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Posted 24 Nov 2009


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RemoteInstall: Automated Testing of Windows Installers on VMWare Infrastructure

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24 Nov 2009Eclipse2 min read
A framework for testing Windows installers with some help from virtualization.

Image 1


RemoteInstall is a pragmatic approach to testing, and has been extremely successful at my day job. We went through several test framework iterations, and just couldn't get any automation going. We tried expensive systems and Open-Source stuff. We spent cash. We made automation a priority. It continued being a dead end.

In the meantime, we were authoring MSI installers like crazy. We had to deal with a large distributed system that was having a high deployment failure rate, a system made of many components. We had hundreds of upgrade paths, and it was clear that we needed to automate it. Seeing company automation efforts deadlocked, I decided that instead of trying yet another expensive test system, I'll have an intern write a simple tool that can leverage VMWare Infrastructure.


At its inception, RemoteInstall does this:

for each virtual machine {
 for each snapshot {
  restore the snapshot
  install the software
  report success or failure

Simple enough? You can get this behavior out of the box with a simple config file. Here's what the output looks like in CruiseControl. This tests an application for clean install and upgrades from various known snapshots.

Image 2

The results were superb. We have virtually zero deployment failure in production for thousands of customers.

Then, eventually, we got pretty good at this, adding lots of useful features. If you have more than one VM, you can do this in parallel. RI integrates with build automation. It can pickup your latest installers from network shares etc.

Next, we thought: why not run some tests after each successful installation? So we added tasks and some simple integration. So you can execute JUnit or NUnit tests on the remote machine post-installation.


This made it into a full blown test framework. We now author tests in C# and Java and remote them via RI to run against multiple configurations.


The latest C# source code can be found in Subversion: Here're some interesting aspects of the code to get you started.

The RemoteInstall library is a modular approach that uses declarative syntax in the configuration files to drive execution.

  • An installer is a single installer, either MSI or DNI.
  • A driver does the actual install.
  • A driver task executes drivers (installers) in a sequence.
  • A task is an additional command inserted in a sequence.
  • A virtual machine power driver manages a single powered-on virtual machine snapshot.

VMWareTasks is used to control VMWare virtual machines and snapshots.

RemoteInstaller is a command-line tool that uses the RemoteInstall library to drive execution.

Using the code

Download the latest version of RemoteInstall from CodePlex. Open the help file and follow the Getting Started guide.


  • 2009/11/24: Initial version.


This article, along with any associated source code and files, is licensed under The Eclipse Public License 1.0


About the Author

Team Leader Application Security Inc.,
United States United States
Daniel Doubrovkine has been in software engineering for twelve years and is currently development manager at Application Security Inc. in New York City. He has been involved in many software ventures, including Xo3 and Vestris Inc, was a development lead at Microsoft Corp. in Redmond, and director of Engineering at Visible Path Corp. in New York City. Daniel also builds and runs a foodie website,

Comments and Discussions

Generaltwo questions [modified] Pin
tottawang20-Dec-09 21:53
Membertottawang20-Dec-09 21:53 
GeneralRe: two questions Pin
dB.29-Dec-09 20:37
MemberdB.29-Dec-09 20:37 

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