Testing in Production (TIP) is the kind of testing done by running your tests in a live production environment before you release the software to the end-user. It's an important step not just for developers, but for business too. Testing in production helps with continuous delivery, which means that companies can release their new code changes on a daily basis with better quality.
There are several use cases and reasons why developers must test their code in production. Modern systems have many dependencies and many edge cases that cannot be simulated unless tested in the real world. It's a good idea for software to be tested in all its environments: test, staging, and production. Having untested features means that quality assurance is compromised and so is the confidence of the general public based on their user experience.
Historically, companies have tried to make sure that the software they produce passes end tests and integration testing with synthetic monitoring before it is released to real users. However, when a new product is released, it can be riddled with unexpected errors as no environment can completely replicate your production environment.
Unexpected errors can arise, but by using the best practice of testing your production code thoroughly through a test run before launching to end-users, your company can avoid struggling with these errors based on learning from your test results.
When new functionality is tested, it's a good practice to do so in the same environment as the real thing. Lower-level environments may differ from the real thing in data and configurations, thus making it difficult to accurately test. If you test in production, you'll have confidence knowing your users will experience the same functionality that was verified by QA teams in a test environment.
When you run more deployments, you’ll be more agile to react to customer demand. You’ll be able to create changes as needed by deploying them quickly. Deploying changes as needed will make you more nimble and responsive to their needs. Frequent deployments also help with flag-driven development, meaning you'll think about how you can activate a feature when needed. Done right, this means a developer doesn’t need to worry about their work leaking into higher environments, even if it isn't finished yet.
Testing in production shows how code reacts with other parts of the system. It tests for scalability, stability, performance, and functionality. This means that testing in production includes testing the response to a particular feature's usage, among other things.
For example, we may want to try a new user interface. Using the testing in production methodology, we can first create a QA version of the functional app. If the QA passes, we can use real customers with a canary test or A/B testing to collect data on whether or not the new UI is better than the old one.
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When people say software has been deployed, it means it is running on your company’s servers. The deployment process is the team’s way of installing the new version of your service’s code onto production infrastructure. In this stage, your code is ready to handle traffic and user data but may not be getting any.
The next step is a rollout. When we release a feature, it is live and active. When we say a version of a service is released, we mean that it is responsible for serving production traffic. To do this, the service needs to be ready to take over for the previous one.
The best way to run a release process is through it being automated and incremental. Likewise, rollbacks of services should also be done automatically by ensuring that the error rates or request rates are matching a baseline of patterns for your application.
If the release of the new service went well and production traffic is being served without any issues, we can call the release successful. This stage requires monitoring your software to ensure it continues to perform as expected.
Developing new software can be tricky. Feature flags are an incredible tool for the engineering team. When activated, new features are seen only by a small percentage of the site's traffic. This is useful for making sure that it's fully developed and working correctly before being released to the majority of customers.
A company could also use feature flags to test out new changes in a live environment without risking that it will break everything. Feature flags allow you to easily monitor the effectiveness of your new release on your audience and software engineers can verify if their new feature is working well with their visitors.
DevCycle is a feature management tool that allows you to leverage feature flags to ship faster, reduce risk and maximize the impact of your canary release. By leveraging feature flags, you can increase your release cadence by minimizing release complexity.
Through continuously deploying and testing in production, you can organize your feature flags in several environments with our APIs without needing to leave your workflow. Developers, product, and marketing teams can toggle a feature on or off in the DevCycle dashboard to control who has access or perform a unit test.
Your team can also predetermine a rollout schedule to specify which subset of your users have access to a new feature and at what date. This means you can create a predetermined rollout period for a feature release and let DevCycle's automation framework gradually deploy it based on the rollout schedule your team set up then scale it out to more users.
Another benefit of DevCycle is that it enables you to maximize the impact of your release through zero latency experimentation built for developers. Iterate and optimize features with the ability to dynamically modify content in production without redeployments.
Engineering teams can employ a continuous integration and continuous delivery strategy to keep up with the competition. This practice will allow for faster development cycles, the ability to gather user feedback as well as the ability to deploy new features to their user base without risk of errors or bugs to create a better user experience.
Want to use feature flags to start testing in production to improve your software development process? Get started with a free trial of DevCycle.
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