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Plutora Blog - Test Environment Management

Test Environment Management – January Challenges

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If you’ve ever watched a submarine movie like The Hunt for Red October, Crimson Tide, or U-571 you’ll notice that these scripts always include running a surprise drill soon after getting underway from port. When a submarine submerges after a long port call one of the first things a captain will do is run an exercise called “Angles and Dangles.” Captains run these exercises for a few reasons: to test the ability of the sub to rapidly descend and surface, to make sure that everything in the sub is properly stowed, but also to run the crew through a series of exercises to test their readiness after a long break on shore.

While many of us are not piloting $2 billion dollar submergibles many of us operate enterprise systems of much higher value, and we are about to begin another journey after a long holiday break. Release management and submariners have a lot in common as we are both focused on readiness. Many industries have a big rush to prepare for the holidays: e-commerce, media, publishing, and any other industry with a seasonal business cycle.

These organizations lock-down production releases over the holidays to reduce risk and many employees schedule vacation to coincide with this long period of inactivity. For release and environment managers this lock-down period has some critical, high-risk events, but for the most part we’ve had a month or two of downtime as seasonal businesses tend to mitigate risk by limiting changes to production.

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This is most dangerous time for environment managers and release managers. Many critical members of your release engineering and software development teams are just getting back from a long holiday break. The aggressive timelines you had toward the end of the year are more relaxed and people are not going to be as focused on production releases as they were at the end of the year.

The beginning of the year is the busy season for environment managers as the new year often coincides with organizational changes. Environment managers will see more environment requests in January as many teams use the new year to start working on new systems development, and systems that were locked down in production are going to see a series of requests for changes that were put on hold for the holidays.

Organizational change coupled with increased demands for new environments combined with a team that is expecting an easy Q1 means that now is the most likely time for mistakes during software releases and deployments. This month is likely to be underestimated and your teams will be surprised by how quickly the business snaps back to a regular cadence of releases. Use January as an excuse to step up your environment and release management function and start using Plutora as a way to let everyone know what to expect.  With Plutora you can capture the environment and release schedule and give people a calendar that conveys just how much activity they can expect.

One more thing, Monday is probably a good time to run a few drills to make sure that all the champagne and egg nog has worn off. It’s going to be a busy year and you want to make sure that your team is ready to manage environments and run releases.  Take your software release management to 29 degrees and run a surprise inspection you need to make sure that your environments are properly stowed for the long journey ahead.