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Plutora Blog - Deployment Management, Software Development, Test Environment Management

What Is Software Provisioning? A Detailed Introduction

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Building high-quality software requires equally high-quality processes. Usually, when defining a software development life cycle (SDLC), we tend to focus too much on the software itself. We see environments provisioning, however, as an important yet secondary process. We sometimes neglect development and test environments. In this post, we’ll explain what SDLC and software provisioning are, what role the latter plays in the whole software delivery process, and how to manage provisioning efficiently.

Software Development Life Cycle

In order to explain why provisioning shouldn’t be neglected, we need to have a basic understanding of the software development life cycle process. Nowadays, renting a server in the cloud or running a container on the local machine is easy. Therefore, it’s also easy to just come up with an idea and start writing code without any planning and process. Usually, we tell ourselves “let’s build a PoC first and we’ll define the development process later.” This leads to developing low-quality software. Due to lack of processes, bug fixing can be time-consuming. Any changes in the code, when not tracked properly, can lead to building software that’s hard to understand.

Software Development Stages

To solve these problems and build a high-quality software, we need a well-defined software development life cycle process. By following the SDLC, we ensure that we always test the changes in the code. We also think about requirements before writing any new features, and we have a defined way for provisioning infrastructure and deploying an application. However, defining the SDLC doesn’t automatically mean that we can guarantee an optimal software building process. You can also define an SDLC that doesn’t follow the best process. Let’s discuss one particular issue that happens often—the importance of dev/test environments provisioning.

Software Provisioning

When we say “software provisioning,” we usually think about the deployment part of software delivery. But the full provisioning process also includes environments provisioning as well as promotion process between environments. On top of that, testing, quality assurance, and reporting are also part of software provisioning.

The Importance of Test Environments

It’s important to test software and properly define requirements, but bug fixing and even implementing new features heavily depend on the dev environments. That’s where the actual coding and testing happen. That’s why it’s very important (especially for developers) to have a comfortable and easy-to-use development environment. For example, if you never re-provision a dev environment, you never know if your software will run properly on a fresh environment. If you were testing a different version of some library or were looking for a new runtime for your application and you did all the tests on the dev environment, after a while, your application may behave differently on the development environment than on production due to all the old, forgotten libraries.

From the developer perspective, the easier it is to spin up a fresh development environment, the better. If it takes too long to get a new dev environment, developers will simply perform workaround solutions to meet the deadlines. They’ll also skip secondary tasks when it takes too long to get a dev environment up and running. These tasks can include, for example, performance improvements, refactoring code for more optimal solutions, and additional security measurements. Every task that’s not crucial for the application will always be postponed. On the other hand, the easier it is for the developer to provision a new dev environment, the higher the risk of going over budget for the infrastructure.

You can solve this, however, by monitoring the life cycle of all environments. If you design an optimal SDLC process, you’ll have a good understanding of whether a particular environment is currently in use or if it’s not needed anymore.

Tracking Metrics Including Test Environments

Having an SDLC process that includes test environments brings a few more advantages. As a team manager, having an overview of different metrics that include test environments gives you much more information. Some useful questions you’ll be able to answer include the following:

  • How many bugs occur when promoting deployment from development to test environment vs. from test to production? This allows you to estimate the quality of the test.
  • How often is an application deployed to the development vs. test environment? If there aren’t huge differences between development and test deployment, it usually means that the quality of the software is high. (This is because fewer issues occur in development that require fixing and redeployments before promoting to the test environment.)
  • How often do deployments fail on a test when they work on dev? This can either mean that the development environment differs too much from the test environment or perhaps you should look into improving requirements gathering (Often failing functional tests mean that your developers are committing code that they think fulfills the requirements when it doesn’t.)

All these questions allow you to estimate the quality of your dev/test environments and the software itself. Also, the high quality of the provisioning process in the long term translates to a higher quality of software. If the development environment and the whole provisioning process are optimal, fewer issues will occur in general, which means less time will be spent on debugging and more on developing.

Team Efficiency

If we combine all the bits of information that we discussed above, we may come to the following conclusion: while the quality of the written software is important and can be primarily achieved by extensive testing, there’s quite a lot to gain by having optimally designed test environments provisioning.

It’s very discouraging to developers having to wait for an environment. Testing new features, bug fixing, testing new ideas, refactoring code—all of this depends heavily on the quality and flexibility of development environment provisioning. You can increase your team performance and psychological safety by simply changing the way that test environments are managed. In order to do that, you need to have a good overview of all environments, not only production.

Lower Costs by Improving Test Environments

At first, it may sound like spending time on improving test environments may bring some extra costs. However, it’s actually the opposite. As we just explained, high-quality test environments help to build higher-quality software. High-quality software means fewer bugs and problems and, therefore, less time spent on fixing these issues. On top of that, as also explained above, having good and easily accessible development environments encourage developers to test new ideas for improving performance and optimizing the applications. If it’s easy to create a development environment, it’s easy to find more optimal settings, more optimal networking configuration, faster runtime, etc. All of that contributes to lowering the overall costs of the SDLC.

Test Environment Management

We discussed how improving development and test environments can improve the overall quality of the development process. Now let’s talk about how to do it efficiently.

One option is to try to build a complex solution to first get an understanding of your processes, followed by designing and implementing necessary processes in order to improve your development process. Then create a solution for getting feedback and monitoring “process health.”The other option is to use a tool that can do all of that for you. Plutora can offer you such a solution with the test environment management tool, which performs all of the above functionality.

continuous delivery pipeline

It’s a complete toolkit for the whole provisioning and delivery process. Instead of spending months on understanding and finding flaws in your SDLC processes, you can simply use the Plutora platform. Tracking dependencies, resolving conflicts, and eliminating manual configurations and approvals are only some of Plutora test environment management tool features. If you want to learn more, click here.

Dawid Ziolkowski Dawid Ziolkowski

Dawid has 10 years of experience as a Network/System Engineer at the beginning, DevOps in between, Cloud Native Engineer recently. He’s worked for an IT outsourcing company, a research institute, telco, a hosting company, and a consultancy company, so he’s gathered a lot of knowledge from different perspectives. Nowadays he’s helping companies move to cloud and/or redesign their infrastructure for a more Cloud Native approach.