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June 23, 2010

Non-production environment (NPE) - Is it a potential value storehouse?

Recently I was asked to embark on a NPE environment assessment and optimization engagement for one of our telecom client's. The aim of the engagement was to streamline the client's pre-production environments by initially discovering and creating an inventory of their non-production infrastructure portfolio, which was procured and deployed pretty much in an ad hoc fashion. The key objective was to orchestrate a governance framework which would help the client in effective management of their non- production infrastructure.

In context of this engagement, I instantly remembered what my colleague Bruno said in one of his blog's - 'Organizations, especially those with mature production ITSM processes tend to show interest in their pre-production operations covering development test and assurance functions.' - Ah...It's so true!

It's atypical for organizations to focus on the non-production environments as much they care for their production environments and this situation can be attributed to the poor visibility of the gains one can reap by proactively managing the non production environments or in other words, lack of a criterion that can be applied to quantify the value extracted. Moreover, production environments are more controlled because of the fact that the risk of uncontrolled Production is apparent, where as the risks of non controlled development or test environments are less obvious.

 I think it would be uncontroversial to say that organizations are missing on an opportunity to save costs by not focusing on controlling their non-production environments. The same is true for virtualized or cloud based test or development infrastructure, reason being that the number of groups/projects consuming the dev, test and staging environments remains the same. Also, the monetary gains realized by leveraging technology (virtualization, Cloud computing) will be offset due to a non standard pre production environment operations.

We can safely conclude that not many organizations' culture and operating models account for optimization of their non-production environment. Different silos manage hardware and software resources and dev / test teams' provision and set up their own hardware and software environments in a largely unregulated fashion. There is a need for a consolidated view of the pre production environment landscape and this visibility of dev, test infrastructure is a key aspect in the NPE standardization journey. A pre production environments inventory serves as a master key for unleashing the potential incentives which can be achieved by proactively tracking and managing the test and dev environments in an organization.

In addition to the inventory, a well laid out operations structure for non production environments will enable

·         Structured environment requisition and allocation process

·         Reuse of pre production infrastructure

·         Free up the blocked/unused test, dev resources

·         Effective utilization of software licenses used for testing purposed

·         Updated environment inventory

I'm sure we can add at least a dozen more to the above list, as we delve deeper.

Coming back to the aspect of non availability of a standard criterion that can be used for quantification of the value extracted. I have attempted to list a few KPI's/metrics that the organizations might want to track for a standardized non production environments operations process, this list by no means is exhaustive.

·         No. of opportunities identified to leverage existing test, dev infrastructure

·        Approximate Capital investment ($) avoidance - On pre production infrastructure

·         Cost saved by leveraging existing software licenses for testing.

·        Reduction in % of environmental incidents related to deployments/configurations mismatch

I would like to leave you with these thoughts for now. Solicit your valuable comments on the topic.

Until next time....Happy reading J

Appreciate your time!