What Are Ephemeral Environments? Guide 101

In software development, testing is how you know whether a product is working as intended before it is finally deployed to the real environment. So, testing ensures the quality of software produced and detects any issues and bugs for quick fixing during the production lifecycle.

That said, testing requires a specialized environment. That is a set of conditions that help dissect pieces of code for issues that could cause a problem later. Now, two types of environments are commonly used in software testing: ephemeral and persistent.

In this article, we define ephemeral environments and their benefits. We also compare ephemeral and persistent environments so that you know what works best for your organization.

What is an Ephemeral Environment?

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Just as it suggests, an ephemeral environment, also called a preview environment, is a testing environment created to last for just a short period. Usually, these environments are single-purpose and deployed on a need basis. That is when a new piece of code is developed. Once the testing is complete, the environment ceases to exist.

Advantages of Ephemeral Environments

So, what are the benefits of these short-lived environments? Here are a couple:

  • Fast deployment: Preview environments are easy to set up and can be spun on demand.
  • More efficient software testing: ephemeral environments make continuous and independent testing possible, as teams can run parallel testing environments. This ensures better results and overall better products.
  • Smooth collaboration between teams: These environments eliminate compatibility issues, helping team members collaborate on projects seamlessly.
  • High team productivity: Since several ephemeral environments can run independently at once, there are no delays in testing, and feedback can be generated faster, increasing team productivity.
  • Lower costs: Preview environments are cheaper to set up and, since they only last a short while, have no maintenance costs.
  • Scalable: ephemeral environments are deployed on demand. So, you can adjust as your workload increases.

Ephemeral Vs. Persistent Environments

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Now, a persistent environment is the opposite of an ephemeral environment. Basically, it is a permanent testing environment that runs throughout the production lifecycle.

A persistent environment is more complicated and costly in terms of setup and maintenance than a preview environment. That’s because you are building one shared environment for all tests and can’t tear it up. You have to maintain it even when not in use.

Also, since developers share one test environment in a persistent setup, delays can occur because of test queues. On the other hand, ephemeral environments work independently, allowing different teams to test new code simultaneously. And this ensures a faster development process.

With persistent environments, issues are not always detected in time. This means that you risk merging code with bugs, which can force you to tear down an entire branch later on. Preview environments detect issues faster for quick resolution.

Implement Continuous Testing Efficiently with Ephemeral Environments

Gone are the days when traditional testing, where software is tested after development and just before deployment, was the industry standard. To ensure consistent quality products, you want to switch to continuous testing, that is, testing very new or changed code before integrating it into the main product. So, implement efficient continuous testing with ephemeral environments, which you can spin at will and only when needed.