Getty Images/iStockphoto

Environments as a service tackle development bottlenecks

Environments as a service are gaining traction as a tool to reduce delays, manage environments and improve developer productivity, according to industry analysts.

Environments as a service are a relatively new way to tackle bottlenecks in staging and environment management that are age-old problems for developers.

EaaS extends IaaS -- which encompasses infrastructures such as networking, storage and server resources -- into the realm of application development. It gives developers the ability to share and test applications in an on-demand ephemeral environment. While PaaS is a complete development platform, EaaS is a complementary tool in the development chain, focused on creating environments that the app would be deployed to but not doing the deployment itself, said Katie Norton, an analyst at IDC.

This week's news that corporate travel company TripActions has adopted ReleaseHub's EaaS platform highlights the start of a growing trend in application development toward on-demand software environments, said Charlotte Dunlap, research director at analysis firm GlobalData.

"We'll see more activities like this in 2023," she said. "Being able to replicate the next version of a service app across global regions and confirm its scalability is extremely valuable to those involved in app modernization."

The growing use of EaaS follows the trend of anything as a service (XaaS) that came out of the success of the SaaS model, Norton said.

Charlotte Dunlap, analyst, GlobalDataCharlotte Dunlap

"One driver of XaaS is the struggle organizations are having with meeting both development and operations staffing needs," she said. "EaaS, specifically, can increase the time developers have to work on value-add work as well as [minimize] the maintenance work that goes into environment maintenance from operators."

Other companies that provide EaaS include Roost and Quali. Salesforce will likely roll out a similar service as part of its DevOps Center product early next year, Dunlap said.

Environments as a service and staging

EaaS solves the major development pain point of staging bottlenecks, Norton said.

"Commonly, an organization may have a single, shared staging environment," she said. "This requires a sequential process where developers must queue their pull requests for merging into the main branch. If developers have to wait for an available environment, it can delay releases."

ReleaseHub will automate the complete staging process, resulting in improved developer productivity and more efficient use of infrastructure, said Larry Carvalho, an independent analyst at Robust Cloud.

Larry Carvalho, principal consultant, Robust CloudLarry Carvalho

While there are many automation platforms on the market, they usually set up only some of the services needed for a complete staging environment, he said. For example, Ansible or CloudBees require a series of steps to manage multiple environments.

"There can also be a lot of waste if these environments are not spun down upon completing tasks," Carvalho said.

Pros and cons of EaaS

In addition to staging, EaaS also provides consistent and reliable automation of the painstaking task of environment management, Norton said.

EaaS, specifically, can increase the time developers have to work on value-add work as well as [minimize] the maintenance work that goes into environment maintenance from operators.
Katie NortonSenior research analyst, IDC

"In organizations that centralize environment management, there may be a change request required when a new environment is needed, which is a major contributor to developer inefficiencies," she said.

EaaS can also improve cost controls, such as scaling environment resources based on its use case. "EaaS environments are typically ephemeral and discarded after use, so enterprises don't incur costs from underutilized resources," she said.

EaaS shares the typical downsides of any SaaS or XaaS product, Norton said.

"For velocity and ease of use, you sometimes trade off things like control and customization," Norton said, adding that enterprises should also consider whether they want to add another tool or vendor to what is likely an already sizeable stack.

Dig Deeper on Software development lifecycle

Cloud Computing
App Architecture