The growing popularity of public cloud services, as well as the spread of DevOps automation cultures and platforms, has not only given IT organizations new tools to work with, but also - in many cases - changed their entire approaches to key practices such as software development, testing and deployment. Well-known hyperscale firms such as Google, Amazon, Facebook and others have become widely imitated models for such transformations.
These giants are capable of running production environments 24/7/365, with only tiny and usually seamless maintenance windows. While their broad technical expertise and custom infrastructures are generally beyond the reach of their smaller peers, it is still possible for other firms to emulate some of the things that have made them so successful as of late.
One example here is the cloud sandbox, which can mimic on-premises and public cloud infrastructure. The sandbox term is apt: Like a literal sandbox, there are clear boundaries between it and the outside world. A cloud sandbox helps IT organizations more easily accomplish critical tasks during application devtest without disrupting production:
"Sandboxes are self-contained infrastructure environments that can be configured to look exactly like the final target deployment environment, but created and run anywhere," QualiSystems CTO Joan Wrabetz explained in an article for Network Computing. "For example, developers can create a sandbox that looks like the production environment, from network and hardware to OS versions and software to cloud APIs. They do their development in that sandbox for a short period of time and when they are done, they tear down the sandbox."
A cloud sandbox is powerful in large part because it can be reconfigured on the fly to emulate whatever environment testers need to target. More specifically, it can be shifted from looking like the internal IT environment to resembling an external cloud, depending on what types of tests are being run at the moment.
"A cloud sandbox can be easily reconfigured on the fly."
It is also important to note that the use case presented by a cloud sandbox is not a one-time deploy but rather an ongoing cycle. In other words, the sandbox needs to be able to be accessed, used and released on an efficient schedule, in order to support a private or hybrid cloud. Failing to account for the cyclical use case means that the company cloud can quickly spiral out of control, becoming a huge cost center beset by virtual machine hoarding and bloat.
As we discussed at the outset here, IT organizations are in flux right now as more of them shift toward hybrid clouds and embrace DevOps automation tools and practices. The trend toward greater integration of cloud services is readily apparent:
This growing affinity for both hybrid cloud and DevOps creates big challenges in areas such as integration and security. For instance, it is possible that teams will run into SaaS applications that sport APIs very different from what they are accustomed to. These APIs may expose only a portion of the full data model, without full create, read, update and delete (CRUD) capabilities. Rate-limiting is also common with SaaS APIs, as a way of controlling for high loads and poor performance.
Sandboxes ensure that these types of cloud scenarios and environments can be planned for. Plus, sandboxes can deliver services for many other kinds of infrastructure, too, including physical, legacy and virtual assets. Accordingly, cloud sandboxes are suitable for everything from validating new builds and verifying technical issues raised in support, to demoing technologies in specific environments and conducting tech-specific trainings.
We can think of a cloud sandbox as a Swiss Army Knife for IT organizations. Its flexibility has even been put to work in vetting a network's resiliency in the face of a distributed denial-of-service attack. A private/hybrid cloud sandbox platform such as QualiSystems CloudShell unlocks the full range of sandbox possibilities and ensures a cyclical use case for sandboxes by providing features such as:
CloudShell provides a comprehensive foundation for sandboxing in a world increasingly reliant on hybrid cloud and DevOps innovation. Contact us to learn more about CloudShell for easy cloud sandbox management and environment-as-a-service.
The takeaway: Cloud sandboxes are versatile things. They give teams the simulated environments that they need in order to model applications for a variety of settings, from internal systems to public cloud ecosystems such as Amazon Web Services. Moreover, they can facilitate easy demo clouds for sales and training teams. With DevOps and hybrid cloud continuing to pick up steam among IT organizations, it is more important than ever to have a reliable platform for managing cloud sandboxes and EaaS for all teams.