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Automated Test Environment for DevOps with Environment as-a-Service

DevOps leaders are expected to emphasize pushing value to production as quickly as possible. “Value to production” implicitly requires high quality (low quality is of little value to anyone), which means DevOps teams need to focus on being able to specify, build, test, and deploy software effectively and quickly.

Automat-IT EaaS – Environment as-a-Service is a readily available solution that helps DevOps teams create automated environments for the most common tasks, thus helping to keep organizational standards in check and eliminate wasting valuable resources.

The key challenges of test environments management

A testing environment is a setup of software and hardware in which the testing team tests a new software build. A test environment consists of pre-production or staging environments and is generally a downgraded version of a production environment to help uncover pre-production defects.

There are a few basic types of testing:

  1. Unit testing: coded verifications that validate one specific behavior in a small section of the system.

  2. Integration / Service testing: validate behaviors between components.

  3. Functional tests: validate a slice of system functionality.

  4. Effective test coverage: ensures there’s little or no duplication of test coverage.

  5. End-to-End testing: to ensure that information passed between components within the system in the correct manner, and that the integrity of the information is maintained through the process.

  6. Performance testing: simulates a working environment with users to test load on the system.

Building and maintaining a test environment is considered extremely important to the development process. Often, dedicated test environments are maintained at various stages like developer test, dedicated test, integration test, and pre-production or business readiness test - requiring resources to operate and maintain them. Automat-IT offers a self-service based solution that eliminates unnecessary costs and waste of resources at this stage.

In rapidly changing business, an IT organization has to align the IT strategy to business strategy and bring agility into the IT delivery. It is increasingly difficult to manage complex IT infrastructure dependencies, and manual intervention becomes unavoidable.

Time and again, organizations consider management of non-production environments a secondary priority. This leads to unorganized and ad-hoc management of test environments and increased operational and maintenance costs for organizations.

In addition, identifying and addressing environment-related defects becomes a major concern for QA teams.

Effective and efficient management of test environments with structured automation can deliver significant benefits along with substantial cost savings to the organization.

Test environment automation approach for DevOps

Typically, release management is a complex and time-consuming process. Even if applications are provisioned using templates, the infrastructure provisioning is often done manually. In a complex DevOps continuous integration environment requiring reduced cycle time for delivering and testing enterprise applications in DevOps methodology, the manual provisioning of environments is not sustainable. Adopting best practices and leveraging automation can drastically improve the cycle time and reduce the time to release without impacting compliance and standards.

An automation framework for environment management in DevOps lifecycle includes building and deploying automation for Continuous Development, Continuous Integration, Continuous Testing, and Continuous Delivery. An automation framework caters to automation in the following areas:

  • Environment request process

  • Environment planning, design, and build provisioning

  • Data masking, desensitization, and governance for environment request execution

  • Infrastructure baseline and smoke testing.

Environment support activities (e.g., configuration maintenance and code migrations) can also be automated.

A focused approach towards environment automation can reduce the dependencies involved in manual infrastructure provisioning. Test environment automation approach should support the following activities:

  • Environment provisioning, configuration, testing, deployment, and operational management

  • Test data management and related compliance requirements

  • Proactive monitoring of environment and self-healing for repeat incidents

  • Configuration management with auto-discovery for environment asset management and licensing

  • Patching and upgrading of infrastructure components compliant with enterprise policies

The approach to test environment automation varies across organizations. Common elements of this approach include a combination of pre-configured tools and scripts supporting the entire environment management lifecycle. Once the initial standardization is done, all the inputs, outputs, check points, and failure points in the tasks identified are captured. All the captured items are marked as candidates for local or centralized automation.

  • Localized automation involves automation limited to specific components such as database refresh, operating system patch updates, and others.

  • Centralized automation includes the orchestration and integration of various systems in the environment such as test environment provision requests received through a tool that needs to be executed by using a deployment tool and following standard operating procedures.

A robust automation script or workflow would lead to the reusability of the scripts that could be used in the future to speed up the provisioning process.

Benefits of test environment automation

The benefits of test environment automation cover: