various hardware restrictions (optional) and enter an optional LILO command line (allows for restriction on the RAM used). After submitting the base items, you need to spend a moment filling out the setup page for the test you selected, then submit the final request.

It's as simple as that. Depending on the length of time required to complete the type of test requested, you could have your response back in less than 25 minutes. Full environment documentation and the resulting data sets will be archived on the web site for you. Short tests will take at least 15 minutes because a fresh copy of the OS is installed prior to every test sequence.

Since the entire process is automated, testing does not stop when our office closes. This means the quick response will be possible at any time, for developers located anywhere in the world.

Test Details

Since the STP is currently in the initial rollout phase, the number of scripted tests is still low. At the time of this writing, the following is a sample list of possible workloads: Juan Quitela's “memtest” VM abuse test suite, dbench (Samba) filesystem punishment, the ever-popular scripted kernel compile, simulated real-world CVS punishment and lmbench.

A long list of potential tests including scenarios involving multiple servers and applications such as Apache and MySQL is currently being evaluated. Of course, as an open-source project, we welcome assistance in the automation of these tests. Getting a full range of tests ready for use with the STP is going to be a major undertaking, but we believe the benefits to Linux will be worth it. For me personally, this is where I hope to give something back to the Linux community that will make a positive impact.

We are also in active cooperation with developers from SGI and IBM in the Linux Test Project (LTP). One current goal is to enlarge the LTP's coverage to include both targeted and general workload simulation tests. The LTP kernel features test is almost ready to be automated, which will provide us with a large regression test suite, as well as a solid base for stability research. The LTP's future plans include the development of a number of self-contained tests that will make great testing targets for the STP.


Nathan Dabney ( has been working with Linux since Slackware in 1994. He enjoys breaking bad concepts and going for walks in the rain with his fiancee.