In the beginning, there was code. This is a great sentence to begin any blog related to software, because it’s true. It makes perfect sense here too, because a Continuous Delivery Pipeline is nothing but a set of steps that code changes must go through to make their way to production. This Pipeline has four elements — Continuous Exploration (CE), Continuous Integration (CI), Continuous Deployment, and Release on Demand.
It may sound like a fairly new idea but, conceptually, Continuous Deployment has been around in some form or another for a while now. Before the term came into being sometime around 2002, it was simply about minimizing the lead time between writing a new line of code and the actual use of this code by live users in production. By 2009, the practice was well established as a core element of specialized strategies such as Lean Startup and DevOps.
Delivery, Deployment, and Integration
This may sound confusing at first, but isn’t when one understands what each stage of the Delivery Pipeline is meant to do. First of all, Delivery and Deployment are both associated with DevOps best practices. Secondly, Continuous Deployment is related to the concept of Continuous Delivery. The difference lies in the final deployment step. While Continuous Delivery ensures software is always ready to be deployed into production, Continuous Deployment automates that deployment.
Here’s another thing to keep in mind: A full Continuous Delivery pipeline needs to be in place to reach full DevOps maturity, but Continuous Deployment isn’t always a requirement.
As for Continuous Integration, it performs automated testing of code after every check-in, making sure the entire software codebase works properly with newly committed code. Continuous Deployment is an extension of this, relying on that constant validation for the code to be production-ready. In other words, Continuous Integration is part of the process of Continuous Deployment, making sure an update is safe for deployment and can proceed through phases of automation, culminating in deployment to production. Think of it as one stage slowly facilitating the existence of the other, and you get the picture.
The Benefits of Continuous Deployment
There are a number of reasons why Continuous Deployment matters to businesses. For a start, it constantly improves the quality of a product because small changes are easier to test and easier for users to adopt. It’s great for developers too, because it is more efficient and easier to work on small changes or features than large ones involving hundreds of lines of code. It gives businesses agility by allowing changes to be released multiple times per day.
Other benefits include less overhead, easy identification and faster fixes of bugs, along with an increase in flexibility and experimentation. The ability to constantly test ideas leads to the constant generation of new ideas, which is how CD encourages innovation. Small changes also allow a business to accurately estimate the cost and duration of a large release.
To sum it up, Continuous Deployment offers greater value to end users, minimizes the time between incremental improvements of applications, and leads to more informed decisions based on rapid feedback.
Is Your Business Ready For CD?
If it isn’t, it really should be. NexJ Systems has a few recommended best practices to minimize human error and make sure an organization benefits from the advantages of Continuous Deployment. These focus on the importance of version-control, emphasize the consistency of deployment, and recommend smoke testing to ensure crucial functions of a program will pass basic diagnostics. We also suggest mimicking the production environment as closely as possible and decoupling deployment from release to see how any code functions in a particular environment before it is released to end users.
It is also important to measure success effectively, with metrics and measures that include deployment frequency, the Change Lead Time, Mean Time to Recovery (MTTR), and Change Fail Rate.
Finally, we encourage a long, hard look at company culture, teamwork, and collaboration. Transparency and ownership matters if gaps in processes are to be identified and corrected. This also ensures quick rollbacks in the event of tests failing.
NexJ has long advocated the application of Continuous Delivery methodology. Our award-winning products leverage best practices and tools to meet the delivery expectations of customers, offering to deliver regular updates to both hybrid-cloud and on-premise customer deployments. The intention is to release updates from our framework and application teams at regular intervals and make them available for inclusion into our customers’ individual Continuous Integration pipelines.
What we want to offer, at the end of the day, are solutions that drive productivity and efficiency to increase return on investment. We love talking about this too, every chance we get. If you don’t believe us, get in touch and we can prove it.