Organizations that have recognized the need for Non-Production Environment Management (NPEM), and implemented this function as a centralized service of their IT teams, are far ahead in the game when compared to their peers who are yet to catch up in setting up a dedicated NPEM team.
NPEM as a function has evolved from a basic set of coordination tasks to a comprehensive ITIL aligned service; responsible for bringing in high efficiency in non-production environments.
In today’s world, where we are experiencing fast-paced technology changes, there is a need for NPEM departments / teams to keep pace and leverage it to gain further efficiency.
In this blog, we shine a light on key trends and tools that NPEM can leverage:
On-demand environment provisioning
As opposed to the on-premises environment, Cloud-based environments can be built and provided to QA teams in almost no time. On-demand environment provisioning powered by cloud providers are best suited to projects executed in Agile and DevOps methodologies.
All the benefits of cloud computing can be availed such as elasticity, low capital expenditure, high availability, durability and security etc.
Infrastructure as a code (IaaC) is being leveraged for spinning-up the environment quickly. It is the process of managing data centers through machine-readable definition files, as opposed to the physical hardware configuration. The blueprint of a datacenter is versioned through high-level configuration syntax, much like the versioning of code.
Containerization technology is also trending, which is an OS-level virtualization method used for deploying and running distributed applications. It eliminates the need for launching an entire virtual machine (VM) for each application.
The benefits of containerization include ease of deployment and configuration, high scalability, increase in productivity, multiple server consolidation and thus, reduction in costs.
Service providers / vendors are supposed to perform the sanity check, basic infrastructure assurance as well as cloud assurance before handing it over to the clients for utilizing the environments for their non-production activities – development, QA etc.
Service Desk aligned with Cloud
The Service Desk/Incident Management team has the responsibility of getting Environmental incidents resolved and ensuring that non-production environments are up and running.
When you have Cloud-based non-production environments, the Service Desk team needs to have a good understanding of cloud as well as a good connect with cloud providers to get incidents and service requests resolved. Also, adoption of Self Service portals is a must to have basic issues resolved by users themselves such as password reset, access provisioning etc.
Non-Prod Environment Monitoring
Organizations have been investing in monitoring tools only for production environments for the obvious reasons of business criticality. However, there is an increasing trend to have agentless, automated, real-time monitoring of non-production environments to prevent defects, early identification of defects, minimize incidents, and increase environment availability.
In case of Cloud based environments, every cloud platform provides built-in monitoring services to get insight into the overall health of environments.
Automated Configuration Management Database (CMDB)
An increasing trend in CMDB automation has been observed. Automated identification of IP‑enabled configuration items (CIs), mapping of their interdependencies, updating and maintaining them in the CMDB.
Automated tools such as ServiceNow Discovery help in real-time data updates to keep CIs up to date, both populating CIs in the CMDB and updating fields within those CIs as and when they change.
Automated Release Management: Build deployment automation - CI/CD
As DevOps is getting widely adopted, having skills and capabilities in automated release and build deployment has become a must.
Several clients have already recognized the need for standardization of Release Management process and have been demanding vendors bring in Automation in Release Management by implementing the CI/CD pipeline; aiming to improve Time to Market (TTM) and release frequency.
ITIL aligned, One-stop shop NPEM Tools
Organizations are looking for and adopting a comprehensive ITIL-aligned tool which can be used as a one-stop shop to take care of all the functions of non-production environment Management including, Service Desk / Incident Management, Change Management, Release Management, Configuration Management, Environment Management, Batch Operations and advanced real-time dashboards.
Organizations have realized the need for Service Virtualization as it eliminates the dependencies of having all critical or third-party applications, hence proving to be a huge cost saver.
Service Virtualization is the emulation of the behavior of components or certain critical functionalities of applications which cannot be made available in lower environments such as Development or System Testing environment. It allows complex applications to undergo integration testing much earlier in the development process – uncovering certain critical defects in a much earlier phase. Service virtualization is an important aspect and key lever for ‘Shift-left’ approach in overall quality engineering.
Leveraging AI/ML and analytics, Monitoring tools further can auto-create incidents for critical alerts, and trend analysis of repeat issues can prevent their recurrence.
These bots detect system failures and automatically fix them through self-learning and self-healing. The bots with environment monitoring and auto-healing capabilities are trending and evolving to bring tremendous efficiency.
Following are the popular tools in this space:
- On-demand Environment provisioning on cloud: AWS, Azure, Google Cloud, IBM Bluemix, Skytap
- Infrastructure as a code: AWS CloudFormation, Terraform
- Containerization: Docker, Kubernetes
- Ticketing Tool for Service Desk and Change Management: ServiceNow, BMC Remedy, JIRA, Micro Focus Service Manager
- Monitoring tools: Splunk, Nagios, Zabbix, AppDynamics, Amazon CloudWatch, Microsoft Cloud Monitoring, Google Stackdriver
- Auto discovery for CI and CMDB updates: ServiceNow Discovery
- Release Automation: CA RA, Jenkins, JetBrains TeamCity, Atlassian Bamboo
- End-to-End Environment Management tool: Plutora, Enov8
- Service Virtualization: CA LISA / Service virtualization, Tricentis Tosca, SoapUI
With fast-paced technological changes, Cloud migration, DevOps adoption etc. there is a major focus on Automation at every stage in IT landscape. With these advancements, Environment Management as a function must leverage the benefits of all the latest technological trends & tools in managing NPEs to achieve overall efficiency.