Ensuring Efficient Test Environment Management is Part of a Healthy DevOps Diet
March 26, 2018

Bob Davis
Plutora

In 2011, Marc Andreessen, in his famous essay, ominously yet optimistically pointed out that "software is eating the world," and it's fair to say that it hasn't missed many meals since. Software is so ubiquitous throughout every business and industry that any organization with a crumb of dependence on information or communications must reimagine itself as a software company or risk being consumed by more efficient, capable and productive competition.

The software revolution that Andreessen predicted is in full swing and a new system of order is clearly settling into place. First, Borders and Barnes & Noble felt the impact of Amazon's online presence and then Blockbuster ultimately met its end because of the Netflix appeal; music is in the hands of iTunes, Spotify and whatever Kanye and Jay-Z are up to; the most successful direct marketing platforms are Google, Facebook and Twitter; and Walmart, the world's largest brick-and-mortar has recently shown an aggressive appetite for ecommerce and online retail.

It's clear that whatever an organization or business is built to do, budgets are increasingly being invested in software-programing tools and cloud-based services in order to compete in this new software-powered system.

Yet, with anything new comes challenges.

One place new challenges are particularly evident is in application development and the test environments that organizations rely on to maintain the continuous deployment cycle of software, and thereby hang onto their relevance. The size, complexity and importance of test environments are increasing along with the budgets needed to keep pace. Additionally, organizations are increasingly finding themselves managing environments that are on-premises, in the cloud and/or hosted by a third party – and often one environment can span all three. So, how can organizations efficiently manage their environments?

Managing test environments efficiently and consistently across the software test life cycle is a process that requires increased levels of automation and real-time collaboration in each phase of an application's lifecycle. It's a challenge, but the benefits of doing it are worth the effort.

Let's examine three key elements of the process that are indispensable when managing test environments.

1. End-to-End Visibility

Seamlessly running DevOps requires having end-to-end perspective while embracing continuous delivery. To be truly end-to-end, with visibility and constant feedback, a business needs to realize it's not about one single tool, it's a chain of solutions pulled together into a single platform that provides an overarching view. This allows continuous integration and continuous delivery workflow, with feedback, visibility and the ability to deliver services to customers quickly.

Having that end-to-end visibility provides a spot for both Dev and Ops teams to go and monitor activities as they evolve across the entire portfolio of applications and the varying combinations of on-premises, cloud and third party environments. Having comprehensive end-to-end management that delivers test plans, spots defects, supports agile based testing and provides precise reporting gives organizations a booking system to keep each environment in line and make sure they are operating as efficiently as possible.

2. Improved Quality of Work

If a business has misconfigured environments, it risks creating false positives. The common problem with managing environments is tracking them. If unsound environments are used for testing, it creates problems by both slowing down the project and trying to push things through the pipeline without proper assurances. The end goal should be maintaining quality, so making sure the right test environment is available and utilized when new code is made available is essential for efficiency and accuracy.

An efficient test environment management also eliminates the complications of misconfiguration, and helps to ensure the quality of tests and ultimately the quality of the end product. Quality is maintained by automatically reaching into source code control systems to make changes available to test teams, and then, in turn, it can be applied to accurate test cases to make sure they have accurate test coverage.

Quality can be assured when software is tested properly, and teams work with testing and development seamlessly. Efficient test environments help remove the dependence on spreadsheets and improve quality and predictability.

Simply put, an efficient platform closes the loop, streamlines communication across the company and ensures a higher quality of work.

3. Streamline Deployment for Quicker Time to Market

Efficient environment management provides real-time visibility across the enterprise portfolio and establishes a single source of truth to align teams and identify and resolve resource conflicts. Using an interactive environment map, and the functionality of a continuous delivery pipeline, enterprises can create a structure to converge fast-moving continuous delivery activities, helping delivery teams to streamline the progression of code through each phase of a release.

Large enterprises increasingly find that releases are tightly coupled, causing more projects to approach the testing stage in parallel, which in turn creates more conflicted environments, leading to possible delays if the release happens to get derailed. Some businesses have more than thousands of test environments made up of a combination of on-premises, cloud and third party infrastructure. Release managers can't possibly manually know the status of the delivery pipeline, and it can be incredibly difficult to spot risk. The need is for visibility and governance and the ability to manage version control to bring efficiencies into the pipeline.

Test environments along the pipeline are moving to more complex environments as you get closer to production. Adding an efficient test rate and default rate gives a better ability to access schedule risk to streamline deployment and help assist in providing a quicker time to market. It gives release managers visibility and confidence that the test coverage is complete and accurate.

No one should expect that taking these steps toward managing test environments will be easy, it's a complex, daunting task that requires detailed planning, a strong team and supporting budget. But if we press forward with the knowledge that our world relies more than ever on software and success depends on finding the most efficient ways to feed its growth, then we are on the right track.

According to Constellation Research, since 2000 more than half of the companies in the Fortune 500 are no longer on the list. Each has its own individual circumstance but when figures climb above fifty percent there is likely more to it than individual circumstance. We've witnessed a sea-change in business models and the tools that organizations most rely upon and we need to be aware of that. It's clear that the world is consumed by software, we now must understand the best ways to manage this reality.

Bob Davis is CMO at Plutora

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