How to make test environment management more efficient than ever

“Software is eating the world”, claimed Marc Andreessen back in 2011; though it may have seemed like an exaggeration when his essay was published, so far he has been proved correct. Now that software exists across every industry, organisations that rely on information need to reimagine themselves as software companies to avoid falling behind competitors.

In today’s society, childhood favourite Blockbuster couldn’t stand up against the likes of Netflix or Amazon Prime, music is at the mercy of iTunes and Spotify, and Google, Facebook and Twitter are the leaders in the marketing world.

The rapid adoption of cloud in recent years is one of the ways in which organisations are attempting to survive this new world. Regardless of what an organisation is built to do, budgets are increasingly being invested in cloud-based services and software-programming tools in order to compete in this new software-powered system.

However, with all new things come new challenges.

One place these are particularly apparent is in application development, and the test environments that organisations rely on to sustain the continuous deployment cycle of software, thereby hanging onto their significance. The size, intricacy and importance of test environments are increasing along with the budgets needed to keep up. Additionally, organisations are frequently finding themselves managing environments that are in the cloud, as well as on-premises and/or hosted by a third party – and often one environment can spread across all three. So, how can organisations efficiently manage their environments?

Managing test environments effectively and consistently across the software test lifecycle is a process that requires increased levels of automation and real-time collaboration in each phase of an application’s lifecycle. It’s not easy, but the benefits of doing it are worth the effort.

Let’s examine the three important foundations of the process that are imperative when managing test environments.

Visibility is vital

Running DevOps smoothly requires having an end-to-end overview of the environment while embracing continuous delivery (CD). To be truly end-to-end, with visibility and constant feedback, a business needs to understand that it’s not about one single tool; it’s a chain of solutions pulled together into one platform that provides an overarching view. This allows continuous integration and CD workflow, with feedback, visibility and the ability to provide customers with services quickly.

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

High quality of work

Businesses with misconfigured environments risk producing false positives. The main 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 move things through the pipeline without proper assurances. The end goal should be maintaining quality, so ensuring that the right test environment is ready and utilised when new code is available is essential for efficiency and accuracy.

Efficient test environment management also removes the complications of misconfiguration, and helps to ensure the quality of tests and therefore the quality of the final 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 guaranteed when software is evaluated properly, and teams work with testing and development seamlessly. Efficient test environments help eliminate the dependence on spreadsheets, and improve quality and predictability.

Essentially, an efficient platform closes the loop, streamlines communication throughout the company, and ensures a higher quality of work.

Faster delivery by streamlining deployment

Real-time visibility is provided by efficient environment management 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 CD pipeline, enterprises can produce a structure to merge fast-moving CD activities, helping delivery teams to streamline the progression of code through each phase of a release.

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

Test environments along the pipeline move to more complex situations the closer you get to production. Adding an efficient test rate and default rate gives an improved ability to access schedule risk to streamline deployment and help assist in providing a shorter time to market. It gives release managers visibility and reassurance that the test coverage is complete and accurate.

No one should anticipate these steps towards managing test environments to be easy. It’s a complex, intimidating task that requires detailed planning, a strong team and supporting budget. But if we push 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, such as using the cloud, then we are on the right track.

Since 2000, according to Constellation Research, over half of the companies in the Fortune 500 are no longer on the list. Though there is a reason behind each one, the fact that over fifty per cent have fallen short over time suggests that there is likely more to it. We have observed a vast change in business models and the tools that organisations depend on the most, and this is something that we need to remember. It is clear that as the world continues to be “eaten by software”, as Andreessen predicted, organisations must strive to understand the best ways to manage this new reality.