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Plutora Blog - Test Environment Management

Can we get another QA Environment… Tomorrow?

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“Hey, can we get another QA environment?” That question can ruin an environment manager’s day. A large organization plans for capacity, purchases enough infrastructure to support as many environments as the organization needs at once, and even “on the cloud” resources have a price. Several teams asking for new environments “out-of-band” force environment managers to scramble for resources at the last minute.

Environment Management: It’s Complicated

It’s also just a symptom of the fact that most organizations don’t account for the work involved in procuring new environments, configuring them, and figuring out who is using which environment when.   The problem for environment managers isn’t technical, it’s organizational, and we created Plutora’s Environment Manager because we couldn’t find a tool that understood the fundamental problem – communication and coordination.

The challenge for today’s environment managers is managing and predicting budget and making sure that there are enough resources available to support however many environments will be required.   It’s more than just provisioning enough VMs for an environment and making sure that application software is deployed via an automated CI system like Jenkins or Bamboo, it’s about service-level dependencies for environments, tracking which groups are responsible for environments, making sure that support staff are available to support an environment.

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Environment management is about making sure that 1000 VMs are not just sitting there unused at any given time for lack of planning while also making sure that development groups have some room for expansion if they need it. It’s about orchestrating the complex workflows necessary to motivate a whole range of departments to coordinate and communicate with one another to make sure the appropriate data is loaded into the appropriate environments.   Envirnonment management is also about making sure the right people have the right level of access to newly provisioned infrastructure.

Most critically, Environment Management is about being able to give finance some advance warning about the budget required for QA, Staging, and Testing environments.

I might have an environment. Give me a day to figure it out.

That’s why getting a random, out-of-band request for a new environment tomorrow can be so frustrating.  It illustrates how reactive release managers have to be in today’s enterprise.  We’re constantly waiting for that surprise request for a few hundred VMs to support a last-minute performance test or unplanned release process.

Even though we’re always over provisioning, we still run out of infrastructure and have to call up finance to approve another budget revision to account to unexpected hardware needs.  We’re always getting capacity estimates from development groups and multiplying them by a correction factor of 4x because we know that developers seldom understand how to model infrastructure needs as applications evolve.

You end up overestimating to compensate for unpredictability and you lose cores due to inefficiency and lack of communication. When we help environment managers setup Plutora for the first time the most frequent piece of feedback we get is that Plutora helped organizations reduce overall demand for environments by an average of 25% just by shining a light on unused environments. It’s amazing how much money a RACI matrix per environment and a little transparency can save a large enterprise.

dalibor siroky
Dalibor Siroky

Dalibor is the Co-founder and Co-CEO of Plutora. He has 15 years of leadership, consulting, enterprise product, and operations experience across Australia, Asia and Europe. He has proven ability to build high performance teams, turn around situations, develop innovative products, and create lasting value. Prior to Plutora, Dalibor was founder and managing director of Finotaur, a leading provider of independent management consulting services. Before that he served as CIO of financial advisory software at Macquarie Bank, head of solution architecture at Commonwealth Bank of Australia, and management consultant at PricewaterhouseCoopers. Dalibor got his MBA from the University of Chicago Booth School of Business. Follow him on Twitter @DaliborSiroky.