Ring-fencing a sandpit

I’ve failed over and over and over again in my life and that is why I succeed.”
Michael Jordan
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Regular readers of this blog will have recollections of previous discussions about setting up a sandpit environment for customers. A couple of examples are here (building sandcastles) and here (lose your fear in a sandpit).

There a few different ways that this can be achieved:

  • Building a dedicated physical trial environment (eg DEV, TEST, TRAIN, etc)
  • Building a dedicated virtual trial environment
  • Establishing a local environment on personal laptops
  • Utilising a cloud-based managed service

Sometimes these environments can be an afterthought, which can be quite a challenge when a physical environment is required, but hasn’t already been budgeted for.

The following uncommon approach is one that I’ve seen only once or twice and might work for you if you find yourself in this predicament.

These days most OSS are built around clusters (failover-pairs) for high availability purposes. This usually consists of a cluster of two or more nodes at one location, and then often has another stand-by cluster at a secondary location.

In this scenario there are at least four nodes in your OSS (eg active primary, passive primary, cold-standby primary, cold-standby secondary). The chances of ever needing to use the cold-standby secondary (ie priority 4) node is slim, so this “could” be used as your sandpit environment if none of the other options above can be applied.

As you can see, all the stars would have to align for this option to work for you though [noting that there are various different HA topologies including active-active, primary-secondary, cold-standby, etc and only cold-standby is a realistic option for this scenario].

Just as this approach ring-fences part of the production OSS platform, your sandpit topology may also look to use ring-fencing approaches in the network (or other supporting systems like BSS) or multi-homing so that you can send real-life management traffic to your sandpit OSS.

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