The Importance of a Sandbox Environment

Testing in isolation offers the opportunity to validate problems in a clean environment. But while we now have tools that can create a complete and adequate isolated environment, testing in isolation was almost impossible just five years ago. The code had to run on a server or network that was not identical to production or had to pull in services that were not isolated. 

In this article, we’ll discuss the value of testing apps in isolation; identify the tools needed to test services, apps, and hardware in isolation; and explain how to bring these tools into your organization.

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Isolating Apps and Services with Containers

Many of the tools you’ll want to leverage when creating an isolated environment to test your apps are found in the DevOps tool chest. Using DevOps tools doesn’t mean that you have to run a DevOps delivery team. The devices work just as well for Agile and Waterfall run projects.

To effectively isolate apps and services, you’ll want to use container tools, such as Docker. The value of Docker is that it offers developers the opportunity to build solutions that are identical to production. A container is, in many ways, a next-generation virtual machine designed for cloud and modern development practices.

For the app you are building to work in a production environment, it’s critical for the container to isolate the code. For this reason, you’ll want to begin by writing your apps in containers for effective testing in an isolated environment.

Creating Isolation in the Cloud to Isolate Hardware

One of the most difficult ways to isolate your testing is with the actual network you are using. Virtual Machines can be spun up and linked with each other, but the action is time-consuming and expensive. Creating a second network that mimics a primary network is even more costly.

Fortunately, we’re no longer in the Dark Ages for network testing. Two essential services make it much easier to manage an isolated environment:

  • Cloud providers
  • Kubernetes and containers

AWS, Google Cloud, and Microsoft Azure all offer services where a separate network with identical settings to a production network can be configured in minutes. The reliance on scripting and automation for all services running in the cloud makes it possible to create duplicated systems. Indeed, you can script out the structure for an isolated network and create a new environment whenever you need to. One piece of caution: remember to remove the testing network after you have used it; otherwise, the cloud provider will start charging you for the services.

Earlier, we discussed containers to run and test your apps. Expanding to hardware, you will want to couple your containers with Kubernetes. Kubernetes is an open-source DevOps solution for automating the management of equipment in the cloud. Kubernetes, as with many other DevOps tools, uses scripts to dictate the structure of a network. The Kubernetes scripts can be easily applied to create an isolated network identical to a production environment.

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Tools to Make Testing Effective

Automation is the key to successful testing, whether regular or isolated. The data you receive from automated tests will reveal correct anomalies that only automation can expose in comparison to manual measurement. Below is a list of popular testing tools you can use to automate your test environment:

  • Ranorex 

    Ranorex Webtestit is an IDE optimized suite of tools for building UI web tests with Selenium or Protractor. Key benefits include the ability to scaffold your test framework; automatically apply best practices such as the Page Object pattern; apply robust and maintainable test suites; and have tight integration with tools such as Jira for defect tracking, CI servers such as VSTS and Jenkins, and TestRail test case management.
  • Experitest

    Leverage Experitest to run mobile and web tests on more than 2,000 real browsers managed in the cloud. Also, you can write and integrate Appium scripts into your testing to validate your work. 
  • Buddy 

    Buddy is arguably the most accessible tool for writing CI/CD tests with more than 100 scripts already predefined. A key benefit of Buddy is the tight integration between the product and AWS. AWS, as with many leading Cloud providers, offers isolation for whole networks. Buddy can be integrated with an AWS isolated environment to run tests.
  • SoapUI 

    Expanding beyond standard apps, services, and hardware are cloud management support tools such as Kubernetes. SoapUI is designed to test SOAP and REST APIs. Tools such as Kubernetes use REST to communicate across networks and SoapUI can be used to test these API communications.

There are many more tools you can use to automate testing in your DevOps environment, but these tools work effectively for entirely isolated environments.

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Moving to DevOps: Applying Sandbox Testing to Your Organization

There is a central theme through this article for the tools and techniques needed to test applications in isolation: DevOps. It has to be said that it is not the practice of applying DevOps delivery practices that makes DevOps valuable to advanced testing. Rather, DevOps directly reflects the challenge of building apps for modern environments. 

A recent app is comprised of services, runs in the cloud, and interacts with web, mobile, and other connected devices (such as Apple Watch or smart radios in cars). The only way to effectively scale a team to meet the demands of testing against an explosion of different interfaces is through scripts and automation. Central to DevOps is the firm belief of automation.

For this reason, as you look to set up an isolated environment to test your applications, it will benefit you to look at the tools DevOps teams are using. Also, many of these tools, such as Kubernetes and Docker, are battle-tested. You can learn more about this from Simplilearn's DevOps Certification Training Course, Kubernetes Training Course, and Docker Compose in Depth Certification Training Course.

About the Author

Matthew DavidMatthew David

Matt is a Digital Leader at Accenture. His passion is a combination of solving today's problems to run more efficiently, adjusting focus to take advantage of digital tools to improve tomorrow and move organizations to new ways of working that impact the future.

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