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Complexity without risk: Why the staging lab is a must-have

With a staging lab that accurately replicates the production environment, the behavior of new applications on the enterprise network can be fully and accurately assessed.

David Hochhauser

Before pharmaceutical companies introduce new drugs to the market, they run trials with control groups. That's because the interaction between a drug and the biology of a human being is too complex to be fully and accurately predicted on the drawing board alone. Trials with real people are necessary to ensure that no unanticipated adverse effects manifest among the general population. It's the law.

Yet IT organizations release new and modified applications every day without adequately testing their impact on the complex enterprise computing environments. So it's no wonder that unanticipated performance problems often afflict these rollouts.

This doesn't have to be the case. With a staging lab that accurately replicates the production environment, the behavior of new applications on the enterprise network – and their potential impact on other applications already in production – can be fully and accurately assessed. Performance problems can be quickly discovered and remedied in such a lab without jeopardizing critical live services. The risk of delay and the added cost and aggravation associated with the rollout of increasingly complex applications onto increasingly complex networks can thereby be greatly reduced. Network managers can thus ensure their ability to consistently meet their service level targets.

Conventional network management tools provide little protection against these risks. Their purpose is to discover problems after an application has been introduced onto the network. So to rely solely on these conventional tools is akin to buying a car that has never been street-tested – and then counting on your seat belt to keep you safe. You may indeed survive, but you're likely to get into a terrible accident the first time you make a sharp turn on a wet road.

As technology gets even more complex, staging labs become even more indispensable. These labs are essential for discovering unexpected quirks in the behavior of applications under real-world conditions. They're also essential for determining how planned changes to the network – such as the addition of a new remote location or an increase in network capacity – will impact applications. After all, no one wants to invest in a network upgrade only to discover that it doesn't produce any improvement in application performance!

Managing technology is risky enough. No one should exacerbate that risk by introducing inadequately tested changes into a production environment on which the business depends every minute of the day, whether those changes are new applications or modifications of underlying infrastructure. That's why every IT organization needs an effective staging lab to serve as a sort of "virtual enterprise" – complete with a virtual network, virtual traffic and virtual end-users – where changes can be piloted without risk, where problems can be discovered before they impact end-users, and where otherwise difficult-to-find problems can be methodically and consistently isolated. These capabilities are essential for successfully coping with today's complex enterprise environments and achieving service-level assurance in the midst of technological change.

About the author:
David Hochhauser, VP of Marketing for Shunra Software, is responsible for developing Shunra's marketing strategy and operations, including product, sales and channel marketing efforts. Previously VP of Marketing for Computer Associates, Hochhauser is a 20-year industry veteran. Shunra is a provider of WAN emulation solutions that empower companies to build and maintain reliable, high-quality voice services and data applications over the network. More on Shunra can be found at www.shunra.com.

This was last published in July 2004

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