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Top 7 challenges in Test Environment Management

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Software testing is an important task for modern businesses from many points of view. It helps identify software defects before release, achieve end-user satisfaction, improve the quality and safety of the software product itself, ensure faster time to market, which altogether affects business performance and leads to business growth.

With the advent of the digital age, software is becoming more and more sophisticated, the complexity of requirements for solution delivery is increasing, and this leads us to the fact that the above mentioned goals are getting harder to realize.

To test software products successfully, it is necessary to create and keep up-to-date test environments. This is where Test Environment Management comes into play.

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Test environments and Test Environment Management

A test environment is a space where certain software undergoes a number of experimental runs in order to reveal, and, ultimately, get rid of, bugs and errors. By “space” we mean a combination of hardware, operating systems, and cloud resources on which a separate clone of the main instance is located during the test process. Usually, more than one test environment is needed for each instance because there are different scenarios and circumstances against which the apps are tested, which means that each environment should be configured according to the needs of a certain system being tested. And when it comes to large enterprises, it takes hundreds or even thousands of test environments to keep up with a vast number of applications to test.

So, in order to be successful or, at least, stay afloat, businesses must find the balance between the software delivery speed, cost, and quality. And since money and especially time are limited resources in development, quality suffers first of all, which means that thinking through and implementing a testing strategy instantly becomes a low priority task.

In the meantime, no matter how limited the available resources are, tests must be still carried out, and, in order to ensure their effectiveness, an outline of the strategy is required to recreate conditions as close as possible to the real product (application data and application configuration, auxiliary software, etc.), or, in other words, to carry out Test Environment Management.

Top Test Environment Management сhallenges

Test environment management requires an integrated approach and is associated with a number of challenges, the main of which we’re going to deal with below.

1. Timely environment creation

This challenge is probably one of the most important ones when it comes to test environment management, as it is inextricably linked to the so-called TEM capability, or in other words, how fast and well your company responds to testing needs as they arise. Ideally, your environment should be created for different tests outlined in the definition of done (or, in rare cases, in the specific acceptance criteria) once a development team commits a candidate feature. However, if environment creation takes too much time, then your test team still has much to learn.

2. Test data reliability

You should clearly understand what quantitative and qualitative test results are a signal for you that the software product is ready for release in production, on the one hand, and not redundant, taking too much time and resources, on the other hand. For example, uploading a real dataset in your test environments will certainly lower your test team effectiveness and may result in some data protection-related issues.

3. Test procedures and results knowledge

There is no doubt that it is not only the speed of creation of custom environments that is important, but also how clear and transparent it is for everyone who is in one way or another connected with testing. On the one side, it is good when specialists have deep knowledge in the field of Test Environment Management, but if the TEM strategy is not properly documented, then you are at great risk. It’s best to have a runbook and / or release notes where you store the crucial information regarding test procedures and results. This way, you will not be hurt if one of the test team members is unavailable at the most critical moment.

4. Resource usage optimization

One of the trickiest challenges is using configuration reuse for similar configurations as well as converting flexible cloud resources into environments. A skilled and savvy test team member is able to use one environment for almost identical, but still slightly different, test runs, or split the environment setup into separate universal components that, assembled in different ways, will cover all the variety of tests (just like hardware manufacturers did with shaders in GPUs). However, this usually leads to the following challenge.

5. Proper planning of the testing environment usage

There is no doubt that it is not only the speed of creation of custom environments that is important, but also how clear and transparent it is for everyone who is in one way or another connected with testing. On the one side, it is good when specialists have deep knowledge in the field of Test Environment Management, but if the TEM strategy is not properly documented, then you are at great risk. It’s best to have a runbook and / or release notes where you store the crucial information regarding test procedures and results. This way, you will not be hurt if one of the test team members is unavailable at the most critical moment.

6. Keeping environments up-to-date

It may seem obvious, but still, this is often overlooked: all your test environments must be up-to-date; otherwise, you at least won’t get consistent test results, and at most, they won’t be reliable.

7. Being agile

There are several frameworks and methodologies that can help your organization stay agile, which is indispensable in the modern age. 

First and foremost, this is CI / CD (Continuous Integration / Continuous Delivery), a technology for automating testing and delivering new modules of a product being developed to developers, analysts, quality engineers, end-users, etc. CI / CD allows you to distribute responsibility for a particular stage of the product life cycle among the participants in the development and testing processes, reduce the risk that it will be of poor quality, and shorten the feedback cycle. The CI / CD practice is the backbone of the modern-day DevOps pipeline.

Other notable frameworks are Scrum, Kanban, Lean, and XP (extreme programming), which have been known for a long time and do not need any special introduction.

If you do not use any of these methodologies, then it is unlikely that the IT team has a short feedback loop, without which the functioning of Test Environment Management is almost impossible.

OptScale, a FinOps and test environment management platform, helps tackle the above, and other, challenges, and fulfills the necessary demands by providing all the essential tools:

  • Test environment planning and booking, software version history tracking.
  • Integration with Slack, Jira, and Jenkins to get alerts and manage test environments.
  • Support of AWS, Microsoft Azure, Alibaba, and all Kubernetes clusters.
  • Free cost optimization, resource TTLs and cost limits, cost anomaly detection.
  • Integrated cost management and FinOps education center.

 

All this ultimately leads to faster achievement of business goals: software delivery speed increase, infrastructure costs decrease and test team productivity boost.

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