deployment-tools

The Top Deployment Strategies Explained

deployment-tools

As a DevOps engineer, you need to be familiar with various software deployment strategies and know when to use which one. In this article, we’ll look at what software deployment strategies are available, how they work, and the typical strengths & weaknesses of each.

In software development, a deployment strategy is a set of instructions that dictate how our software code or applications should be transferred from one environment to another during the software development life cycle.

What is a Release

The process of "shipping" new features or bug fixes, usually more than one, to users is known as a software release. A software release can be a patched version, a major new version, or a hotfix for an issue found in a previous version. Software releases go through several development stages before they are ready to be made available to users (in what is called production).

A typical software development life cycle includes the following stages:

  • Development
  • System, Integration, and User Acceptance Testing
  • Staging
  • Production

Your deployment process defines the rules and steps of how software code should be moved (or deployed) from one stage to the next. It is important to have a well-defined deployment strategy because it will help ensure that code changes do not break the software in production and that users always have access to the latest version of the software.

To complete this important job, the DevOps team incorporates deployment procedures into their day-to-day operations. Various approaches have been developed throughout time to help software companies with application deployments.

Rolling Deployment

What Is a Deployment Strategy?

A deployment strategy is a technique used by DevOps teams to launch a new version of their software. These strategies cover how traffic is transitioned from the old version to the new version and can influence downtime and operational cost. Depending on the company's specialty, the right deployment strategy can make all the difference.

Various Types of Deployment Strategies

There are several types of deployment strategies, each with its advantages and disadvantages. The right strategy for your company will depend on your needs and goals.

1. Blue/Green Deployment

This type of deployment process involves maintaining two identical production environments—one is the “live” environment that serves customers, while the other is the “staging” environment. When it’s time to release a new version of the software, the staging environment is switched to live, and vice versa.

Benefit:

  • This strategy minimizes downtime because there is always a production environment available.

Disadvantage:

  • However, it can be costly to maintain two identical production environments.

2. Canary Release

In this strategy, the new version of the software is first released to a small subset of users. If there are no major issues, the new version is then gradually rolled out to a larger subset of users until it is finally made available to the entire user base.

For example, the older version may retain 90% of all traffic for the software at a certain point in time during the deployment process, while the newer version hosts 10% of all traffic. This method helps DevOps engineers to test the new version's stability. It utilizes real traffic from a fraction of end-users at different phases throughout production.

Benefit:

  • Better performance monitoring is possible with Canary deployment. It also aids in the quicker and more successful rollback of software if a new version fails.

Disadvantage:

  • However, it does require more effort and typically, a long deployment cycle.

3. A/B Testing

May, also be called Incremental Rollout

In the A/B testing deployment process, developers deploy the new version alongside the older version. This type of testing is used to compare two versions of a software feature to see which performs better. Version A is the control and is made available to the entire user base, while version B is the test and is only made available to a subset of users.

A/B testing has several deployment process benefits:

  • It allows software developers to compare two versions of a software feature to see which performs better.
  • It is easier and less risky to test a new version of the software on a small subset of users before rolling it out to the entire user base.
  • Developers can easily accept/reject either version.

Disadvantage:

  • Increased user/customer coordination.

4. Feature Toggles (Feature Flags)

Feature flags are a type of deployment strategy that allows developers to turn on or off certain features of the software for different users. This allows developers to test new features without making them available to the entire user base. Feature flags can be used in conjunction with other deployment strategies, such as A/B testing, to help developers test new features before

5. Recreate Deployment

In this deployment approach, the development team completely shuts down the old software, then deploys and reboots the new version. This method causes a system outage between shutting down the old program and booting up the new one.

Benefits:

  • It is less expensive and is primarily utilized when the software company wishes to rewrite the application from the ground up. There's no need for a load balancer since there are no changes in traffic flow in the live production environment.

Disadvantages:

  • This method has a significant impact on end-users since it is unavailable/suspended. Users must wait until the software is reactivated before using it. As a result, few developers employ this technique unless they have no other option.

6. Trunk-Based Deployment

In this strategy, all code changes are first merged into a main trunk or branch. Developers then create a new branch for each new feature. Once the feature is complete, it is merged back into the main trunk. This strategy eliminates the need for long-running feature branches and makes it easier to deploy new changes.

Note: This is more a pre-deployment method of Software Version Control.

7. Ramped Deployment

The ramped deployment method moves from one version to the next in a gradual process. Unlike canary deployment, which replaces instances of the old application version with those from the new application version one at a time, the ramped deployment approach makes its change by replacing instances of the old application version with new applications. The rolling upgrade deployment strategy is another name for this method.

The second method, as the name implies, is to delete the old version from production. When all of its instances are deleted, the older edition is manually shut down. The new edition then controls all production traffic.

Advantages:

  • No need to take the entire application offline for an upgrade.
  • The process is gradual, so it's less risky.

Disadvantages:

  • Takes longer to complete than other methods.
  • Requires more instances to be available during the process.
  • Rollback is more complicated & long.

8. Rolling deployment

For those using containers.

Rolling deployment is a gradual process of replacing pods running the old version of the application with the new version, one by one, without downtime to the cluster. It is less risky and takes longer to complete than other types of deployment, but it doesn't require taking the entire application offline.

Advantage:

  • Lower Risk
  • High Availability

Disadvantage:

  • Only really applicable for container-based architectures.

9. Shadow Deployment

Developers deploy the new version alongside the existing one in this deployment method. Users, on the other hand, won't be able to access it right away. The newest version hides in the shadows, just as its name implies. Developers send a fork or copy of the previous version's requests to the shadow version so they can examine how the new variant will work and if it can process the same amount of requests.

When the shadow version can handle the same load as the original, the traffic is finally routed to the new version, and it becomes live. The cutover from the original to the new version happens without any significant downtime since there's no need to take down or restart either version.

Advantages:

  • valuable feedback can be gathered about how the new version will work in production
  • there's no need to take down or restart either version during the cutover process

Disadvantages:

  • more complicated to set up and maintain than other deployment strategies
  • if not done correctly, it can cause issues with the live version

When to use:

  • when you want to gather feedback about how the new version will work in production
  • when you want to avoid any significant downtime during the cutover process

Deploy Better with a Software Deployment Tool

Managing your deployments without tools can be fraught with danger.

As seen above, the different deployment processes can be quite fragile/awkward, and if done incorrectly could lead to production issues, outages, and the need to roll back.

Using tools to control your "implementation day events" can uplift visibility, improve collaboration, support rehearsal, standardize your operations and also streamline the tasks*.

*Tasks that may be manual or preferably automated.

Fortunately, there are various Release Management tools that can help your organization with the various aspects of Environments, Release Management & Application Deployment.

The best software deployment tools included features like:

  • Release Management Governance for Scale Delivery*

*for managing the End to End Release / Release Train.

  • Implementation Plans (for Deployment Planning)
  • Operational Runsheets / Standardized Operating Procedures
  • DevOps Automation e.g. Software Deployments
  • Orchestrations / Integration with other tools*

*deployment tools, ticketing tools, CI/CD i.e. continuous integration, and continuous delivery tools

  • Deployment Version Tracking

*tracking code deployments across Environment Instances, Components & Microservices.

  • Environment Drift Reports

*supporting holistic, cross-environment, version control

Conclusion

You may use any of these methods to upgrade your applications. Each of these approaches has advantages and disadvantages, and each is appropriate in certain circumstances. The only question now is which one makes the most sense for your DevOps team to utilize.

Consider the demands of your team, project, and company as well as corporate objectives. Also, keep track of how much downtime your business can tolerate and any other cost limitations.

Make your go-live events into non-events!

Uplift your Implementation Planning, and Deployment Management capability today. Find the best software deployment tool (or tools) to help with your automatic deployments.

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.

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.

Measuring Test Environment Maturity

Measuring Your Test Environment Maturity

The goal of every company is to satisfy its users. This certainly applies in the software industry. However, as the number of users increases, they tend to make more demands. Increased demands will increase how complex software is, as these demands may require adding new features. And of course, software firms try hard to control defects in their products whenever they add a new feature.

Nevertheless, the industry is still far from zero defects. To avoid defects in products shipped to users, firms in the software industry must pinpoint defects in their test environment before shipping products to users.

What's a test environment, and how are developers making sure that they can find and cure defects in that environment? We'll discuss both topics in this article.

Measuring Test Environment Maturity

What Is a Test Environment?

A test environment is like a simulator that provides real-life visual representation. It includes a server that allows developers to run tests on their software.

A test environment also allows developers to include hardware and network configuration. The purpose of this is to let the test engineer mimic the production environment so that they can find defects. Also, test engineers can write custom tests and execute them in the test environment. This lets test engineers ensure that the software is responding as it ought to.

Let's look at how test engineers make sure their test environment mimics the production environment. When that happens, the team can remove issues and defects from software before shipping it to users.

What Is Test Environment Maturity?

Test environment maturity is a set of leveled guides that help test engineers determine how well-developed and rigorous their testing system is. Test engineers need to understand how the products they're about to test actually function. The engineers should also be able to define the process they'll use in test environments and manage those environments. And there are different levels of test environment maturity.

 

To understand test environment maturity better, let's look at the Test Maturity Model (TMM). We'll examine the different levels and find out how test engineers can measure environment maturity.

Test Maturity Model (TMM)

In order for test engineers to manage their test processes properly, the Illinois Institute of Technology developed the TMM framework. This framework works well with the Capability Maturity Model (CMM), which is the industry standard for software process development.

The TMM framework defines five maturity levels so that test engineers can manage their testing processes properly. These maturity levels help test engineers identify the next improvement state in their test environment.

Test engineers can't measure their test environment maturity if they don't know the level of maturity of their test environment. This is exactly what the TMM maturity level does. It displays levels of maturity and the steps required to attain each level.

Maturity Levels

Each maturity level consists of steps that are essential to attain test environment maturity. Let's look at the different TMM maturity levels and consider how test engineers can measure their test environment maturity.

1. Initial Level

In the first level in the TMM framework, the goal of the test engineer is to ensure that the software is running successfully. The goal here is simply to make sure that the software developers have developed a working product. Although TMM doesn't identify any process area for this level, the software should be working fine without breaking. So Level 1 has a low bar!

2. Definition Level

Definition is the second maturity level in the TMM framework. In addition to ensuring that the software is running successfully in the test environment, the test engineer needs to define test policies. This is because at this maturity level, basic testing methods ought to be in place. You're trying to answer the question, "Does the software do what it's supposed to?"

 

The different process area that this level identifies are:

  • Test policies and goals: This is to make sure that test engineers specify goals and policies they need to achieve.
  • Test methods, techniques, and environment that test engineers are using: It's essential to spell these out.

3. Integration Level

This level involves the integration of testing methods, techniques, polices, and environment defined in the definition level. It's necessary to do this so test engineers can determine software behavior. During the integration level, the engineers test life cycle and integration. Completing this step ensures testing is organized and carried out in a professional manner.

4. Management and Measurement Level

This TMM maturity level ensures that test engineers carry out quality test processes. At this stage, developers can evaluate and review software for defects. For example, after the integration level, the test engineers need to make sure they pick out all of the defects. The process areas this level identifies are test measurement, evaluation, and reviews.

5. Optimization Level

This is the final level. At this stage, the aim is to ensure that test processes and environment are optimized. This maturity level is important because testing isn't effective unless defects are controlled. In this level, the team members figure out how to prevent defects. The process areas in this level are test improvement, optimization, and quality control.

Best Practices in Measuring Test Environment Maturity

We've explored the different maturity levels for TMM and discussed how this model is the industry standard for software testing. In this section, we'll explore the best practices for measuring test environment maturity.

Hire a Test Engineer

A test engineer is in charge of carrying out tests on software to make sure it performs as expected. It's important to employ a test engineer to manage software testing. Why? Because a qualified test engineer is highly skilled in using the right test environment, techniques, and tools.

Understand the Test Maturity Model

When you employ a test engineer for your firm, make sure that they understand the test maturity model. This is because they can't measure what they don't understand! Fully understanding the test maturity model will enable the test engineer to determine which processes are covered in each level and precisely what level their test environment has gotten to.

Don't Skip Steps

It's a bad practice to skip or merge different levels of the maturity models. This will not only make software testing confusing, but it may also produce adverse test results. Therefore, direct test engineers to write down the maturity levels and proposed date of completion before beginning to test.

Automate Testing

When test engineers automate testing, it becomes easier and faster to measure test environment maturity. For example, this test environment and management tool from Enov8 allows test engineers to automate tests and manage test environments without a hitch.

Measuring Test Environment Maturity Goes Better When You Understand Test Environment Management

Knowledge of TMM maturity levels isn't enough to measure test environment maturity properly. To do so, test engineers need to be familiar with test environment management (TEM) and how it applies to TMM. So, let's explore TEM.

Test environment management, according to Enov8, is the act of understanding IT environments across the life cycle and proactively controlling them to ensure they're effectively used, serviced, and deleted promptly. With test environment management, test engineers can easily analyze software capability. This is because proper test environment management allows test engineers to measure test environment maturity properly. For this reason, there are tools like Test Environment Management Maturity index (TEMMi) to help firms understand test environment management.

Author

This post was written by Ukpai Ugochi. Ukpai is a full stack JavaScript developer (MEVN), and she contributes to FOSS in her free time. She loves to share knowledge about her transition from marine engineering to software development to encourage people who love software development and don't know where to begin.

Comparing Configuration and Asset Management

When you’re running an IT organization, it’s not just the business that you have to take care of. One part of running a business is building, creating, and providing what your customers need. The other part is management. Out of all the things you have to manage, configurations and assets are two of the most important.

Although people often think of configuration management and asset management as the same thing, but they are different. People also sometimes confuse these terms with each other. So, in this post, I’ll explain what configuration management and asset management are and how they’re different. Let’s start by understanding each of these terms.

What Is Configuration Management?

Configuration management is the management of configuration items. So, what are configuration items?

Configuration Items

Any organization provides certain services. These services might be the ones being provided to customers or to internal users. Either way, creating and providing these services requires some components. So, any component that needs to be managed to deliver services is called a “configuration item.”

Too confusing? No worries—I’ll explain with an example. Consider that you’re providing a service that tracks an organization’s user data. In this case, you can consider the software to be the component that needs to be managed. It’s important that you manage this software to make sure your service works fine. This means that your software is a configuration item. Another way of defining a configuration item is that it’s a component that’s subject to change to make the service delivery better.

What Information Is to Be Managed?

When you manage the attributes of such configuration items, that’s configuration management. So, what kind of information do you have to manage? You have to manage attributes such as ownership, versioning, licensing, and types. Let’s consider an example in which you’re using software for internal tasks.

Now you’ve identified that the software that provides service is your configuration item. The next step is to manage information related to that software. The software developer will have released different versions of the software with updates and new features. You obviously look out for better versions of the software or the version that best suits your requirements. One piece of information that you have to manage is the details of the software versions.

Another example is when you’re using licensed software. The software will be licensed to a particular person or company, and the license will be valid for a certain period of time. Such information becomes the attribute you have to manage. Now that you know what configuration management is, let me tell you a little about how it’s done.

Configuration Management Database

An easy way to manage information on configuration items is by using a configuration management database (CMDB). A configuration management database is just like any other database that stores data, but it specifically stores information related to configuration items.

Configuration Management System

Configuration management isn’t easy. You have to take care of lots of tasks, such as tracking the data and adding and modifying configuration items. To make configuration management easy, you can use a configuration management system (CMS), which is software that helps you manage your configuration items. A typical CMS provides functions for storing and managing CI data, auditing configuration, making changes to the configurations, and so on.

Now that you know what configuration management is, let’s talk about asset management.

Asset Management

In generic terms, anything that’s useful is an asset. If you own a house or a property, that’s an asset for you. So is your car or your phone. When it comes to an organization, anything that’s useful to the organization is an asset. Assets can be capital, office property, the servers locked in your highly secured server room, and so on. But IT assets aren’t limited to physical or material things. The knowledge stored in your employees’ brains is also a valuable asset to your organization.

So, basically, tracking and managing the assets of your organization throughout its life cycle is asset management. The main aim of asset management is to create processes and strategies that help in managing assets properly. The asset management process starts right from the moment of acquiring the asset until disposing of the asset.

For example, let’s say you have an organization that builds and manages web applications. As part of this, you own some servers that you host the web applications on. You also have some databases where you store data for your clients. In this case, your asset management process starts from the time you bought the servers and the databases. You have to manage the buying, maintenance, and inventory costs. Along with that, you also have to take care of regular updates, audits, security implementations, and any changes that you make. This asset management goes on either until the assets are damaged or until they stop being useful to your organization and are disposed.

Asset management directly involves finance. You have to consider the inventory, governance, and regulatory compliance along with the financial aspects in asset management.

Why Do You Need Asset Management?

Asset management helps you understand your financial flow and how to efficiently plan your finances. You can easily track your asset throughout its life cycle. This helps you analyze incidents if something went wrong. Management of assets improves your assets’ quality and performance, which helps your business.

The asset management process helps you stay compliant with various rules and regulations. This improves the quality of your business and also saves you money on audits and fines. Because asset management lets you track your assets, you can plan more efficient strategies for operations.

Configuration Management vs. Asset Management

Now that I’ve explained each of these terms, I hope you understand what they mean. At some point, you might have felt that they were the same. To eliminate any lingering confusion, let me highlight the differences between them.

Asset management is managing anything valuable to your organization. You can consider configuration management to be part of asset management. Configuration management mainly focuses on managing configuration items and their attributes. These attributes mainly affect the delivery of the service.

In the case of asset management, it’s more of a financial perspective. You track the asset to understand the financial flow and need for that asset throughout its life cycle.

To understand the difference, let’s take an example of a hardware component that you’re using—let’s say, a database. When you’re using a database, the database itself becomes an asset. You have to manage the maintenance, track the asset, conduct audits, and so on. This is asset management. The same database will have software versions. Keeping track of the software version, updating it, and tracking which other components it works with becomes part of configuration management.

Configuration management and asset management might sound the same at a high level, but they have different purposes and are implemented differently. Understanding such terms with the help of an example really makes it easy to understand the differences, hopefully, the explanations and examples here have helped you.

Author

This post was written by Omkar Hiremath. Omkar uses his BE in computer science to share theoretical and demo-based learning on various areas of technology, like ethical hacking, Python, blockchain, and Hadoop.

DevOps Tool CHain

What Is a DevOps Toolchain and Why Have One?

DevOps is not a technology, it’s an approach. Though there’s flexibility in how to use it, there’s also the added responsibility of using it in the best possible way. The whole idea of DevOps is to make the software development process smoother and faster. And one of the most important decisions needed to achieve this is to decide on the right toolchain.

So in this article, I’ll tell you what a DevOps toolchain is and why you should have one.

What Is a DevOps Toolchain?

The whole DevOps practice stands on two main pillars: continuous integration and continuous delivery. This means that the changes and upgrades to a product must be integrated at greater frequency, and they should be available to the users at greater speed. A DevOps toolchain is a set of tools that helps you achieve this. But why are multiple tools needed? Why not just use one? That’s because DevOps is a practice that has different stages. To help you understand this, I’ll take you through the different stages of a software development pipeline that’s based on a DevOps approach and review what tools you can use.

DevOps Tool CHain

Planning

The first step of doing anything is planning, and that holds true for DevOps as well. Planning includes the personnel inside the organization as well as the clients. Both need to have a clear understanding of what they want to build and how they are going to do it. Therefore, transparency plays an important role. You can use tools like Slack, Trello, and Asana for the planning stage.

Collaboration

The beauty of DevOps is that it requires multiple teams to collaborate and work together for efficient software delivery. Once the planning is done, you need to focus on collaboration. Collaboration happens between people from different teams, who might have different working styles or live in different time zones. Easy collaboration requires transparency and good communication. Some of the tools available for collaboration include Slack, Flowdock, WebEx, and Skype.

Source Control

Source control aka version control means managing your source code. In DevOps, where there are frequent updates to the source code, it’s important that you handle it carefully. This means you need a tool that can manage the source code and make different branches available as required, especially when multiple teams are working on a single product. Some of the most popular source control tools are Git and Subversion.

Tracking Issues

You should also be ready for issue occurrence. And when it comes to issue handling, tracking the issue plays an important role. Issues should be tracked in a transparent way that provides all the necessary details required to properly resolve them, and improved tracking results in faster resolution. You might want to consider using tools like Jira, Zendesk, Backlog, and Bugzilla.

Continuous Integration

This stage, as mentioned earlier, is one of the most important parts of the DevOps practice. This is the stage where modular code updates are integrated into the product to make frequent releases. It’s commonly known to developers that the code doesn’t always work smoothly when it makes it to production. You need a tool that helps with easy integration, detecting bugs, and fixing them. Jenkins, Bamboo, Travis, and TeamCity are some of the most popular tools.

Configuration Management

When developing a product, you will have to use different systems. Configuration management tools help you in maintaining consistency across systems by configuring all the systems automatically for you. They basically configure and update your systems as and when required. The configuration management tools that are heard of quite often are Ansible, Puppet, and Chef.

Repository Management

DevOps teams work together to release updates as soon as possible, and when multiple teams are working on them, there will be an update every day or maybe even every hour. With this frequency, it’s important to have a tool that manages binary artifacts and metadata. The repository management tools help push the product or a part of the product from the development environment to the production environment. Some well-known tools for repository management are Nexus and Maven.

Monitoring

Monitoring helps you understand how good or bad the release was. When there are frequent updates to your product, you can’t expect every release to perform well. Sometimes certain releases break the product, create security issues, decrease the performance, or bring down the user experience. The best way to understand what your update has resulted in is by monitoring it. Monitoring tools help you decide whether your release needs aid or not. You can use tools like Sensu, Prometheus, or Nagios.

Automated Testing

You’d for sure want to test your code before making it available to the users. When continuous delivery is the goal, manual testing would slow down the process. Automated testing makes the testing process faster because the tool does the testing, and the computer is faster than a human being. Also, there is no chance of human errors. But you have to make sure that the automated testing tool you choose is efficient and reliable because you cannot afford to have any mistakes here. A few tools you can choose for automated testing are QTP and TestComplete.

Deployment

This is the stage that actually delivers your product and its updates to the end users, and there are a few things that may go wrong here. The main purpose of deployment tools is to make continuous and faster delivery possible. Some of the most popular tools used for deployment are IBM uDeploy and Atlassian Bamboo.

Now that you understand what a DevOps toolchain is and which are some of the most used tools in the industry, let’s understand why it’s important to have a DevOps toolchain.

Why You Should Have a DevOps Toolchain

A DevOps toolchain is needed to maximize the positive outcome of DevOps practice, and it’s achieved when you choose your toolset wisely. A wisely chosen DevOps toolchain will show how the DevOps approach helps you build high-quality products with fewer errors and enhanced user satisfaction.

The first advantage of using a DevOps toolchain is that it decreases the defects and increases the quality of your products. Because of features like automated testing and error-checking deployment tools, there is also less room for errors. This is good for your business and the reputation of your company.

The second advantage is that a DevOps toolchain helps you innovate your product faster. Because the toolchain results in faster planning, building, testing, and deploying, you have more opportunities to innovate. The more innovative your product is, the more business you get.

The final advantage is related to incident handling. The toolchain helps you identify and manage major incidents. Doing so facilitates finding solutions to the incidents faster and letting the respective team know about the incident. This helps improve the support and quality of the product.

In Conclusion

Now that you’ve read about what the DevOps toolchain is and why you need it, it’s time to choose which ones are right for you. Even though I’ve mentioned a number of tools for various purposes, the ones you pick will differ based on what best suits your use case. There’s no universal toolchain that works best for everyone. You’ll know what’s best for you only after you understand your requirements and then choose the tools accordingly.

Author

This post was written by Omkar Hiremath. Omkar uses his BE in computer science to share theoretical and demo-based learning on various areas of technology, like ethical hacking, Python, blockchain, and Hadoop.

How Many Test Environments Do I Need? 

Having a set of test environments properly configured and managed is essential for modern software organizations. Creating and configuring such environments is part of a solid test environment management strategy. Unfortunately, as with many things in software development, this is easier said than done. There are many questions that need answering. For instance: how many test environments do I need?

 

How-Many-Environments

The short, correct, but also totally frustrating answer is—you’ve guessed it—it depends. Like most things in our industry, there isn’t a one-size-fits-all solution.

 

This post features a longer, (hopefully) not frustrating version of the answer above. Answering “it depends” without explaining which things it depends on makes for a useless answer, so we won’t do that. Instead, we’ll cover the factors you have to take into account when making the decision on how many environments your organization needs. The most obvious one is probably organization size, but, as you’ll see, it’s not the only one.

Let’s begin.

What Are Test Environments?

Before we get into the factors we’ve mentioned, we have some explaining to do. Or, rather, some defining. In this section, we’ll define test environments. You’ll learn what they are and why do you need them.

Of course, if you’re already experienced in managing test environments—or have enough familiarity with the term—feel free to skip to the next section with a clear conscience.

A testing environment is a setup of software, hardware, and data that allows your testing professionals to execute test cases. For the test environment to be effective, you have to configure it, so it closely resembles the production environment.

As we’ve already covered, there are many types of test environments. Which ones your organization will need depends on several factors, such as the test cases itself, the type of the software under test, and many more. Since that’s the main topic of this post, we’ll get there in a minute.

But first, let’s quickly cover some of the main types of test environments available.

How Many Test Environments Do I Need? The Bare Minimum

We’re about to cover the main factors for deciding which and how many environments your organization should adopt. Before we get there, though, let’s talk about the bare minimum number of environments you need.

Development

The first obvious and indispensable one is the development environment. For some of you, it might sound weird to think of the dev environment as a testing environment, but it is. Developers should constantly test the code they write, not only manually (via building the application and performing quick manual tests) but also automatically, through unit tests.

You might consider the development environment an exception in the sense that, unlike most other environments, it doesn’t need to mimic production too closely. For instance, I have seen people argue that developers that create desktop apps shouldn’t use the best machines available. Instead, they should adopt computers that are close in configuration to those their clients use, so they can feel how the software is going to run. That’s nonsense. Developers should use the better and fastest machines their companies can afford, so their work is done most effectively. If performance is an issue, there should be a performance testing phase (and environment) to handle that.  The same goes for other characteristics of the production environment that don’t make sense for developers.

CI (Integration)

What I’m calling here the “CI environment” could also be simply called the test environment, or even integration test environment.

Here is the first step in the CI pipeline after the developer commits their code and push it to the server. The CI server builds the application, running whatever additional steps are adequate, such as documentation generation, version number bumping, and so on. Just building the code is already a type of test. It might help detect dependency issues, eliminating the “but it works on my machine!” problem.

If the application is successfully built, unit/integration tests are executed. This step is vital since it might be slow for developers to run all of the existing tests often in their environments. Instead, they might run only a subset of tests on their environments, and the CI server will take care of running the whole suite after each check-in/push.

QA

Then we have what we’ll call the QA environment. Here is where end-to-end tests are run, manually, automatically, or both. End-to-end testing, also called functional tests, are the types of tests that exercise the whole application, from the UI to the database and back again. This type of testing checks whether the integration between different modules of the software work, as well as the integrations between the software and external concerns, such as the database, network, and the filesystem. As such, it’s a really essential type of testing for most types of software.

Production

Finally, we have the production environment. For many years “testing in production” was seen as the worst sin of testing. Not anymore. Testing is production is not only forgivable but desirable. Practices like canary releases are vital for companies that deploy several times a day since it allows them to achieve shorter release cycles while keeping the high quality of the application. A/B testing can also be seen as a form of testing in production, and it’s essential for organizations that need to learn about their users’ experience when using their software. Finally, some forms of testing, like load testing, would be useless if performed on any environment other than production.

Which and How Many Environments Do You Need? Here Are the Criteria You Should Use to Decide

Having covered the bare minimum environments most organizations need, it’s time to move on. Now we’ll cover the main factors you need to weigh when deciding your testing approach. Let’s go.

Organization Size

The size of the organization matters when deciding which environments it needs. One of the ways this matter is in regards to personnel. Since larger companies have more people, they can afford to have entire teams or even departments dedicated to designing, performing, and maintaining certain types of testing, which includes taking care of the required environment.

Companies of different sizes also have different testing needs due to the software they create. It’s likely that larger companies produce more complex software, which would demand a larger pipeline. The inverse is also likely true for smaller companies.

Finally, organization size often correlates with the stage in which the company finds itself. That’s what we’re covering next.

Organization’s Life Phase

Do you remember when Facebook’s motto was, “Move fast and break things?”  It’s been a few years since they changed it to “Move fast, with stable infra.” While the new motto is definitely not as catchy as the previous one—some might say it’s even boring—it makes sense, given where the company stands now.

Startups have different testing needs than most established companies. Their priorities aren’t the same since they’re at very different points in their lifecycles.

For startups, beating their competitors to market might be more valuable than releasing flawless products. Established companies, on the other hand, will probably place “stability in the long term” way higher in the scale. They have their reputation at the stakes. If they’re public, they have to generate results for shareholders.

Therefore, more established companies will usually employ a testing strategy that adopts more environment, and it’s probably more expensive, and definitely slower. But such a strategy might give them the reassurance they need. On the other hand, startups that value time to market might choose a more streamlined pipeline, with fewer environments. Such an approach might be cheaper, easier to build and manage, but will give fewer guarantees than the more heavy-weight approach of the enterprise.

Software Type

The type of software developed is a huge factor when it comes to testing. A database-based web application with a rich user interface will require UI and end-to-end testing, for instance, while a library will not.

Similarly, user-acceptance testing makes sense for applications targeted at final users. For libraries and frameworks, unit and integration tests might suffice. You might have even more specific needs, such as integration with custom hardware, which can require more environments.

The type of software will dictate the required types of testing, which, in turn, will help you decide on the environments.

Domain or Industry

Some industries are highly regulated, while others are less regulated or non-regulated at all. That also has a huge impact on an organization’s testing approach. Domains like financial services and healthcare come to mind.

Your company might need to adhere to rules, regulations, or norms that govern whatever industry it operates in. That might require you have an additional environment in order to test that the product is compliant with these rules.

Time for the Verdict

So, based on all that we’ve just seen. How does one choose which test environments their organization needs? We’ll now, as promised in the title, offer you a quick recipe, or a step-by-step guide.

  1. Start with the basics. Meaning, start with the bare minimum environments we’ve mentioned and then build upon it as your requirements change.
  2. Consider the organization’s size and stage in life. Take into account the values and priorities of the organization (time to market vs. stability, disruption vs. market share, etc.), available personnel, and budget.
  3. Take into account the type of software you make and the industry you belong to.

With that in mind, make your decision. If your organization makes a picture editing app for Android and iOs, you might want to have (besides the obvious dev and prod):

  • The CI environment to perform unit and integration tests.
  • A QA environment to help you with end-to-end/integration tests, using both emulation and real devices.
  • An acceptance testing environment, where stakeholders give the final sign-off for the app’s release.

But if you’re creating a banking application, you could add an additional security and compliance environment. (Keep in mind that this is just an example. I’m not well-acquainted with the financial domain.)

Final Considerations

Test environment management is vital for the modern software delivery process. One of the decisions a test environment manager needs to make is how many environments to use. As you’ve seen, there is no one-size-fits-all answer, but that’s no reason to despair. There are objective criteria you should use to help you with your decision.

The journey isn’t easy, but this blog has many articles that can help you master test environment management and take your organization’s testing approach to new levels.

Author

This post was written by Carlos Schults. Carlos is a .NET software developer with experience in both desktop and web development, and he’s now trying his hand at mobile. He has a passion for writing clean and concise code, and he’s interested in practices that help you improve app health, such as code review, automated testing, and continuous build.

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Types of Testing Environments

Today, we’re talking about types of testing environments. But first, let’s establish some basic definitions.

Software testing is a process that verifies that the software works as expected in test environments. The verification is done through a set of automated or manual steps called test cases.

A test environment is a combination of hardware, software, data, and configuration that’s required to execute test cases. You have to be sure to configure the testing environments to mimic production scenarios.

Types of Test Environments

There are many types of test environments. Which ones you’ll need depends on the test cases and the application under test. A thick-client desktop application serves a different need than a web application does. As a result, the test environments required for a desktop application are different than those for a web application.

This post is a complete guide on types of testing environments and how often they’re used. The post also explains how testing environments fit into the pace of modern software development practices.

1. Integration Testing Environment

The first on our list of testing environment types is the integration testing environment. 

In this type of environment, you integrate the individual software modules and then verify the behavior of the integrated system. A set of integration tests are used to check that the system behaves as specified in the requirements document. In an integration testing environment, you can integrate one or more modules of your application and verify the functional correctness.

The environment setup depends on the type of application and the components being tested. Setting up this environment usually involves ensuring the availability of the right hardware, the right software version, and the right configuration. Integration testing environments should mimic production scenarios as closely as possible. This includes the configuration and management of application servers, web servers, databases, and all the infrastructure needs of the application.

With the modern DevOps approach to software development, where continuous testing is a norm, an integration testing environment will probably be used daily or multiple times a day. Therefore, the ability to recreate the environment at will is paramount to an effective software delivery process.

2. Performance Testing Environment

Next on our list is a performance testing environment. You use this environment to determine how well a system performs against performance goals. The performance goals in question can be concurrency, throughput, response time, and stability.

Performance testing is a very broad term and usually includes volume, load, stress, and breakpoint testing. A good performance testing environment plays a crucial role in benchmarking and identifying bottlenecks in the system.

The setup of a performance testing environment can be fairly complex. It requires the careful selection and configuration of the infrastructure. You’ll run your performance tests on multiple environments with a different configuration that varies by

  • Number of CPU cores,
  • Size of RAM,
  • Concurrent users,
  • Volume of data,

You’ll then document and publish the results as system benchmarks and compare this with the performance goals of the software.

After that, in a performance testing environment, the software teams take a closer look at the system behavior and related events such as scaling and alerting. From there, they’ll carefully tune them if needed.

Performance tests are usually time-consuming and expensive. Therefore, setting up performance testing environments and running these tests for every change can be counterproductive and is usually not recommended. That’s why software teams only run these performance tests on a per-requirement basis, which could be once a month, for every major release, or whenever there are significant changes in the application.

3. Security Testing Environment

Let’s now discuss security testing environments. When working with this type of environment, security teams try to ensure that the software doesn’t have security flaws and vulnerabilities in the areas of confidentiality, integrity, authentication, authorization, and non-repudiation.

Organizations usually engage a combination of internal and external (from a different organization) security experts who specialize in identifying security vulnerabilities in software. During this process, it’s crucial to establish a thorough scope that defines exactly which systems will be targeted, which methods will be used, and when the assessment will take place.

As part of a good security testing environment setup procedure, you’ll want to establish some ground rules, such as

  • Have an isolated test environment.
  • Have non-disclosure agreements in place.
  • Don’t leave the system in a worse state.
  • Don’t touch production data.

This is especially applicable when engaging external security companies.

Different parts of security tests can happen at different frequencies and different stages of the software delivery process. A successful software team usually executes vulnerability assessments, scans, audits, and any other non-invasive tests more frequently when compared to invasive tests like penetration tests. Automating security tests that are non-invasive and running them as often as possible, perhaps alongside integration tests, helps maintain a security baseline.

On the other hand, executing advanced invasive tests requires a good understanding of the software and the potential attack surfaces. Carrying out sophisticated attacks on the software by penetration testing requires the expertise of the security specialists. This is not something that you can easily automate, and it requires a lot of effort. Therefore, you’ll run these tests less frequently.

4. Chaos Testing Environment

According to the book Chaos Engineering, “Chaos engineering is the discipline of experimenting on a system to build confidence in the system’s capability to withstand turbulent conditions in production.”

Understanding how the failures of individual parts of the system can potentially cascade and ruin the whole system is the ultimate goal of chaos testing. By using fault injection techniques, software teams build an in-depth understanding of critical dependencies of their system and how software fails.

With that definition in mind, let’s talk about the final environment on our list: the chaos testing environment.

If you have a modern web application with a microservice architecture, where different independent services make up the application, then setting up a reliable chaos testing environment is crucial. These environments must be set up in the same way as your production environments are, and they must be configured for scale and high availability.

Having an environment to test the high-availability, disaster recovery, and business continuity provisions configured in each service crucial to improving the reliability of your whole system. It’s equally important to test how the dependent services behave in these failure modes. Disaster recovery drills or game days are excellent opportunities to run these tests and identify the potential weak links in modern, large-scale applications. Software teams usually run the chaos experiments less frequently and mostly alongside the performance tests.

Other Considerations

Finally, I’d like to close out with some other considerations you should take into account:

  • While there are other types of tests, such as usability testing, accessibility testing, and testing for internationalization and localization, these tests don’t need a separate testing environment. They can reuse the integration testing environment or any of the other setups.
  • The number of test environments you have to manage also depends on the number of platforms that the software needs to support and be compatible with. Factors such as supported operating systems, processor architectures, and different screen sizes all come into play.
  • There is, of course, no place like production, which in itself is the ultimate test environment for any application. Product teams engage in the responsible collection of user data in production. This helps product teams to collect telemetry data about how users engage with their applications. Consequently, they use practices like A/B testing and feature toggles to improve their chances of success.
  • The data used in different environments also needs to be realistic. Having tools to back up and simultaneously anonymize and hide personally identifiable data can be very useful in testing scenarios.

Managing Test Environments

Test environment management is a crucial aspect of the software delivery process. Incorrect environment setup leads to inconsistent test results. This leads to friction and blame among the stakeholders, who ultimately lose confidence in the test results.

This post described the commonly used test environments and things to consider when setting up and managing them. The ability to spin up testing environments on demand is crucial to successfully managing your test environments. You can read more on this topic in our post called “Are you TEM Savvy,” which is an excellent piece full of useful tips on managing reliable and consistent test environments.

 

Author

This post was written by Gurucharan Subramani. Gurucharan is a software engineer who likes to get .NET, Azure, and Azure DevOps to not just meet but to also dance. Some days, Guru is a dev; other days, he's ops. And he's frequently many things in between. He's a community advocate who leads the Bangalore Azure User Group and is a member of the .NET Foundation.

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Test Environment Management 10 Essential Practices

Introduction

A test environment is a setup for the testing team where they execute test cases. This environment comprises software, hardware, and network configuration. The setup of a test environment depends on the application under test. A complete setup helps testers carry out their tasks without any system side hurdles. Finally, the setup helps improve the quality of the final product.

 

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In this post, we’ll get to know why managing your test environment is important. After that, we’ll discuss 10 best practices for test environment management. By following these best practices, the testing team of your company can efficiently manage test data in a way that the data can be reused. The best practices will also enable your team to complete their task by following data privacy regulations and to ensure client satisfaction. So, let’s get started.

Importance of Test Environment Management

As technology evolves, requirements keep changing. For instance, with Angular dominating the UI domain, the demand for single-page applications has increased a lot. Cost, time, and quality are the most important factors to check for every business. Every firm aims for the appropriate budget and ample time before starting a project. But somehow, these two entities face the most shortage. Well, we don’t live in an ideal world, do we? Sometimes, due to time and budget constraints, the quality of the end product declines.

But budget and time shortages don’t mean that you should compromise on the testing phase. Software testing is a tricky process with the involvement of several dependencies.

Testing is a crucial activity of the software development life cycle (SDLC) and can determine a product’s fate. Therefore, the test environment has to be reliable. Do you want to disappoint customers with a product that has many critical bugs because of improper testing? No matter whether you’re a start-up or an established company, never overlook the importance of testing. For getting the highest accuracy in test results, your team needs proper test environment management.

If a team doesn’t give importance to test environment management, it results in poor handling of assets. This includes time and budget. When a company can’t handle these in the right way, quality suffers. Thus, to maintain a high quality of products and services offered, it’s essential to manage the test environment. Before getting on to the best practices, take a look at these metrics, which will help you to measure and improve your test environment.

10 Best Practices for Test Environment Management

Now that we know why managing a test environment is important, let’s get started with the 10 best practices for test environment management.

1. Begin Testing Exercise at an Early Stage in the SDLC

Even though most firms know the importance of testing early, very few successfully implement it. When teams don’t test early, it leads to bugs at a later stage. Fixing them requires more time, effort, and money. As a result, it disrupts the management of the test environment. When the development team has composed even a few lines of code, testing exercises should start. The team should also follow the shift-left approach. This involves performing testing earlier in the product’s life cycle. The process results in fewer bugs to fix in the end. Hence, it saves time and cuts down costs.

2. Demand Awareness and Management of Knowledge

When customers make a demand, a company must develop a product in a way that satisfies that demand. When team members keep client needs in mind during development, the outcomes are close to what the client expects. Thus, it’s important to use a test environment management strategy according to customer needs. Testers writing a test case should develop a knowledge base according to demands. The business analyst also needs to keep updated documents that contain the current as well as changed requirements. In this way, if there is a case of updating the test environment, it keeps other team members in line with what’s going on.

3. Conduct Iterative Tests

Most companies are adopting agile as part of their framework. Agile follows a sprint-based approach. It also involves testing in iterations. That means the entire product is divided into small phases. Each phase has its development and testing cycle. The entire process reveals bugs early, which makes fixing them easier. Iterative tests increase the flexibility of the SDLC. The client can change the scope in case the need arises without it being a burden to the budget. Since the team handles bugs at every sprint, there doesn’t end up being an overload of them at the end of the project. Thus, managing risks becomes easier.

4. Plan and Coordinate

Planning is very important while managing the test environment. Testing and development teams often don’t have separate test assets. So, test environment managers should plan schedules for both teams. They should ensure proper coordination to avoid conflicts. Sometimes, shared usage of resources can give rise to certain conflicts. For instance, if there are few iOS systems in your team to develop and test iOS apps, conflict may arise regarding which team will use the systems and when. Planning and coordination is a must to maintain transparency among teams and team members. Apart from that, proper communication with clients is important to keep them updated on their requirements. Check out this use case, which will help you to effectively plan and use your resources.

5. Reuse the Test Resources and Test Cases

Reusing test resources helps save money for a company. It frees up the firm of the need to tap new resources every time a new project begins. Even though every application is unique, many have some generic areas. That’s where the option of reusing test cases increases. Reusing test cases reduces redundancy. It eliminates the need for writing a different script each time you’re testing new features. For instance, all e-commerce stores have a shopping cart. Thus, testers can use the script for testing the “add to cart” feature of another app. It won’t matter if they’ve already used it before since the feature is the same.

6. Implement Standardization and Automation

It’s important for testers to analyze the validity of tests. But this requires a benchmark. Defining test environment standards makes it possible to set up a benchmark for running the test cases. After setting these standards, it’s time to automate. Some things that can use automation include deployment, build, and shakedown. Automation can save time, resources, and manual efforts that can be put to better use later. Configuration management becomes a lot easier when the dependency on manual testers lessens. Automated TEM tools reduce the number of test environments in a test bed. As a result, it improves test environment provisioning time. Besides this, the costs incurred are lower.

7. Use Testing Techniques According to Needs

I’m going to cite a situation that you must have come across many times. There are times when something seems impossible at first. But if you break it down into chunks, it doesn’t seem overwhelming. Taking it one step at a time makes things simple. In most cases, with this approach, you succeed. Similarly, for test environment management, first, analyze the test structure. Then break down massive loads of tasks into manageable pieces. After that, understand the steps and the needs for performing each. Figure out the test endeavors and take the necessary steps. According to the need, pick out the testing techniques and implement them. For example, you can use containers to improve your system’s security and agility.

8. Mask and Encrypt Test Data

With advancement in technology, cyberthreats have increased. Endpoint devices are usually the starting point of the majority of data breaches. Not only are they a threat to users, but they also pose great hazards to companies as well. So, companies should mask and encrypt user data. Not only that, every company should avoid using real customer data during testing. Firms should ensure data compliance with PII or GDPR standards. Some processes to ensure data compliance are ETL automation, service virtualization, and data fabrication.

9. Implement Processes According to Stakeholder Requirements and the Company’s Culture

Stakeholders are the most important component determining the success of a business. They’re the ones giving the requirements. The entire team has to work according to their needs. But it’s important that their needs are in line with the company’s culture. Sometimes companies don’t have the means to ensure the fulfillment of customer requirements. This results in an unsatisfied client, which can be fatal for a company. The testing team should have pre-configured assets before they start testing. A client doesn’t forgive any unresolved bug in the later stages. For instance, if an e-commerce app in production charges the customer twice for a transaction, it can create chaos. As a result, the reputation of the company can suffer. You can take a look at this blog to analyze and refine your company’s current capabilities.

10. Convey the Right Status of the Task

Legitimate and correct correspondence is a must to ensure a smooth flow of work. If the conveying of information goes wrong, it can cost a firm its reputation. The objective of a project should be clear to all in the beginning. Team members should share the task status with the right group of people. The timing of conveying information is also important for a fruitful task.

Suppose you need a specific set of data for executing a test case. Whenever you’re stuck with that test case, convey the blockage-related information with the concerned person. Don’t just inform your QA lead. Inform the scrum master or your QA manager as well. They’ll take care of the issue so that you can smoothly carry out your task. If you hesitate regarding whom to ask, a delay in testing will occur. Before the project starts, the entire team should have clarity about whom to contact in case of emergencies or sharing daily task statuses

What Drives Appropriate Test Environment Management?

The processes for end-to-end testing should be transparent for managing your test environment. The key factors driving smooth management include the following:

  1. Resource management: Use a resource properly and assign the right task to the right person.
  2. Efficient planning: Plan a successful test cycle at each sprint that results in a bug-free end product.
  3. Process optimization: Adjust the entire test process in a way that the resources give their best output.
  4. Test automation: Automate every repetitive task that seems to waste manual labor.

Software testing is tricky. To achieve high accuracy, setting up a test environment close to a real-life scenario is important. To set up such an environment, proper planning and management are musts. Scenarios change and test environments evolve. Thus, a test environment management strategy is vital for firms. A combination of the above practices increases productivity. At the same time, test environment management practices also reduce costs and accelerate releases

Author: Arnab Roy Chowdhury

This post was written by Arnab Roy Chowdhury. Arnab is a UI developer by profession and a blogging enthusiast. He has strong expertise in the latest UI/UX trends, project methodologies, testing, and scripting.

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7 Metrics for Configuration Management

Years ago, a company might have released a software suite and then proverbially kicked back in a chair with its feet on a desk basking in celebration.

Suffice it to say that the software world moves much faster today. It seems as though there are some companies that push out new updates every few days. And thanks to microservices architecture and the DevOps mindset, there are many companies that are constantly updating their software or at least some feature in it.

Pumping out release after release isn’t easy. With so many moving parts and so much riding on each new update, companies need to do everything within their power to ensure that releases are well-received by users.

That starts with getting their development house in order through a process known as configuration management.

seven-metrics

 

What Is Configuration Management?

Configuration management is the process in which organizations and development teams oversee new software updates to ensure they are working as designed when bugs are fixed, new features are introduced and old features are decommissioned.

Thanks to configuration management, organizations can gain full visibility into the development lifecycle and easily identify errors that may need to be fixed.

If you’re thinking about implementing configuration management at your organization, that’s great news. But like anything else, you can’t just expect configuration management to solve all of your problems on its own. You need the right approach.

With that in mind, let’s take a look at seven different configuration management metrics you can track to increase the chances that your initiatives help you achieve results. Keep track of these metrics and work hard to improve them over time, and you’ll build better applications that are better received by your users.

1. Frequency of Updates

Some companies are perfectly fine with shipping updates once a quarter or even once a year. Other companies pride themselves on pumping out new updates every month, and some might aim to release even more new software packages than that.

Every software company has unique goals. It might not matter how regularly your software is updated, but it might matter how consistently it is. Your users will expect at least some rhyme and reason to the number of updates you pump out.

Keeping track of the frequency of updates metric will help you make sure you are meeting your company’s goals and satisfying customer expectations. If you’re not shipping releases as frequently as you’d like, you might want to drill deeper and find out why.

2. Release Downtime Metrics

We all know how applications should work. When they don’t work as designed, we’re unable to get things done quickly. Depending on how bad the problem gets, it’s easy to get frustrated to the point a user starts thinking about whether they should find a substitute solution.

End users depend on your software. For a business user, that might mean a platform they use to store information and communicate with colleagues. It might mean a place they store code for a developer. And for a regular customer it might be a social network they use every day to meet new people.

Whatever the case may be, the moment you are unable to meet user expectations might be the moment your users begin an exodus.

Worse than that, downtime can be prohibitively expensive. In fact, a recent Gartner report found that downtime can cost as much as $540,000 per hour.

Keeping track of how much downtime you incur (if any) while a new update is released can help you maintain positive and productive user experiences. In the event there is downtime during a new release, you can quickly identify what happened and take steps to reduce the chances it happens again.

Add it all up, and keeping tabs of this metric can help you provide better experiences while increasing profitability.

3. Average Number of Errors

In a perfect world, your developers would write flawless code every day, and each new release would ship with perfect code. But we live in the real world where people do make mistakes.

Of course, it’s in your best interest to work as hard as you can to keep those mistakes down to a minimum. By keeping track of the average number of errors in each new software release, you can identify areas in your workflow that could be improved. This may help you catch mistakes earlier in the process.

For example, you might realize that a new adding a new tool to your DevOps team’s arsenal can help your release smoother updates every time.

At the very least, tracking this metric provides an easy mechanism to determine whether your team is trending in the right direction, i.e., making fewer errors as time goes on.

4. Code Lines Per Update

The point of writing is to convey a point to your readers. Unless the author is getting paid per-word, writers should state their case in as little words as possible. The question is what day is it today? It’s not do you have any idea as to which 24-hour period we are currently in the middle of?

In the world of software development, the same maxim holds true. You don’t need 100 lines of code when a single line will do the same trick.

Keeping track of code lines per update can help you ensure that you are writing software efficiently. Depending on what your team’s workflows are like, you may be able to identify individual developers who are writing too many lines of code and have the more efficient coders give them a few pointers.

5. Rework Metrics

How many files does your team rework each month?

Developers don’t come cheap. The last thing you want to do is pay them to do the same work over and over again—whether that’s because someone did it incorrectly in the first place or because your team is struggling to communicate effectively.

Tracking rework metrics can help you make sure that the percent of rework your team does each month doesn’t increase in perpetuity. On the flipside, you may also be able to identify what you are doing that is decreasing rework. With that information on hand, you may be able to bake additional efficiencies into your development processes.

6. Frequently Changing Files

Track this metric to determine whether certain files are changing too frequently. If you find out that certain files are changing with each update, you may need to look into the issue a bit.

For example, you can determine why certain files are changing so often. Maybe it’s because developers aren’t sure of the requirements. Maybe it’s because there’s an issue with your testing and QA approach.

Whatever the case may be, this metric can help you add additional efficiencies into your development processes by reducing or eliminating duplicative work and rewriting inefficient code blocks as needed.

7. Root Causes for Late Delivery

As you optimize your release management workflows, everything should get more and more predictable.

Yet nobody can predict the future and nobody’s perfect. So things will invariably not go according to plan every now and again.

Configuration management lets you drill down into the root causes for late delivery.

Fingers crossed that you never run into any errors that slow down your releases. But in the event you do miss some deadlines, you may be able to start detecting a pattern as to why you are unable to meet them.

Armed with that information, you can begin working backward to identify what is causing delays and what you need to do to prevent that from happening in the future.

Are You Ready to Start Using Configuration Management?

Is your development team reaching its full potential and doing its best work? If not, it may be time to get started with configuration management. That way, you’ll be able to delight customers by meeting their expectations while avoiding downtime and increasing profitability.

And the best part? With the right tools in place, configuration management can largely be automated.

To learn more about how your DevOps team can integrate configuration management into their workflows to build better software more efficiently, take a look at Enov8.

Author Justin Reynolds

This post was written by Justin Reynolds. Justin is a freelance writer who enjoys telling stories about how technology, science, and creativity can help workers be more productive. In his spare time, he likes seeing or playing live music, hiking, and traveling.

ITIL4-Whats-Changed

ITIL 4.0: What Has Changed?

It’s hard to imagine a world that existed without technology. Yet it wasn’t so long ago when things like computers and the internet were brand-new and seemingly futuristic concepts. As computing infrastructure became increasingly widespread in the 1980s, the government of the United Kingdom issued a set of recommended standards that IT teams should follow because it realized that, at the time, everyone was just doing their own thing.

Shortly thereafter, the first iteration of Information Technology Infrastructure Library (ITIL) emerged, called the Government Information Technology Infrastructure Management (GITIM). These guidelines outlined a set of practices, processes, and policies organizations could follow to ensure their IT infrastructure was set up in such a way to support their business needs. The ITIL standards were inspired by the process-based management teachings of productivity and management guru W. Edwards Deming.

ITIL4-Whats-Changed

Over the years, we’ve seen many iterations of ITIL. The most recent version of the standards, ITIL 4, was released in February 2019. In large part, this iteration was influenced by the agile approach to software development and the rise of DevOps teams. Both of which have  transformed the way we think about technology. 

Keep reading this post to learn more about:

  • What ITIL is?
  • The pros and cons of ITIL?
  • How ITIL has changed over time?
  • How, specifically, the rise of agile workflows and DevOps teams impacted ITIL 4?

What Is ITIL?

Life would be difficult if it were impossible to learn from other people and we had to figure everything out by ourselves. Good thing that’s not the case.

At a very basic level, ITIL is a framework that outlines the best practice for delivering IT services throughout the entire lifecycle. Organizations that follow this framework put themselves in a great position to stay on the cutting edge of technology and leverage the latest tools and philosophies that drive leading innovators forward today. They are also able to respond to incidents faster and enact change management initiatives with more success.

At a high level, there are five core components of ITIL 4:

  1. Service value chain.
  2. Practices.
  3. Guiding principles.
  4. Governance.
  5. Continual improvement.

Now that we’ve got our definitions locked down, let’s shift our attention to the pros and cons of enacting ITIL at your organization.

What Are the Pros of ITIL? 

ITIL is popular for good reason. The framework helps organizations big and small optimize their IT infrastructure. It also helps them secure their networks and realize productivity gains.

More specifically, ITIL enables organizations to:

  • Keep IT aligned with business needs, ensuring that the right infrastructure is in place for the task at hand. For example, a team that has a mobile workforce should leverage cloud platforms that enable employees to work productively from any connected device.
  • Delight customers and strengthen user experiences by improving the delivery of IT services and maintaining a network and infrastructure that works as designed and meets modern expectations.
  • Reduce IT costs and eliminate unnecessary expenditures by ensuring that IT infrastructure is optimized and efficient. For example, if you’re storing petabytes of duplicative data for no reason, best practices would tell you that you need to do a lot of culling to save on storage costs.
  • Gain more visibility into IT expenses and infrastructure to better understand your network and detect inefficiencies that can be improved. For example, if your software development team has recently started using containers to build applications, you might not need to run as many virtual machines anymore, which drain more computing resources.
  • Increase uptime and availability due to increased resiliency and robust disaster recovery and business continuity plans. This is a big deal because downtime can be prohibitively expensive, depending on the scale of your organization. Just ask Amazon.
  • Future-proof tech infrastructure to support agile workflows and adaptability in an era where customer needs shift overnight and competitors are always just a few taps of a smartphone away.

What Are the Cons of ITIL? 

But like everything else, ITIL by itself is not a panacea. You can’t just hire some consultant who will preach the virtues of ITIL and expect to transform your IT operations overnight. 

While the benefits of the framework speak for themselves, you need to be realistic about shifting to a new approach to IT management. However, with the right approach—which includes training, patience, and reasonable expectations—your organization stands to benefit significantly by adopting ITIL.

How Has ITIL Changed Over the Years?

ITIL initially emerged because more and more organizations were using new technologies but nobody really knew how to manage them effectively. Companies were largely using technology because they could—not because they were making strategic investments to support their customers and business needs. The initial iteration of ITIL found that most companies had the same requirements and needs for their IT networks, regardless of size or industry.

At the turn of the millennium, the second iteration of ITIL came online. In large part, this version consolidated and simplified the teachings and documentation from the inaugural ITIL framework.

In May 2007, ITIL 3 came to the surface. This third iteration included a set of five reference books called Service Strategy, Service Design, Service Transition, Service Operation, and Continual Service Improvement. ITIL 3 picked up where ITIL 2 left off, further consolidating the framework to make it easier for organizations to implement.

Four years later, ITIL 3 was revised once more, primarily to maintain consistency as technology evolved.

Introducing ITIL 4

Fast forward to 2019, and the most recent version, ITIL 4, is where we’re at today. Quite simply, ITIL 4 was issued to align the standards with the agile and DevOps workflows that have grown to dominate technology teams over the last several years. ITIL 4 includes two core components: the four dimensions model and the service value system. 

At a high level, ITIL 4 represents more of a change in approach and philosophy than a change in content. Just as software teams adopt agile and DevOps workflows, IT must adopt a similar mindset if they wish to keep pace and support accelerated innovation. At the end of the day, IT is a cornerstone of the success of the modern organization. It’s imperative that IT support the new way of working if an organization wishes to reach its full potential.

How Have Agile and DevOps Impacted ITIL 4?

In the past, software teams would build monolithic applications and release maybe once a year. Today’s leading software development teams have embraced agile development and DevOps workflows. Slowly but surely, monthly releases are becoming the norm. Development is becoming more collaborative, too, with both colleagues and users steering the product roadmap.

ITIL 4 recognizes and supports this new way of working with new core messages:

  • Focus on value.
  • Start where you are.
  • Progress iteratively with feedback.
  • Collaborate and promote visibility.
  • Think and work holistically.
  • Keep it simple and practical.
  • Optimize and automate.

Where Does Your Organization Stand?

If your company hasn’t yet implemented ITIL, what are you waiting for?

Whether you’re a startup or your organization has been around forever, ITIL serves as a guiding framework. Follow it and it enables you to protect your networks, support your developers, and delight your customers. 

And what exactly is the alternative, anyway? Running your IT department like the Wild West?

With so much on the line, you can’t afford that risk. So become an ITIL-driven organization. That way, you’ll get the peace of mind that comes with knowing your networks and infrastructure are secure and support innovation and agility. 

What’s not to like?

Author Justin Reynolds

This post was written by Justin Reynolds. Justin is a freelance writer who enjoys telling stories about how technology, science, and creativity can help workers be more productive. In his spare time, he likes seeing or playing live music, hiking, and traveling.