At its core, an ephemeral environment is a way to break free of the issues associated with shared, persistent test environments that are all too common in the DevOps process. Rather than leaning into “best practices” that are themselves inherently flawed, software development team members can rid themselves of the co-dependent aspect of shared environments. It can help lead to faster code reviews, more effective testing, quicker merge times, and more – ultimately leading to lightning fast release cycles along the way.
However, not all projects are the same and not all DevOps teams are created equally. What works for one may be woefully inadequate for the next, which is why it’s so important to make sure you understand what you’re getting into before you make a decision of this magnitude. Having said that, there are a few key indicators that ephemeral environments are right for your DevOps team that you need to be aware of moving forward.
You Lack Strong Communication and Collaboration
Many DevOps teams benefit from the fact that ephemeral environments empower not only superior communication, but ultimately collaboration as well.
In this type of configuration, teams can work together on each feature prior to everything getting merged together. This allows for constant feedback which leads to more effective code reviews as well.
Rather than limiting everyone to just a lone staging environment, each team can leverage as many ephemeral environments as the situation calls for. Not only does this help with collaboration among team members, but also other areas within an organization like quality assurance and even sales as well. If you need these capabilities but don’t have them, ephemeral environments are absolutely for you.
You Need to Focus on Automation and Efficiency
One of the biggest advantages of ephemeral environments is that they enable not only superior efficiency for team members, but an ability to further leverage automation tools as well.
With an ephemeral environment, every feature branch can be worked on in isolation. That means one part of the team won’t impact what other areas are doing. Any changes that are all will have no impact on that which is being developed elsewhere.
Then, when the time comes, everything can be merged together in a way that allows testing for the entire product. Automated testing can occur in a full-stack and dynamic staging environment, giving you a real-time look into what is going on and what issues can be mitigated while they’re still in their nascent stages. This is a great way to grow more efficient when developing major releases in particular.
There is a Need to Embrace Modern Technology and Tools
Many large DevOps teams in particular often spend countless hours writing the custom scripts they need to manage the development pipeline. While this was a necessary evil in the past, there is officially a better way.
With modern technology and tools like ephemeral environments, all of those time-consuming tasks can be largely automated in a way that guarantees consistent, predictable results. That frees up the valuable time of developers so that they can focus on matters that truly need their attention, like writing code. This also brings with it the added benefit of keeping costs down. These are the types of things that virtually all DevOps teams could take full advantage of and if these have historically been pain points in your own processes, ephemeral environments are a way to solve them sooner rather than later.
Your Team is Willing to Embrace Change
Another clear indicator that ephemeral environments are right for your DevOps team has to do with them having shown a historical willingness to embrace change at all.
The difference between a good software developer and a great one is that the latter is always looking for ways to improve. They’re always willing to change if it means improving the quality of their own output. They’re not afraid of it – they’re yearning for it because they know what it means in the grand scheme of things. If that describes your DevOps team members, ephemeral environments are absolutely something you want to explore.
You Need a Better Way to Measure Success
Keep in mind that in most situations, traditional testing environments are simply a replica of whatever version of the product is in production at the moment. When you’re dealing with an inherently complex architecture, this makes it virtually impossible to test efficiently as production rolls along.
With ephemeral environments, however, things change. They can be custom-built for precise code changes in a way that allows testing to be continuous. This is a far better way to measure not only how far you’ve come, but how far you still have left to go. It’s a key part of speeding up the release cycle and if this sounds like exactly the type of thing that your team could benefit from, ephemeral environments are the way to achieve it.
As stated, something like ephemeral environments are certainly not right for every team – but if you have some or even all the indicators outlined above, the chances are high that they are an excellent idea for your specific situation. Not only will this lead to the smoothest and most effective DevOps environment as possible, but it also brings with it the most important advantage of all: increased productivity and a vastly higher chance of success along the way.