Using a Gold Environment as a Part of Your Production to Test Content Movement Toolkit

Introduction

Introducing a straight forward, easily repeatable methodology for performing frequent content movement/environment refreshes in your Fusion Applications (FA) system is essential to managing your ecosystem successfully. In this article we will introduce the concept of using a static or Gold environment into your Production to Test Content Movement (P2T) regimen.

An Overview of P2T

The Purpose of P2T is to facilitate data content movement from a Production environment to a Test environment. The most common use case is the refreshing of a test system with production data, yet it can be used to move data from any source to any target – not strictly limited to production environments. This is why the introduction of a Gold environment is an important addition to your content movement toolkit.

P2T has several advantages over other tools:

  • Does not care if the environment is scaled out
  • Target topology is preserved as part of P2T
  • Allows you to go from a scaled out source environment to a non-scaled out target environment seamlessly
  • Preserves all integrations, customizations, and extensions implemented on the target environment
  • Typically completes in a matter of hours, allowing for more frequent refreshing of target systems

The Gold Environment

To get us started in the conversation, let us first discuss and settle on just exactly what a Gold environment is. For the purposes of this discussion, a “Gold” environment is a mirror image of your production environment in terms of FA release level, patch levels ( with respect to P4FA as well as functional bundle patches), and one-off patches. At the end of the day, the Gold environment can simply be created by performing the P2T process from your production (the original source) to your Gold environment (target) and then taking a complete cold backup of the resulting target system and retaining it as an archive. This archive becomes your Gold environment. Once the Gold environment is created, it will be important that you ensure the backup images for the Gold environment are archived in such a way that they remain available and easily accessible over a longer than normal period of time, to allow them to be easily restored from.  The ability to restore from the Gold environment is a key component to simplifying the long term P2T process. So it is important that the Gold environment archive has a longer retention period than what may be typical in your environment. Once the Gold environment is created it will become the source for the steps described below and your new target will be the environment you wish to refresh (i.e., Dev, Test, QA, etc.).

The Basic Case

The basic approach to implementing a repeatable P2T process is based on the following assumptions:

  • A Gold environment exists as described above
  • The Gold environment is kept patched to the same level as production

Based on the above assumptions we arrive at the following approach:

  • Refresh (or create) Gold by running the P2T process from Production (source) to Gold (target)
  • Patch or Upgrade Gold (now your new source) to the same level as the intended target
  • Refresh the target using P2T (i.e., Gold to QA, Gold to Test, etc.)
  • No scale out required

Graphically it looks like this:

P2T basic scenario

 

We can next use the Gold environment to refresh an environment that is on a higher patch level that Gold by using the following approach.

Refreshing a Test Environment Currently on a Higher Patch Level than Gold

It is very common to have a lower level environment, such as a pure test environment, have a higher patch level than the production or the Gold environment. Here we will describe the steps to refresh this environment from Gold.

Step 1 – Take a cold back up of the Gold Environment and store it someplace where it is easy to restore from

Step 2 – Patch the Gold environment up to the same level as the intended target environment – we will call this patch level 2 in the diagram below.

Step 3 – Perform P2T between the Gold environment and the test system.

Graphically it looks like this:

Level2P2T

Next let’s look at using this approach for a development environment.

Refreshing a Development Environment on a Higher Patch Level than Gold

While the process is much that same as that described above, It is shown here to illustrate the flexibility of the Gold environment model, in fact the steps are the same. The key thing to recognize here is that all levels of environments are being refreshed from a single capture of the production system, reducing any production downtime to capture the production data. This translates to the Gold environment needing to be refreshed from production only when the data within the Gold environment is deemed to be too far out of date to be useful.

Step 1 – Take a cold back up of the Gold Environment and store it someplace where it is easy to restore from

Step 2 – Patch the Gold environment up to the same level as the intended target environment – we will call this patch level 3 in the diagram below.

Step 3 – Perform P2T between the Gold environment and the development system.

The development environment refresh would look like this:

Level3P2T

Next is the all important step of restoring the Gold environment so it can all be done again when you are ready.

Resetting the Gold Environment

This step explains why you will want to always keep the original, and even the interim, backups easily available. In this scenario we want to reset back to the original Gold Image. To do this we need to obtain the backup files from when we originally created the Gold environment. We then restore the Gold environment from the images you took when the Gold environment was on the same patch level as production. In fact the same process can be applied to the lower level environments if the backups were saved for these environments as well.

Graphically, the process looks like this:

P2T Restore

Summary

Introducing the concept of a Gold environment/image into your P2T process allows you to create an easily repeatable process that can be done on a scheduled basis and even automated over time.

As a reminder, we do need to take into account the following considerations when using Gold Environments for P2T.

  • Gold must be kept at the same patch level as Production
    • Mitigation: Gold must be patched or upgraded at the same time as or as soon as production patch/upgrade is complete
  • Keeping an accurate inventory of the patches applied to the various environments
    • Mitigation: Have a good change management process and compare inventory between source and target periodically and before content movement

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