“Software is eating the world” is no longer a hopeful vision. It’s happening. It’s here. Software is driving the world’s most important technological trends, and 2018 will prove to be an inflection point for several of them.
Underlying the rapid pace of software transformation is another trend that has become immensely popular in itself. The rise of continuous delivery has enabled software companies to turn their ideas into reality faster than ever before.
Let’s take a look at this software development practice in more detail and discuss ways you can better implement it on your team.
So, what is continuous delivery, anyway?
Continuous delivery means the default state of your software build is “ready for deployment”. Each new update to the source code is automatically tested, built, and configured for deployment. This process makes deployments a predictable and routine affair that can be performed on the drop of a hat. Here’s a great primer video on continuous delivery and its cousins, continuous integration and continuous deployment,
Before the days of continuous delivery, software releases would cause massive bottlenecks for the application and operation teams. Teams would be so backed up and under immense deadline stress that releases would typically either be delayed or contain a number of errors. For more and more teams implementing both a DevOps mentality and continuous delivery strategy, those stressful days are long gone.
Continuous delivery is often confused with continuous deployment, but the two methodologies are distinctively different. If a team subscribes to continuous deployment, every change is sent through the pipeline of testing and is automatically released into production. This results in a number of incremental deployments occurring everyday. With continuous delivery, you have the capability and confidence to automatically release every change, but choose to deploy manually instead.
How is continuous delivery beneficial to my team?
More frequent deployments
Continuous delivery was developed with speed in mind. Each new software revision is automatically built, tested, and prepared for deployment, even if you choose not to deploy continuously. You’ll also save time by catching errors before they’re deployed, which we talk about below.
Fewer errors in each deployment
Not only does CD speed up deployment, it actually reduces the risk of bad deployments as well. Errors are much less likely to occur throughout the process, and it becomes much easier to identify errors when they do occur. Using a deployment monitoring tool such as Retrace, you can immediately identify which deployment version caused the error and make the fix.
The best-case scenario is to catch errors before a new version is released. Continuous delivery enables this because the software is constantly in a production-like environment, ready to be deployed. This helps teams avoid last-minute hiccups and stay on schedule.
Quicker feedback from customers
Continuous delivery leads to more deployments, which means more frequent feedback from the customer. Imagine spending a year on a massive software update, only to have the user completely hate it (or worse, not care at all). CD helps you waste less time by learning quickly if you’re making the changes your customers care about. This is where Agile methodology is also incredibly beneficial.
Implementing continuous delivery
The continuous delivery process begins with another popular software development practice: continuous integration. Continuously integration means new code from each developer is merged in real-time, ensuring the new changes will work together in production. We see a lot of customers using tools like Jenkins or Bamboo to streamline the continuous integration and continuous delivery process.
The next step in the CD process is quality checks. Teams will roll out deployments in incremental stages to users who try the new releases and ensure quality control. These “deployment rings” or stages are production-like environments, giving you a look at exactly how your deployments would perform in production.
Many teams will take the “fail fast” approach when it comes to testing. This means the tests that are most likely to fail the quickest are run first, and the longer tests occur only after the “fail fast” tests have been ran successfully. This allows teams to identify quick fixes immediately and then begin working on the next deployment as the longer tests take place.
Monitoring and continuous delivery
Monitoring is a critical element of continuous delivery, but manual monitoring can be a difficult and time consuming task. Using a deployment or application monitoring tool allows you to easily keep tabs on your software metrics and KPIs. When you see a red flag pop up, whether it be load times or server utilization, you can quickly identify which release caused the error. From there, simply rollback the latest deployment and send it back to the queue.
Retrace by Stackify provides you with comprehensive deployment tracking to pinpoint how deployments affected your customized metrics. Below is an example of what Retrace deployment tracking looks like in the Dashboard view. The red arrows are pointing to the deployment markers.
Continuous delivery is a win-win
Continuous delivery is becoming table stakes for software companies. To put it bluntly, those who don’t adopt a faster, more agile software development process will perish.
Luckily there’s an entire fleet of tools and a community of helpful experts to help you build a more continuous development cycle. So move fast, break (fewer) things, and change the world, one software update at a time.