What Is a Production Environment? What You Need to Know
Reading time 7 minutes
To visualize a production environment, imagine a new car rolling off the lot. When someone buys a new vehicle, the automobile is typically ready for the open road. Even so, the new car still requires plenty of ongoing monitoring and maintenance to ensure safety and operational efficiency to extend the vehicle’s useful life.
While production may be the very last stage of software development, that doesn’t mean testing ceases altogether. Software, and particularly SaaS solutions that are continuously iterated upon, requires a hefty amount of analysis and refining.
Read on to learn what a production environment is, what it means for developer teams, and how it’s different from some other stages of the software development pipeline.
What Is a Production Environment?
In short, a production environment is a live application that users can access and interact with. In other words, this is where users see and experience the most current version of the software.
By the time software reaches the production stage, it should have gone through planning, staging, and preproduction testing. The application should also have a stable networking environment in place to support live users and to enable rapid scalability.
What Takes Place During Production?
An application doesn’t have to be perfect to go into production. But it should be a complete piece of software, which means the application should conform to the project’s current specifications, have strong security components, and have adequate networking resources in place.
Regardless, Murphy’s Law states that anything that can go wrong will go wrong. This holds true even with the most comprehensive preproduction development and testing tools on the market today. And for this reason, the hard work of testing and refining software must continue during production, which is exactly what DevOps teams do.
With all this in mind, here’s a closer look at some of the processes that take place once software moves into a live production environment.
A/B testing is a strategy you can use to compare two different versions of the same app.
To run an A/B test, simply split users into two groups. The A group receives the latest version of the app, while the B group is given the variation. From there, you can compare user behavior and make an informed decision about which version gets better results.
A/B testing is easier when using feature flags, or toggles, that let you switch features on and off. Thanks to A/B testing, DevOps teams can iterate with confidence because they have data that tells them exactly what their customers want.
A major update can be a stressful experience for developers. In some cases, there’s no telling how users will react to a change. It’s not always pretty. If a major change is unpopular, it could cause people to abandon the app or complain, leading to lost profits, negative reviews, and fewer investors.
Canary testing is a strategy where you slowly roll out updates to groups of users so that you can test how they respond. While this form of testing takes a bit longer, it’s generally a safer way to roll out updates.
User Acceptance Testing (UAT)
UAT is a type of analysis where you check to make sure the software can handle real-world challenges and meet user expectations.
This type of testing traditionally happens before software goes into a live production environment. However, a growing number of DevOps teams are pushing user acceptance testing to the live production stage.
By taking this approach, you can test in small phases to live groups of users. This strategy shortens production cycles but adds more postproduction work.
In addition to testing features and functionality, you also have to make sure an application is working at an optimal level. This is particularly important in today’s competitive market, where users have high expectations.
Application monitoring involves testing how users interact with the software and how well the software handles requests. For example, you may find that an application isn’t performing well in a specific market because it lacks supporting resources like bandwidth and connectivity. Or you may discover that one of the application’s main features isn’t working.
Through real-time application monitoring, you can detect performance issues and prevent errors from impacting operations.
Most DevOps teams are now shifting left and incorporating security into the framework of their applications. DevSecOps can significantly reduce security vulnerabilities and lower production costs.
Despite this, security needs can change over time. Configuration drift, bugs, and emerging security threats can threaten your applications and potentially expose private data and workloads to unauthorized individuals. As such, real-time security monitoring is imperative. It’s worth investing in a security automation tool to quickly detect and remediate security vulnerabilities.
How Is Production Different from Staging?
Before software goes into production, it typically passes through a staging, or testing, process.
During software staging, you run software through a production simulation. A staging environment doesn’t necessarily have to be an exact replica of a live production environment. However, it helps to have an environment that closely mirrors production so that you can get a sense of how the application will perform in real-world conditions.
During the staging process, software typically goes through wider and more comprehensive testing.
Smoke testing is a type of analysis that lets you know whether a piece of software is stable and functional. During smoke testing, you check for critical functions and whether new features and updates are working properly.
During unit testing, you determine whether individual functions or units are up to par and working as designed. Unit testing helps detect and avoid bugs.
System testing is where quality assurance professionals check to see how different application components interact and function. There are a variety of checks, including regression, functional, recovery, migration, usability, and software and hardware testing.
Integration testing occurs when you bring all your software modules together and test them as a single group. This form of testing helps evaluate system functionality and compliance.
Just as the name suggests, chaos engineering helps you get a sense of how an application will perform under various chaotic conditions. Software teams use chaos engineering to build resilient and secure apps.
Avoiding Errors in Production
Despite the abundance of preproduction testing that typically takes place in a DevOps environment, it’s common for defects to escape into production. This often happens because teams lack technical configuration details across applications, versions, dependencies, and components.
One of the best ways to prevent errors from slipping into production is to invest in a single test environment repository. With this type of solution in place, you can upload technical specs and details to a single area so that stakeholders can access them. This can help avoid confusion and prevent outdated or incorrect specs from impacting performance.
Introducing QuickStart Bundles from Plutora
At the end of the day, managing production environments can be a tough task when you lack the right supporting tools. This can lead to risky, chaotic deployments and excessive rollbacks.
To make the job easier, Plutora now offers Test Environment QuickStart bundles that you can use to enhance your test environments. These bundles come with aggressive pricing and rapid implementations, enabling you to see results quickly.
With Plutora, you can reduce defects, automate scheduling, and streamline communications. Additionally, you’ll be able to accelerate application development and generate stronger ROI from your software projects. To start, check out our QuickStart packages. While you’re at it, you can also request a free demo.