Within the context of software development, an ephemeral environment is one that can be created and destroyed quickly and easily. Environments as a Service (EaaS), which is utilized by development teams to swiftly generate ephemeral environments for specific feature branches that closely replicate their production environments, has become an increasingly popular approach. When used together, these environments allow developers to thoroughly evaluate software performance under realistic circumstances, and they are discarded after the testing is complete.
Indeed, many teams enjoy the benefits of increased collaboration, better communication, and more effective workflows almost immediately. But for the larger team (and the business behind it all), it’s important not to overlook the economic benefits that ephemeral environments have to offer. They can be a great way to save money in both the short-term and the long-term, all in ways that may not necessarily be obvious at first glance.
The Short-Term Cost Benefits of Ephemeral Environments
Within the context of economics, the major benefit that ephemeral test environments offer happens almost immediately. Ephemeral environments, paired with EaaS, can help teams save money by giving developers access to a space where they can work in total isolation without worrying about impacting others. This allows everyone to work more efficiently and quickly, which in turn helps get a higher quality product farther down the development pipeline faster than with traditional models.
Think about something as seemingly straightforward as testing in a traditional software development model. Once everything is compiled together, testing is carried out in a very linear fashion. One person completes their testing, at which point another can begin, and then another, etc. The issue is that not only does this take a lot of time, but an issue caused by one person may impact everything that other people were working on.
In an ephemeral environment, on the other hand, This is not an issue. Not only can everyone carry out their own testing and troubleshooting needs simultaneously, but even if one developer experiences a legitimate catastrophe it won’t harm anyone else’s ability to remain productive. This helps get a higher quality product farther down the development pipeline far faster than you would otherwise be able to.
Unlocking Long-Term Cost Savings
Of course, there are other cost savings opportunities inherent in ephemeral environments as well. One of the major ones has to do with security. According to one recent study, the average cost of a single data breach is expected to hit an enormous $5 million in 2023. That’s once you take into consideration things like not only the immediate cost to repair any damage, but also the reputational costs and harm to a business’ brand that will almost certainly happen as a result.
Ephemeral environments go a long way towards reducing the risk of these and other types of security breaches by design. Any vulnerabilities that are in the application are contained within the environment itself. Think of the ephemeral environment like a sandbox. Whatever happens inside the sandbox is totally contained in a way that doesn’t hurt anything else going on around it. Therefore, once the vulnerability is discovered and understood, it can be quickly deleted before the code being worked on is integrated into the work that the rest of the team is doing.
Another one of the larger benefits to the software development process in terms of economics has to do with the amount of time that people no longer have to spend on troubleshooting issues. To be clear, when you’re talking about something as malleable as software development, issues will always occur. It’s just that when everyone is working on a larger monolith at once, it can be difficult – not to mention time-consuming – to figure out where those issues are actually originating.
Did a problem have to do with the work you are doing, or was it essentially “inherited” from a mistake someone else made? Who is that person, and what parts of the code were they working on? These are naturally difficult questions to answer.
With ephemeral environments, however, developers have a totally clean environment to work in – one that they are essentially in complete control of. It isn’t a live production environment, but it is a replica of one. Therefore, they can be reasonably certain that any issues they discover came from them, into someone else. This makes them easier to address, which in turn frees up their valuable time to focus more on other essential matters.
Again, all of these things go a long way towards increasing not only the productivity of individual developers, but the productivity of the team as a unit. This increases the speed at which you’re able to get your product to market, which decreases the amount of time it takes for that piece of software to start generating raw value for your business as well.
Ephemeral Environments Help Reduce Costs and Increasing Productivity
In the end, it’s important to acknowledge that not all the economic benefits of ephemeral environments are as obvious as they seem. Yes, it obviously saves money to be able to quickly create and destroy a single use environment on an as-needed basis. But the implications reach farther than that, too.
Ephemeral environments help to significantly reduce the risk of security breaches. They increase productivity by giving team members access to the tools they need to better communicate and collaborate with one another. They let developers work effectively in a totally clean environment that reduces the amount of time they’re spending troubleshooting issues. They’re the type of asset that wouldn’t even have been a consideration for many teams as recently as a decade ago. Now, not only are they available, but they’re a lot more accessible than ever, too.