In the world of software development, ephemeral environments are temporary environments that can be easily created and destroyed just as quickly. Think of it as an environment used for a single purpose. If you’re a developer who wants to be able to test a new feature in a “safe” space that won’t impact what any other team member is doing before you merge it into the larger product, an ephemeral environment is how you do it.
Their primary purpose is to allow developers to work in a vacuum in an effort to avoid conflicts with anyone else. But that is ultimately just a fraction of their potential. Over the last few years in particular, they’ve become increasingly popular in the software development industry to the point where many insist they are playing a role in reshaping what the future actually looks like. This is true for a number of different reasons that project managers and team leaders will want to be aware of moving forward.
The future of software development is being reshaped by the concept of Environment as a Service (EaaS), which refers to the provision of ephemeral environments that can be created and destroyed on demand. EaaS enables developers to work in a safe space without impacting other team members, leading to faster development cycles and better testing.
In a more traditional approach to software development, teams are typically sharing the same staging environment. Code branches are deployed all at the same time, which means that any existing bugs that had gone undiscovered up to that point have the potential to negatively impact the entirety of the project at once.
Oftentime, this is where development and release cycles begin to slow down because you hit an immediate bottleneck in terms of testing and quality assurance. Issues will ultimately need to be addressed in a very precise order and until Developers A, B, and C complete their work, Developers X, Y, and Z can’t make headway on theirs.
With an ephemeral environment, on the other hand, this isn’t an issue that anyone has to deal with. Features can be tested in a replica of a live production environment, but in isolation. What one person is doing won’t negatively impact the work that anyone else is already in progress on. This leads to better and more thorough testing early on in the process, which can help improve development cycles dramatically.
Another one of the ways in which ephemeral environments and EaaS are reshaping the industry has to do with how they help increase collaboration among team members. This is done by including quality assurance engineers, user experience developers, and product owners, leading to better communication, feedback, and a higher quality product.
Even though ephemeral environments are designed to allow people to work in isolation, they are also effortlessly shareable when they need to be. Typically, sharing what you’re working on with someone else is as simple as giving them access to a specific URL.
What this means is that when the time is right, a developer can bring other people into the fold to help with things like testing or to offer critical feedback. It isn’t just developers who have access to the ephemeral environments. Quality assurance engineers, user experience/user interface developers, product owners, and more can all be actively involved at virtually all stages of production.
By empowering this level of collaboration, it also helps support important goals like communication and feedback. Not only does this help speed up both development and release cycles as outlined above, but it also usually results in a higher quality, better refined product as well.
Ephemeral environments also help development teams unlock a number of other important benefits, too – with a significant reduction in costs and improved security being among them.
With regard to costs, remember that ephemeral environments are designed to be temporary. They can be set up quickly and eliminated as soon as they have outlived their usefulness. In addition to helping with resource allocation, this also reduces DevOps infrastructure bills as well. This also helps to make sure that there are no wasted resources because the moment the environment is no longer needed, it vanishes like it never existed at all. It’s not something you’re continuing to pay for.
In a larger sense, the aforementioned increases in productivity and efficiency also lead to a faster time to value for the finished product, which helps save money from that point-of-view as well.
But most teams love the fact that ephemeral environments enable higher security because they’re not a live production environment. Instead, they are simply a clone of one. They have replicated data, eliminating a potential vulnerability with more traditional forms of development.
In general, it’s easy to see why ephemeral environments have become so popular in a relatively short amount of time. They’re unlocking the types of benefits that development teams would be hard-pressed to find through any other means.
Reducing costs without hindering the quality of the finished product is always a top priority for developers. As is creating a more inherently secure environment, enabling a better utilization of available resources, and increasing collaboration among team members as much as possible.
Ephemeral environments and EaaS are becoming an essential part of the future of the software development industry, providing a wide range of benefits that can’t be found through traditional methods. Organizations that embrace these approaches will be able to take advantage of these benefits and remain competitive, while those who do not may find themselves left behind by their competitors.