Dave Slusher

4 minute read

When we answer the feedback from the Developer portal, the biggest single topic are questions related to the developer instances. The bulk of these break down into one of two buckets:

1) My instance was reclaimed from inactivity - how can I get that restored?

2) I want to request an instance but it says none are available. Now what?

Let’s look at both of those situations with some tips on avoiding negative impact on your development experience.


ServiceNow’s Developer Program has been quite successful. One of the reflections of that success is that a few weeks back, demand for developer instances began outstripping demand. When the program went live, there was a chunk of capacity allocated for these instances. Although there are plans to increase that capacity, it will be 2016 before the additional instances can go online. If there were no timeout, instances that are not being actively used would prevent new instances from being commissioned. 10 days was worked out as the happy medium that allows most users enough time to keep them alive, while also allowing enough to expire that new instances can be created.

My Instance Was Reclaimed

Periodically, if you have a developer instance provisioned you will get emails warning you that you are reaching the inactivity timeout. Take these very seriously, as you have roughly 24 hours at that point to avoid the reclamation process. When the instance is reclaimed, there is nothing that can be done to restore any work you created on your instance. Getting an instance reclaimed when you intended to keep it will always be a negative situation, but there are ways to mitigate that.

Our recommendation is to treat your developer instance the way you would treat a word processor with a critical document being composed. You are going to want to save that often, and how often depends on the value of the document and the amount of work lost if it were to disappear due to an error. Take update set backups of the work from your developer instance, at the very least weekly. If the work is of higher value to you, consider doing it daily. If you make it part of your routine to take this backup at the end of the work week or the work day, the amount of work that can be lost is minimal. Even if your instance is reclaimed, you can resume work right where you left off in minutes after receiving a new one.

In order to keep your instance from getting reclaimed, you need to have some form of development activity or else the timeout clock will begin counting. “Development activity” in this case means something that would appear in an update set. Editing a Script Include or a Business Rule counts as activity, creating an Incident would not. You need to be editing the code or configuration of the system, not the data.

With the holidays coming up, it is increasingly likely that people will be away from their jobs for long enough that an instance might be reclaimed. Even if your intention is to keep working with the instance to keep it alive, the possibility of forgetting to do that is real. Before you go on your holiday break, save a local copy of all update sets and guard yourself against nasty surprises.

I Can’t Request An Instance

Through the fall of this year, it has become a pattern that peak instance allocation occurs somewhere around Thursday, continues through Friday and then eases over the weekend. It makes sense, that as instances are requested or used at the beginning of work weeks, some fraction of those will expire at the end of the following work week. This leads to a sawtooth type chart when you look at the graph.

Screen Shot 2015-12-01 at 10.05.38.png

We have been recommending to developers that write us to request an instance as early in the work week as possible, and over the weekend if that is feasible. These are the times that represent the lower points in the sawtooth graph. If it is late in the day Thursday and you try to request an instance, there is a reasonable chance that capacity will be exhausted at that point. If it is first thing Monday morning, there is a very good chance you will be able to claim an instance. By early 2016 these issues should be less prevalent but until then, it may take a bit of patience and persistence to request new developer instances.

As we go forward with the Developer Program, these are our recommendations to minimize disruption. Take frequent update set backups so that even if your instance is reclaimed, it is a small matter to restore your progress. If you need an instance, Mondays or weekends are the best times to request them.

Happy developing!