Start With the Why: How Cloning is Supposed to Improve Production Releases

Scott Willson

Cloning instances hold immense significance in the ServiceNow ecosystem, yet cloning often evokes conflicting sentiments. While recognized as crucial for maintaining consistency across environments, cloning is also perceived as time-intensive and cumbersome. To truly grasp the value of cloning, one must first understand its fundamental purpose: enabling smoother production releases.

The Rationale Behind Cloning

Cloning centers on establishing uniformity across ServiceNow instances, a critical prerequisite for seamless application and feature releases. When development and testing environments mirror production, the likelihood of errors during downstream migration diminishes substantially. This heightened migration success rate increases reliability and predictability and reduces troubleshooting time.

Moreover, cloning ensures that all non-production instances, whether development, testing, or staging, accurately reflect the production environment. This congruence means that any application or feature developed and tested within these environments has already been validated against a production-like backdrop, boosting confidence in the robustness of deployments.

The Ideal vs. The Practicality

In an ideal scenario, cloning would be a frequent, routine process, ensuring that every non-production instance remains in lockstep with the production environment. While many ServiceNow customers recognize this ideal and attempt to adhere to it by regularly cloning their QA or Test environments, the reality often presents a different picture.

Executing a clone, which involves transferring data, configurations, and customizations from one instance to another, can be a marathon task, frequently taking 20 hours or more to complete. Given the high demand for projects on the ServiceNow platform, this extended downtime is a luxury that many organizations cannot afford. Consequently, many choose to clone infrequently, reluctantly accepting higher error rates as they migrate their applications, features, and update sets downstream.

The Consequences of Infrequent Cloning

The challenges associated with infrequent cloning are numerous. Applications and features developed and tested in environments unlike production will likely encounter issues upon release. These issues can lead to significant disruptions, affecting user experience, operational continuity, and the organization's ability to respond to market demands. Furthermore, the time and resources spent troubleshooting and resolving these issues post-migration could have been allocated to further innovation or enhancement of the ServiceNow platform.

Bridging the Divide

Recognizing the pivotal role cloning plays in ensuring smooth, error-free production releases, the question becomes: How can organizations bridge the gap between the ideal and the reality of cloning? The answer lies in leveraging advancements in cloning technology.

Solutions designed to streamline the cloning process, reduce downtime, and ensure a higher degree of fidelity between instances are invaluable. xtype provides ServiceNow-native products engineered to mitigate the challenges associated with traditional cloning processes. By enhancing efficiency, accuracy, and speed, xtype products offer organizations a way to align more closely with the cloning ideal without the significant time investment traditionally required.

Unlocking the Full Potential

xtype's ability to automatically generate pre-clone previews that identify the differences between a clone target and a source allows ServiceNow developers to more accurately back up their work-in-process (WIP) and thus reduce the risk of lost work. xtype's Controlled Synchronization can then be used to synchronize the restoration of WIP on one newly cloned instance of all other clones. Additionally, by leveraging Controlled Synchronization for day-to-day operations, all sub-prod instances will remain as production-like as possible without having to clone as frequently as needed in the past.

In pursuing operational excellence, starting with the "why" of cloning is just the beginning. The journey continues with the "how," leveraging xtype products and strategies to transform cloning from a necessary evil into a strategic asset.


Ultimately, the importance of developing and testing in production-like instances to improve production releases cannot be overstated. Organizations can significantly reduce the likelihood of errors during deployments by ensuring that all non-production instances are as production-like as possible. 

The way forward involves reevaluating cloning practices and using xtype products to streamline the process. By leveraging xtype Clone Previews and Controlled Synchronization, the pain points of traditional cloning methodologies, organizations can reap the full benefits of cloning and foster a more efficient, reliable, and responsive ServiceNow ecosystem.

Get the free ebook

xtype's 6 Principles to ServiceNow Platform Engineering Success

Instant Demo

Check out how xtype provides the ability to meet ANY level of demand from the business on the ServiceNow platform.

Your one-stop destination for the latest and greatest happenings at xtype.

Previous article
Back to all articles

Are you ready to transform your ServiceNow delivery process?

Loved by Developers, Trusted by Businesses