Any IT product or IT service is constantly subjected to a cycle of releases until it is being launched publicly and even further on; it has real output to run your business properly. Depending on the goals and objectives that are pursued by R&D teams in a company, all their actions and procedures are performed in different IT environments, including development environment, production environment and, indeed, test environment.
The latter one is of great importance for every company because testing itself is an essential part of the full-cycle release aimed to assure a high quality of the product when it is deployed to the production environment. In its turn, in order to guarantee the quality of the end-to-end release cycle as a whole unit, we use the notion of “environment management” as a critical function.
As we’ve already mentioned before, business as a lively competitive organism is constantly impacted by any consequences of product releases – from advantageous steps to failures, delays and different kinds of pitfalls. In order not to lose reputation or competitive edge, businesses apply quality assurance. However, it’s necessary to mention that this essential part of the release process cannot exist out of the environments that it uses.
Challenges in Test Environment Management
Due to distributed teams, numerous environments, and lack of proper management, currently, QA and Dev teams face unstable and fragmented environments. Therefore, a substantial amount of testers’ time is consumed by resolving the problems in their environments.
Managing the software test environment effectively and efficiently begins with establishing the right control measures. In reality, it is common that development and production support teams on the majority of projects share the management of test environments, with no dedicated owner. Moreover, there are no clear instructions on how environments must be configured, managed, or maintained, underscoring the need for an effective test environment management strategy.
How to create a reliable test environment?
Keeping software up-to-date is important for today’s businesses, as it provides a competitive advantage, making the use of test environments a necessity. There should be at least one production-like test environment with all the necessary connectivity and interfaces to build and run the application, including all required components to test it. These test environments should be available before production goes live.
What methods can we use to achieve a reliable test environment and then organize proper Test Environment Management?
- It is essential that the same components are used for all environments in a consistent delivery cycle (although it may not be feasible, due to the cost and the requirement to conduct parallel testing and development).
- All environments used for development, build and unit testing are consistent, and any changes need to be documented with their implications for testing.
- Keep all components (server, workstations, etc.) under version control.
- Ensure the environment stability after every deployment by performing tracking and make a proper update of the technical documentation accordingly.
- Packages are centralized for development, so the deployment packages can all be obtained from a single location.
- Implementing a strategy to support the simultaneous release of multiple versions of the same component.
- Using automation to reduce the possibility of a human error (server, application, etc.).
- Identifying and documenting all application dependencies and creating integration test stubs for all interfaces in order to support the integration testing process.
- The test environments should be tracked, and a robust change management process should link the test environments to the production environments.
Investing in dedicated teams to assist in ensuring smooth, glitch-free, standardized test environments is critical. By doing this, the correct test environments can be set up based on a schedule and can be made available based on the requirements, and the control will be implemented so that only authorized users can access the environments.
What is Test Environment Management responsible for?
Speaking about Test Environment Management, it’s an essential part of software development that facilitates software testing by providing a validated, stable and usable framework to run test scenarios or investigate defects.
Test Environment Management will carry out the following activities
- Centralized management of all test environments, including current versions and connectivity information
- Testing environments are assigned as needed to teams or projects
- Establishment of new test environments as necessary
- All test environments should be monitored for availability and optimal performance
- Maintaining appropriate cost control for test environments in conjunction with project teams
- Cleaning up resources from outdated test environments, deleting or updating outdated environments
- Providing the ability to automate all activities, from provisioning through deployment to data loading
- Coordination of environment issues and preliminary investigation of issues
- An evaluation of data for environment issues, identification of trends, and coordination for long-term solutions
To summarize, a Test Environment Management strategy that combines strategic planning, resource management, process optimization, and automation will improve the R&D efficiency for organizations. Specialized tools and services are designed to optimize test environment usage and enhance your Test Environment Management functionality by:
- making scheduling, planning and simple environment booking within your research and development teams;
- getting real-time notifications from Slack about environment availability, expired TTLs, or cloud budget exceedances;
- assigning environments to tickets in Jira; webhooks for GitHub and GitLab;
- using Jenkins allows to export and update deployment and environment information;
- optimizing IT infrastructure costs.