Getting started with DevOps can be challenging. It’s a big cultural, technical, and operational shift with many intermingling concepts to digest. But the benefits you can gain from implementing practices like continuous delivery (CD) make the whole process worth the effort.
We recently outlined how to get started with continuous integration (CI) – building out your DevOps practice and adopting continuous delivery is the natural next step towards powering up your software delivery process.
Let’s take a look at how exactly continuous delivery helps you create better software faster.
What is Continuous Delivery (CD)?
Time for a quick refresher: continuous delivery is a practice in software development that involves automating the preparation of code for release. Like with continuous integration, CD allows teams to deliver updates in smaller, more manageable increments, eliminating bottlenecks and making sure there’s always an up-to-date version of the application ready to be deployed at any given time.
Continuous delivery involves building or retrieving previously created artifacts and deploying code to a staging or non-production testing environment whenever changes are made to the code and committed to the shared repository.
Once the build artifact has been automatically pushed to a staging environment, the deployment can undergo further checks like integration and performance testing.
If the code passes these tests, the team can manually approve it for deployment into a live production environment.
The Continuous Delivery pipeline
- Write code Developers write new or amended code
- Commit code Developers commit code to a shared repository or VCS
- Test changes Code is built and subjected to multiple automated tests
- Stage and test Staging environment is launched and code is deployed for further testing
- Deploy Tested and approved code is deployed to a production environment
Where does Continuous Delivery fit into the DevOps cycle?
The continuous delivery phase of the DevOps lifecycle comes after continuous integration. Both stages involve automated testing, and while you can use CI or CD in isolation, they’re more commonly fused together as one process: CI/CD.
If a development team want to go a step further, they can implement continuous deployment.
With continuous delivery, once the build has been deployed to staging and tested, a human developer needs to step in and approve the build before it’s released into production.
Continuous deployment automates that final step, deploying the build into production autonomously and eliminating the need for a developer to push that theoretical release button to trigger deployment. If a build has passed all the necessary tests, it goes out into the world automatically.
Why use Continuous Delivery?
As part of the DevOps philosophy, the ultimate goal of CD is to make the process of software development faster and more efficient by making small changes often, and automating as much as possible.
On a more granular level, the CD phase of the pipeline has its own specific objectives.
Chief of these aims is ensuring that software can be deployed at any point in its lifecycle. With CD, you’ll always have a build artifact that can be immediately deployed into any environment, whether production or non-production.
Continuous delivery also promotes a shift in thinking about the software, putting a focus on creating a deployable product that can be improved continuously, rather than launching new features. This continuous improvement is achievable because of CD’s tight feedback loop: anytime a change is made, the team can gather automated feedback on the product’s deployability.
What are the benefits of Continuous Delivery?
So why adopt continuous delivery into your software development process? What are the tangible benefits of automating this part of the lifecycle?
1) Faster, more streamlined deployment
Manually testing and deploying code can take a long time, but using automation to build, test, and prep code changes for release makes your process speedier and smoother.
With a more streamlined process that gets a build to staging more quickly, developers can respond faster to issues and focus on delivering regular updates and improvements.
And most importantly, to speed boost that CD provides is sustainable: things move faster but not so fast that high levels of quality (and your team’s sanity) can’t be maintained. Releases are made little and often, relieving some of the pressure that comes with a waterfall-style merge and release.
2) More frequent releases
The more often you release, the more feedback you can gather. This tighter feedback loop means fixes can be made more regularly, helping you make a better product and improving customer satisfaction.
3) Improved bug-spotting
Like its DevOps counterpart continuous integration, continuous delivery enables regular testing of small batches of code, helping teams find and rectify bugs earlier in the process. The smaller the release, the easier problems at to spot, and fix.
Continuous delivery involves further automated testing to cover more of the code base and application functionality. But it’s not just the cadence of testing in CD that helps improve software quality. It’s also the automation of it. It’s a fact that removing as much manual testing from your software delivery lifecycle as possible makes for more thorough and accurate testing.
Humans just aren’t built to execute repeated, manual tasks like testing. Mistakes are made, things get missed, and inconsistencies arise—and it takes up a lot of time and resource. Automated testing reduces the occurrence of human error and prevents technical issues from compounding.
4) Greater productivity
Developers have more valuable things to be spending their time on than deploying builds to staging. Automating this process cuts down on the number of manual tasks they need to do and frees them up to focus on other things, like fixing bugs and improving software quality. Plus, a developer that isn’t burdened with tedious manual tasks is a happier developer.
5) More agility to respond to market changes
The continuous, ongoing approach to software development that CD enables is essential to improving agility and responsiveness. The software market moves quickly, and being able to make and ship changes fast, rather than going through the process one step at a time, gives organisations a massive competitive advantage.
6) Lower costs
Automating the delivery process makes it infinitely repeatable, which not only makes it easier to deploy but also more cost-effective. Uniform test environments can be automatically launched and used again and again, ensuring that the testing environment is exactly as expected and helping to reduce unexpected errors.
Accelerated, automated processes are not only naturally cheaper to run, but they also reduce the risk of potential downtime (and the need to use valuable resources fixing issues) by minimising the chance of human error.
All of these factors boost the ROI of your SDLC. And, with automation handling most of the heavy lifting, your developers can dedicate their time to tasks that are going to generate more value.
Ready to get started with DevOps?
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Find out how we can help you get started with continuous integration, wherever you are in your DevOps journey.