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DevOps / Operations / Platform Engineering

7 Benefits of Developer Access to Production 

When developers have access to production environments, they can directly interact with the real-life systems they build and deploy.
Sep 7th, 2023 8:12am by
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Platform engineering has emerged as a game-changer in modern software development. It promises to revolutionize the developer experience and deliver customer value faster through automated infrastructure operations and self-service capabilities. At the heart of this approach lies a critical aspect: developer access to production.

Let’s explore why providing developers access to production environments is crucial for their productivity and the success of the product, and how it aligns perfectly with the principles of platform engineering. Also, secure and controlled access to production for developers can significantly benefit operation teams by reducing their operational burden on repetitive tasks, allowing them to prioritize resources on high-value tasks such as infrastructure scaling or security enhancements.

Productivity Enabler

When developers have access to production environments, they can directly interact with the real-life systems they build and deploy. This access translates to greater productivity, reducing the need for communication with separate operations teams to diagnose and resolve issues. This firsthand interaction means that developers can instantly diagnose, troubleshoot and rectify anomalies or inefficiencies they detect without waiting for feedback or navigating bureaucratic processes.

By immersing themselves in the production environment, developers gain invaluable insights, identify potential bottlenecks and fine-tune their code with real-world data, resulting in faster iterations and more efficient development processes that would be difficult to achieve in their local development environment, which cannot usually reproduce completely the actual behavior of the production environment.

Faster Issue Resolution

Every minute counts in the fast-paced world of software development. Hence, delays in addressing issues can lead to considerable setbacks.

When developers have access to production systems, they can swiftly diagnose and address issues as they arise, minimizing mean time to resolution (MTTR). This capability is especially beneficial during high-pressure situations such as system outages, where developers’ firsthand experience with the codebase usually means getting to the problematic components faster and knowing exactly which logs, events or data to gather to troubleshoot and diagnose the problem.

This ability to troubleshoot and debug in real time not only reduces downtime but also leads to improved overall system stability, as it makes it easier to predict potential system bottlenecks or failures. Developers can provide insights into future updates or changes that might affect system performance, allowing operations teams to prepare in advance.

Ownership and Accountability

Granting developers access to production fosters a sense of ownership and accountability. When development teams are responsible for their product’s performance and reliability, they take more significant ownership of its success. This sense of responsibility drives them to deliver high-quality code and actively participate in maintaining the application’s health.

Well-regulated access to production should lead to a shared responsibility model between the development and operation teams, as the responsibility for system health and uptime becomes a shared endeavor. This collaborative approach ensures that developers and operations teams are aligned in their goals, reducing the likelihood of miscommunication or misaligned priorities.

Empowering Innovation

Developers are at their creative best when they can explore and experiment freely. By providing access to production, organizations enable their development teams to innovate and push boundaries. Developers can directly prototype and validate new features in the production environment, leading to more creative and innovative solutions.

Feedback Loop Improvement

In the traditional setup, feedback from operations teams might take time to reach developers. However, with direct access to production, developers receive instant feedback on their code’s impact, performance and scalability by gathering logs, data samples and events. Additionally, the real-time data and insights from the live environment empower developers to make informed decisions, refine their code based on actual user interactions and iteratively improve the software

This feedback loop enables continuous improvement, leading to faster and more reliable updates. This direct involvement not only streamlines the development and maintenance processes but also ensures that solutions are tailored to real-world demands and challenges, leading to faster development cycles and reduced time to market.

Empowering the Operation Team

In most traditional setups, the operation teams act as gatekeepers to production. While this helps in protecting the production environment from certain risks, it also forces the operations team to engage in repetitive tasks, like gathering logs and events, tweaking configurations, analyzing payloads, etc. By granting controlled access to production to developers, operations teams can reduce the existing burden and enhance the overall team’s productivity. Operations teams can focus more on strategic tasks and proactive system improvements rather than being bogged down with routine troubleshooting.

In essence, granting developers access to production paves the way for a more symbiotic relationship between them and operations teams. It promotes collaboration, fosters knowledge exchange and, most importantly, ensures that both teams work harmoniously toward a singular goal: delivering a seamless and resilient user experience.

Cost Efficiency

When developers can debug directly in production, organizations can significantly reduce logging costs, circumvent the need for costly redeployments or initiate new CI/CD cycles merely to add new log lines. This direct access speeds up issue resolution and eliminates unnecessary spending on reiteration cycles. Cost optimization also affects operations teams: With developers directly resolving certain issues in autonomy, operations teams can better allocate their resources and prioritize tasks that demand their specific expertise.

Overcoming Challenges through Developer Observability 

Lightrun’s Developer Observability Platform streamlines the debugging process in production applications through dynamic log additions, metrics integration and virtual breakpoints without requiring code changes, application restarts or redeployment.

Lightrun’s platform facilitates developer access to production via:

  • Dynamic logs, which allow developers to add new log lines anywhere in the production codebase without writing new code or redeploying the application, and without losing state.
  • Snapshots, which are virtual breakpoints that provide typical breakpoint functionalities without stopping execution, allowing them to be used directly on production. Once a snapshot is captured, the developer can view the captured data and act on it.
  • Metrics, which can monitor production applications in real time and on demand. They can, for example, monitor the size of data structures over time, allowing users to find bugs that can be reproduced only on the production system.

How Lightrun Overcomes the Challenges Associated with Production Access

While granting developers access to production has advantages, it also poses challenges in security, auditing and data confidentiality. Here’s how Lightrun addresses them:

  • Security: Lightrun implements robust security measures and access controls to prevent unauthorized access and mitigate risks, ensuring controlled and safe developer access to production.
  • Auditing and compliance: Its comprehensive audit system facilitates continuous compliance monitoring, simplifies auditing processes and ensures adherence to industry standards.
  • Data confidentiality: It safeguards sensitive data in production environments, preventing exposure in logs and snapshots. This enables developers to work with production data securely and compliantly.
  • Controlled access management: Lightrun enables organizations to define precise access controls for users and roles, creating a secure and collaborative development environment.

Conclusion

Allowing developers access to production environments is a cornerstone of platform engineering. It empowers them with the tools to create, innovate and maintain their products more efficiently, ultimately benefiting the entire organization and its customers.

Granting developers access to production is pivotal for productivity and product success, and a robust platform like Lightrun represents a powerful enabler for this strategy.

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TNS owner Insight Partners is an investor in: Pragma, Lightrun.
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