The Imperative to Clone ServiceNow Instances: A Dive Into Underlying Business and Technical Factors

Ron Gidron

The End

Cloning ServiceNow instances is a necessary practice. It is indeed a 'necessary evil.' Organizations need to find ways to minimize the need for cloning. But wait, let's step back and start at the beginning.

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ServiceNow has become more than just an enterprise management system in digital transformation. While it continues to excel in its traditional domains of IT service management (ITSM), IT operations management (ITOM), and IT business management (ITBM), ServiceNow has evolved into a robust platform for application development, enabling businesses to build custom applications tailored to their unique needs. However, with this expanded capability comes the necessity to clone ServiceNow instances. The reasons behind this requirement span business, technical, and development perspectives. Let's explore these underlying factors.

Maintaining Business Continuity and Minimizing Risk

In the world of business, continuity, and risk management are paramount. Unexpected disruptions can lead to considerable financial losses and damage the brand's reputation. In this context, ServiceNow instance cloning provides a safety net.

Cloning creates an exact copy of a production instance, ensuring that all applications, configurations, and data are replicated. This cloned instance can serve as a ready backup, allowing businesses to quickly restore operations in case of any unforeseen outage or system failure in the production instance.

Moreover, it mitigates the risk associated with deploying new features, updates, or changes directly on the production instance by providing a safe testing ground.

Facilitating DevOps Processes

Technically, ServiceNow instance cloning is critical in supporting DevOps processes. ServiceNow's instance architecture allows for development, testing, and production instances, all serving different stages of the software development lifecycle.

Developers work on new features or fixes in the development instance. However, this environment may not fully replicate the complexities of the production instance. By cloning the production instance to a test or staging instance, developers can validate their changes in an environment that closely mirrors the live situation. This practice reduces the chances of errors or issues arising when changes are pushed to production, enhancing overall software quality and reliability.

The Inefficiencies of Cloning

While cloning ServiceNow instances is a crucial practice in ensuring business continuity, facilitating application development, and maintaining data consistency, it is not without its drawbacks. Cloning can be a time-consuming process, particularly for large instances with vast amounts of changes. This time lag can delay new development, testing, application deployment, and other critical tasks, leading to inefficiencies in business processes.

Navigating Multiple Development Instance Environments

The complexity of managing multiple development instances is another challenge. Each instance might be at a different development or testing stage, leading to potential inconsistencies and synchronization issues. Coordinating changes across these instances requires meticulous planning and resource allocation.

Moreover, multiple instances can lead to 'configuration drift,' where instances deviate from the standard configuration over time. This drift can cause unexpected behavior during testing and deployment, leading to additional debugging and rectification efforts.

The Ripple Effects on Business and Technical Aspects

The need to frequently clone ServiceNow instances can also impact various business aspects. From a business perspective, frequent cloning can disrupt workflows, delay service delivery, and affect customer satisfaction. It can also necessitate additional training for staff to manage and operate the cloned instances.

Minimizing the Need for Cloning: A Strategic Imperative

Given these challenges, it becomes clear that while cloning ServiceNow instances is a necessary practice, it is indeed a 'necessary evil.' Organizations need to find ways to minimize the need for cloning.
One approach is to maintain lean development and testing instances, limiting the data to what is necessary for specific tasks. Regular clean-up activities can also help manage storage and reduce the time needed for cloning.

Using xtype to fight inconsistencies and reduce excessive cloning

In the face of these inefficiencies and complexities, products like xtype can present a viable improvement over the traditional cloning process. xtype is designed to provide real-time visibility, reduce cloning, eliminate manual and error-prone releases, and accelerate deployments, enhancing quality and compliance.

One of the critical features of xtype is its advanced back-sync technology. This feature allows xtype to back-sync update sets across all sub-production instances, significantly reducing collisions, conflicts, and code runovers. This process eliminates the constant need for cloning in your ServiceNow DevOps process, reducing the overhead of maintaining multiple cloned instances.

xtype also boosts the delivery speed with its stage-flows. These flows empower your teams to automate the deployment of update sets and execute automated tests, code scans, code reviews, and approvals. The xtype release automation uses packages encapsulating update sets, Data, Scripts, XML, Plugins, and Store Applications to completely automate production releases, boosting your ServiceNow CI/CD process. This reduces the need for cloning and helps businesses maintain a lean and efficient development environment.

Furthermore, xtype provides a 360° cross-instance real-time command and control center for tracking update sets and changes across all instances of your ServiceNow environment. This feature gives businesses complete visibility and control over their ServiceNow instances. It allows them to see items needing attention easily, and move update sets with one click, and more. This level of control and visibility can help minimize the need for cloning and streamline the application development process on the ServiceNow platform.


While cloning ServiceNow instances can be a necessary evil, organizations must be aware of the inefficiencies and complexities it introduces. Products like xtype can offer an innovative technology to these challenges, reducing the reliance on cloning and enabling more efficient and streamlined application development on the ServiceNow platform. While cloning can't be eliminated, its impact can be significantly minimized with the right tools and strategies, leading to more efficient and agile business operations.

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