Test Environment Management 101

Test Environments Management 101

Test Environment Management 101

Test environments are critical in the software development and software testing process as they allow for quality assurance testing to take place in a controlled setting. Test environments can take many forms, from simulating customer data on a test server to running performance tests on a staging environment. The key is to ensure that your test environment accurately reflects your production environment as closely as possible.

There are many ways to run tests, and most involve testing environments. This post explores test environments from the ground up. Not only will you learn what a test environment is, but who is responsible and what practices are needed.

This post will explore test environments in-depth, discussing everything from what they are to how to set them up and manage them effectively.

Test Environment Management 101

What is a Test Environment?

A test environment is any space in which software undergoes a series of experimental uses. In other words, it’s a place where software testing will you test your code to make sure it works as you intended.

A Test Environment is a type of IT environment that is used for the sole purpose of testing. This could include anything from functional testing to load testing and performance testing.

The main purpose of having a Test Environment is to create an isolated environment, including Test Data, in which development and tests can be carried out without affecting the live production environment.

Test environments are typically made of one or more of your applications, or systems. This includes the physical or virtual hardware, whether on-premise or in the cloud, and the operating system on which such versions of the application software will reside for the duration of prescribed test executions.

Let’s take a look at a few test environment types and gain a deeper understanding of them.

Types of environments

There are typically seven types of environments along any software’s development lifecycle:

  • Development
  • System Testing
  • Integration Testing
  • User Acceptance Testing
  • Performance Testing
  • Staging
  • Production

Each environment has a different purpose, and as such, each one runs the application in a slightly different way.

What is a “Development” Environment?

The development environment, on the far left of the lifecycle, is where the main (latest) branch of a software application is located. This is where developers spend time writing code to create a minimum viable product (MVP) from an initial concept. These environments may be shared within the team, or deployed on people on development instances, say inside a VM or Container on their laptop.

The development environment plays a crucial role in the software development process as it is here that new features or updates are first worked on. Note: It is not unusual to have these testing environments installed on one's laptop.

What is a “System” Test Environment?

Supporting System or Component Testing, a system test environment is a non-production environment, or test bed, that is used to test the specific, standalone, functionality of a system before it is deployed to later test phases. This type of environment is typically configured to resemble the production environment as closely as possible, however, it will probably use stubs (mocks or virtual services) to mimic the behavior of up or downstream systems.

What is a “System Integration” Test Environment

The objective of System Integration Testing (SIT) is to ensure that all software applications and microservices work together as intended and that data integrity is preserved between them.

System Integration Test Environments are used to test the end-to-end integration, with a specific focus on the connection, or interface, points, and the movement of data between the systems. As such System Integration (SIT) testing environments are a combination of several systems that mimic how production systems collaborate.

What is a “UAT” Test Environment?

User Acceptance Testing (UAT) is a type of testing that is used to determine whether a software application meets the needs of the end-user. This type of testing is usually carried out by the end-user, or someone who represents the end-user, such as a business analyst.

UAT testing environments are an end-to-end representation of your Production Environment. It would normally contain one system instance for each production instance. For example, you would have a CRM UAT to represent CRM Production.

What is a "Performance Testing" Environment?

A performance testing environment is a non-production environment that is used to conduct performance tests, that is test the performance of software, typically under load. Performance tests are important to ensure that the software will be able to handle the expected number of users or transactions when it goes live.

Several different factors need to be considered when setting up a performance testing environment or test bed, including hardware requirements, software configurations, and network settings. It is important to have a clear understanding of what needs to be tested and how the results will be used before starting to create the performance testing environment.

What is a “Staging” Environment?

Following on from standard Test Environments, we have the Staging environments. A staging environment is meant to simulate production as much as possible, as such Staging Environments are usually well controlled, near-production level in size and layout complexity.

Simply put, this final non-production environment is used to provide further confidence in the software before it reaches the end destination of production. Note: A Staging Environment may also be used for supporting endeavors like Production Support.

What is a “Production” Environment?

Production Environments is the final stop for any software application. It is here that the application will be used by actual end-users or customers and here we find the production data. Given that it is supporting end users it is common to have the highest spec infrastructure deployed here, that is the highest performing resources like CPU, Memory, and Disk.

In addition, and due to the need for availability, it is common to have important systems configured in highly available and load-balanced layouts. And in conjunction, it is important to have well-defined processes and procedures in place for managing and maintaining them. These processes should cover everything from provisioning, and rollback through to incident management.

It is also important to have monitoring in place so that any issues can be identified and rectified as quickly as possible. This monitored data can also be used to help improve the application over time.

With the above in mind, who sets up these environments & how? Ultimately the Non-Production / Test Environments are managed by a Test Environment Manager.

What is a Test Environment Manager?

Test Environment Manager is a job title that refers to the person responsible for managing and maintaining Test Environments. The TEM is responsible for ensuring that the Test Environments are properly configured, maintained, and meet the needs of the IT project.

The Test Environment Manager is responsible for the day-to-day management of Test Environments, like Deployments, Incidents & Change, and may also be responsible for managing other aspects of the testing process, such as tooling and test data.

The TEM role is often filled by a technical individual, perhaps originally a system or technical test engineer, with a good understanding of the development & test life cycle.

Note: In a large organization there may be many Test Environment Managers, either dedicated to a single Testing Environment, System, and/or a Business Division.

What is Test Environment Management (TEM)?

Definition: IT & Test Environment Management is the act of understanding your cross-life-cycle IT environments and establishing proactive controls to ensure they are effectively used, shared, rapidly serviced and provisioned, and/or deleted promptly.  

The key activities to consider when managing test environments are:

  • Know what your IT and Test Environments look like through Environment Modelling.
  • Capture Demand across Projects and Dev & Test Teams and avoid testing environment resource contention via Test Environment Bookings.
  • Support Change & Incident through IT Service Management (ITSM) requests/support ticketing.
  • Proactively Manage Testing Environment Events through collaboration with Calendars & Runbooks (Standard Operating Procedures).
  • Streamlining your IT Operations, and software development lifecycle, through investment in application, data & infrastructure automation. For example consider: Provisioning, Rollback, Decommissioning, and Shake Down scripts.
  • Deliver Insights on Structure, Usage, Availability, and Operational Capability. Ideally real-time through an enterprise-level Test Environment Management tool.
  • And finally, Improving continuously through Environment Housekeeping and Optimization.

What Test Environment Management Tools are available?

Test environment management tools help to support the creation and maintenance of effective test environments by providing a way to manage different aspects of the test environment. Test environment management tools can range from reservation and scheduling to infrastructure configuration and deployment. Using these tools, organizations can improve the efficiency and quality of their testing process, as well as reduce the associated costs.

There are a variety of TEM tools available, each with its strengths and weaknesses. To choose the right tool for your organization, it is important to first understand your specific needs and requirements. Once you have a clear understanding of your needs, you can then evaluate the different options and select the tool that best meets your needs.

Some of the most popular test environment management tools include:

Each tool has its unique features and pricing structure, so it is important to compare and contrast the different options before making a decision.

To Conclude

Test environment management is a critical part of the software development and testing process, and the right test environments and TEM people can make a big difference in the quality and efficiency of your IT delivery process. In addition, adopting the correct Test Environment Management Tool will help your software teams produce and maintain high-quality test environments, accelerate TEM operations and implement important Test Environment Management best practices.

What Is Test Data Management

Test Data Management! The Anatomy & five tools to use.

Test Data Management! The Anatomy & five tools to use.

Being part of the IT leadership in an organization has its advantages, but it also means you have to be familiar with technical “buzzwords”.

  • “Test Data Management” is one such term you might come across.

Do you know what it means and why it matters? And what about the available test data tools you can employ? If the answer to one or more of these questions is “no”, then this post is for you.

Let’s start by dissecting the expression into its various body parts. We’ll define each one and then reassemble the definitions. Once we’re done defining the term, we’ll get into the meat of the post by showing five existing test data tools that can help with test data management. Let’s get started!

What Is Test Data Management

Test Data Management: Breaking it Down

Let us break it down into its key components i.e. Test, Data & Management.

A definition of Testing.

Software testing is an investigation conducted to provide stakeholders with information about the quality of the software product or service under test. Software testing can also provide an objective, independent view of the software to allow the business to appreciate and understand the risks of software implementation. Test techniques include, but are not limited to, the process of executing a program or application with the intent of finding software bugs (errors or other defects).

A definition of Data.

Test data, unlike the sensitive data found in our production data, is any data that’s necessary for testing purposes. This includes test data for inputs, expected test data outputs, and test environment configuration details. Test data can come from a variety of sources, including production databases, synthetic data generators, and manual input.

A definition of Management

Management is the process of administering an organization, which can be a business, non-profit, or government body. This entails setting the organization’s goals and objectives and then coordinating the efforts of employees or volunteers to achieve these targets. The available resources that can be employed include financial, natural, technological, and human resources.

Bringing TDM Together

Now that we have the definitions for each word, it’s time to put all of them together to create a complete definition for “test data management.” Here it goes:

  • Test Data Management (TDM) is fundamentally test data preparation. It is the process of helping you prepare test data and maintain the test data in support of software testing. The goal of TDM is to provide a test environment that is as close to production as possible, and promotes data security while still being able to accurately test the software.

This may include, but is not be limited to underlying features like:

  • Test Data Profiling i.e. The Process of Discovery & Understanding your Data.
  • Test Data Preparation i.e. Generation of Realistic Test Data Using Automation to Fabricate Fake / Synthetic Data.
  • Test Data Security i.e. Using Production Data & Masking / Privacy Methods on the original production data. With the intent of ensuring “Personally Identifiable Information” (sensitive customer data) is removed and we prevent a data breach.
  • Test Data Provisioning i.e. Rapid Snapshotting, Cloning & Provisioning of Test Data/
  • Test Data Mining i.e. The ability to View and Access Valid Test Data.
  • Test Data Booking i.e. the ability to reserve Test Data for your engineering purpose

Here Are 5 Test Data Management Tools for Your Review

Here are five Data Generation Tools your organization can use to improve its approach to Test Data.

BMC (Compuware) File Aid

Compuware’s Test Data Management solution offers a standardized approach to managing test data from several data sources. Test Data Management with Compuware seeks to eliminate the need for extensive training by making it easy to create, find, extract, and compare data.

The solution can load subsets of related production data while maintaining database and application relationships. Test data management can help reduce the risk of errors, improve product quality, and shorten development timelines.

Broadcom (CA) Test Data Manager

Test Data Manager by Broadcom is a powerful test data management tool that enables organizations to manage their testing data more effectively and efficiently. Test Data Manager provides users with the ability to track, manage, and visualize their testing data in a centralized repository. Test Data Manager also offers features for managing test environments, managing test cases, and generating reports.

Enov8 Test Data Manager (DCS)

Enov8 Test Data Manager, originally known as DCS (Data Compliance Suite), is a Test Data Management platform that helps you identify where data security exposures reside, rapidly remediate these risks without error and centrally validate your compliance success. The solution also comes with IT delivery accelerators to support Data DevOps (DataOps), create test data, data mining, and test data bookings.

IBM InfoSphere Optim

IBM InfoSphere Optim is a tool that manages data at the business object level while preserving the relational integrity of the data and its business context. This allows you to easily create environments that precisely reflect end-to-end test cases by mirroring conditions found in a production environment.

InfoSphere Optim also offers other features such as data masking, ensuring data security, and subsetting, which can further help you reduce the risk of data breaches when testing in non-production environments.

Informatica Test Data Management

The test data management solution from Informatica, Test Data Management, is a tool that can identify ‘sensitive data,’ subset it, mask it, and create test data. It also allows developers and testers to save and share datasets to enhance overall efficiency.

Conclusion

As previously said, there are a lot of “buzzwords” in software engineering, and that trend isn’t going to change any time soon. Some of these words are simply fads. They seem like the “latest and greatest thing.” But just as quickly as the hip kids started using them, they fall out of favor.

However, Test data management isn’t one of those fads. It’s a process that your company must master and improve if it wants to stay competitive and promote values like Data Privacy. Test Data Management is essential in the understanding of data, it impacts our IT operations & project velocity & is key to our information security protocols.

In this article, we used a divide and conquer technique to define test data management. Test data management is the process of handling test data throughout the software development life cycle. Test data management tools help organizations manage this process by providing a way to store, track, and manipulate test data. There are many different test data management and data security solutions available on the market, each with its unique features and capabilities. So have a look & choose. Each is powerful and has its nuances. Look at the capabilities of each and decide which of the “Test Data Management” features are most important to you.

Author: Mark Dwight James

This post was written by Mark Dwight James. Mark is a Data Scientist specializing in Software Engineering. His passions are sharing ideas around software development and how companies can value stream through data best practices.