Continuous Delivery is central to the principle of DevOps. It includes the process of getting the changes done of all types that may include fixing bugs, addition of new features, making changes in the configuration, experimenting and putting it into the hands of the customers faster and more efficiently than the traditional means of delivery of software.
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It is all about making the deployment process faster even when it is large-scale and in a distributed environment including all the complexities involved in today’s fast-paced software lifecycle. Continuous Delivery differs from Continuous Deployment in that in the former the software might not necessarily taken to deployment either due to business or regulatory reasons or some other reasons. But for Continuous Deployment to happen it has to pass the process of Continuous Delivery as a prerequisite.
Continuous Delivery vs. Traditional Delivery
|Criteria||Continuous Delivery||Traditional Delivery|
|Continuous monitoring & validation||Done||Not Done|
|Feedback loop amplified||Yes||No|
Understanding Continuous Delivery
Continuous Delivery involves a lot of aspects to come together including a great team, having a culture of agile methodology, the process of automation and the various automation tools. Continuous Delivery sprang from the customer requirement of having software that is easily updated and passes all the quality checks. Customers do not have the patience to wait for a long duration of time and making the software ready for deployment is a pressing need. Not only is the time frame for product release shorter but there is a huge demand to have software of the highest quality. It is not recommended to shorten the release cycle as it directly hampers the quality. Hence Continuous Delivery is central to how organizations are working today and software is made as close to getting ready for deployment as possible.
How Continuous Delivery makes working so easy?
The moment of truth for any software project is the release phenomenon when the software is ready for deployment. In most organizations this is fraught with dread and stress. But Continuous Delivery attempts to make this process simple and stress-free. There are a lot of changes happening in the software domain right from continuous development to continuous integration to continuous feedback, constant monitoring and built-in testing among some of the standard steps. This is pushing organizations to embrace continuous delivery and it improves the ability to react to customer needs on an ongoing basis.
Continuous Delivery is not the forte of a chosen few but any and every organization can deploy it to streamline the entire process and improve the productivity of the employees in a holistic manner. There is a strong business case to switch to continuous delivery. There might be a few trade-offs that organizations will invariably face when moving to Continuous Delivery but it certainly is worth the trouble.
Continuous Delivery ensures that the reaction time to any external input is very fast. This could be from the customers or from the employees itself. It gives a quick report card about how the software is performing through continuous release though not necessarily to the customers. It shows the loopholes that are present in the code, gives a roadmap to fixing it within a timeframe, and exposes the shortcomings to all making it highly worthwhile to implement Continuous Delivery. CD makes it apparent where exactly the humans are involved, which are the tasks that can be automated, what are the roadblocks to achieving higher productivity and such other vital reports that make the software delivery process so much more efficient. Thus when the software delivery pipeline is constructed it creates a simple delivery mechanism rather than a tough to manage and costly release process.
The process of Continuous Delivery is not just about creating the infrastructure both in terms of operational and software architecture context but more about building business flexibility to releasing the software features and fixes on an ongoing basis. It is quite possible to release only a set of features to specific customers rather than to all, build the functionalities as per the specific requirements and scale it on demand without the need for humongous efforts. The features can be iteratively tested and developed or can be kept on hold for multiple releases.
How to make Continuous Delivery a success?
Visualize pipelines and environments
It is all about understanding the software delivery pipelines and visualizing it when it comes to the various versions, build of microservices that are running in the environment that lets the developer and the operations team to agree upon a common goal. There should be the ability to fix the issues when something goes wrong like a failed quality analysis.
Spotting the security issues early on
The security aspects need to be taken care of early on into the process since the later the bug is fixed the costlier it becomes to the entire organization. The various tools for detecting the bugs need to be deployed in the right manner. Before the code gets into production it should pass the requisite security tests along with the checks and balances.
Prioritizing automation and feedback
Automation is one of the critical aspects of any software pipeline design. If the automation is not deployed optimally then there could be serious issues related to quality and utility of the software. The deployment pipeline will suffer major repercussions as a result of these drawbacks. Automation should be done with the right balance to quality and speed. The critical capabilities and flows can be automatized but with each additional automatization the pros and cons of them need to be weighted in properly before taking any decision.
Staging before production
This is also another critical aspect of the Continuous Delivery mechanism wherein the real world scenario has to be replicated in a fashion as faithfully as possible. There is a need to have pre-production stages before the software is pushed to active production.
Deploying software on demand
The ultimate goal of any Continuous Delivery process is to have the software ready to as close to active deployment as possible. This way the software can be put into active production without any delay or effort.
Monitoring the right metrics
It is important to have the right metrics while working. It could be the various technical metrics including the ones related to development, testing, QA, production among others. It is important to keep tabs on these metrics as part of the pipeline stages so that releases are pushed with the right frequency.
Developers take full responsibility
The Developers are the most important resources of any software organization due to the sheer amount of responsibility that rests on their shoulders. Thus it is incumbent upon them to take on extended responsibility in the end-to-end software continuous delivery process. So they are held accountable not just for the code that they write but also the entire spectrum of automation, pipeline and production of each microservice thus ensuring the organization is moving towards an agile, continuous delivery and deployment framework.
Advantages of Continuous Delivery
Making releases risk-free
This is one of the most important benefits of Continuous Delivery. Software releases are not fraught with stress and uncertainty. Continuous Delivery makes the process of software release that much predictable and high quality. Due to this the software can perform on-demand as the software is fit for deployment any time thanks to the standards of Continuous Delivery being adhered to.
Shorter time to market
In the traditional method of software delivery there have been instances when the software integration and the testing and fixing of bugs could take up to weeks or months so that the software delivery lifecycle is stretched before the software is available in the market. But Continuous Delivery makes the whole process smooth thanks to teams working in heightened coordination and collaboration along with generous use of automation tools for building and deployment of the software. Along with that the environment provisioning and the regression testing process it is possible for the developers to do the integration along with the regression testing on a continuous basis and incorporate it into their day-to-day activities as well. Due to this working on the same phase again and again can be reduced thus speeding up the whole process.
Continuous Delivery ensures that the quality of the software is top-notch thanks to increased deployment of automation tools that help the developers to focus their attention where it is most needed. This could be in terms of higher research on user needs, increased deployment of testing tools for various types of testing like usability, performance, exploratory and security testing. Once the deployment pipeline is built it is very easy to perform most of the activities on a continuous basis thus ensuring the quality is maintained at all times.
Continuous Delivery is very economical thanks to the iterative process that is built into the lifecycle of building, testing, automation thus substantially reducing the cost of making incremental changes to the software. The fixed cost that is associated with the software release can be eliminated due to the best practices in Continuous Delivery that is implemented on an ongoing basis.
Products meet stringent expectations
Due to the rigorous attention paid to the Continuous Delivery methodology, it is ascertained that the software products meet the stringent expectations of the customers. The customer is always kept in the loop and due to this the customer feedback can be taken step by step throughout the process of delivery. The entire work is done in small batches and this facilitates taking the customer inputs and working on it.
Higher overall productivity
There is one more benefit of Continuous Delivery which reflects in the way the various teams work. The employees are certainly working at their highest productivity; the output as a result is obviously top-notch for the organization. The clients are kept in the loop at all times, the employees are thrilled that whatever they are working on has the mandate of the customers thus making it a win-win situation for all the stakeholders involved. Continuous Delivery is all about small incremental daily improvements that are achieved through constant discipline, and striving for higher performance on an ongoing basis.
Continuous Delivery is vital to the entire process of DevOps process and improving the productivity of the entire process. Gone are the days when the software deployment was a highly unpredictable process. But today thanks to the agile methodology of development and delivery that is part of the DevOps process, delivering software is a very straightforward and predictable process. Getting the process of Continuous Delivery right is crucial in ensuring that the software is absolutely ready for deployment. Going forward more and more organizations are expected to jump on the bandwagon of Continuous Delivery in order to streamline and transform the entire process of software design, development up to deployment.
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