RE #1: All of the ElectricCommander documentation is located in the Electric Cloud Knowledge Base located at https://electriccloud.zendesk.com/entries/229369-documentation.
ElectricCommander can also be a valuable application to drive your tests in parallel. Here are just a few aspects for consideration:
- Subprocedures: With EC, you can just take your existing scripts, drop them into a procedure definition and call that procedure multiple times (concurrently) in a single procedure invocation. If you want, you can further decompose your scripts into more granular subprocedures. This will drive reuse, lower cost of administration, and it will enable your procedures to run as fast as possible (see parallelism below).
- Parallelism: Enabling a script to run in parallel is literally as simple as checking a box within EC. I'm not just referring to running 2 procedures at the same time without risk of data collision. I'm referring to the ability to run multiple steps within a procedure concurrently. Coupled with the subprocedure capability mentioned above, this enables your procedures to run as fast as possible as you can nest suprocedures within other subprocedures and enable everything to run in parallel where the tests will allow it.
- Root-cause Analysis: Tests can generate an immense amount of data, but often only the failures, warnings, etc. are relevant (tell me what's broken). EC can be configured to look for very specific strings in your test output and will produce diagnostic based on that configuration. So if your test produces a thousand lines of output, but only 5 lines reference errors, EC will automatically highlight those 5 lines for you. This makes it much easier for developers to quickly identify root-cause analysis.
- Results Tracking: ElectricCommander's properties mechanism allows you to store any piece of information that you determine to be relevant. These properties can be associated with any object in the system whether it be the procedure itself or the job that resulted from the invocation of a procedure. Coupled with EC's reporting capabilities, this means that you can produce valuable metrics indicating your overall project health or throughput without any constraint.
- Defect Tracking Integration: With EC, you can automatically file bugs in your defect tracking system when tests fail or you can have EC create a "defect triage report" where developers/QA review the failures and denote which ones should be auto-filed by EC. This eliminates redundant data entry and streamlines overall software development.
In short, EC will behave exactly they way you want it to. It will not force you to change your process to fit the tool. As far as cost goes, Electric Cloud provides a version known as ElectricCommander Workgroup Edition for cost-sensitive customers. It is available for a small annual subscription fee and something that you may want to follow up on.
I hope this helps. Feel free to contact your account manager or myself directly if you have additional questions (firstname.lastname@example.org).