Today, quality software is among the key drivers of modern business. The faster companies get the necessary software updates, the more competitive they become. Operating in dynamic contact with customers also matters. It is crucial for businesses to make regular improvements of their existing software in accordance with customers’ needs. How is it possible to have an efficient workflow in this very challenging environment and provide new functional solutions on a daily basis? Continuous Delivery!
Continuous Delivery (CD) helps you deliver and/or update software as fast as possible with minimal risk. It not only helps you optimize the work of your IT department, but also enhances the business value of the whole company. In this article, we explain how Continuous Delivery makes your business better and we describe the experience we gained from working with GitLab. Keep reading!
To put it simply, Continuous Delivery (CD) is the ability to make safe and quick changes to production by ensuring that a code always remains in a deployable state, no matter how many thousands of developers change it on an hourly basis. As a result, the software can be deployed at any time with a single click. Speaking metaphorically, continuous delivery makes sure that all the builders at a construction site follow the designated architectural drawings.
In the past, and even in some companies today, business agility has been far from perfect as a result of a segregation of responsibilities between developers, operation teams, testers, and other specialists. As a result, when operation teams had to put an application into production, they often couldn’t integrate all of the changes made by various team members due to the lack of communication and integrity. In particular, some code changes contradicted others, which made bug fixing nearly impossible.
With Continuous Delivery, all code changes go through a “pipeline”, or a set of automated steps on the way to production. A typical “pipeline” includes the following stages: building, testing, staging, and eventually production. Each step is equally important for software release. Any change to a software code must pass successfully through all the “pipeline” stages prior to being deployed into a production environment.
As soon as any code change is introduced, a “pipeline” immediately triggers a test suite. In case a code change passes all of the tests, it is allowed to merge with the so-called master branch of a source code, which is a process also called Continuous Integration (CI). Continuous Delivery, in its turn, includes all of the “pipeline” processes as well as Continuous Integration itself.
Sometimes Continuous Delivery is confused with Continuous Deployment, although these two software approaches are essentially different. Continuous Deployment presumes that all of the changes go through the deployment “pipeline” and then later on they are automatically put in production. In contrast, Continuous Delivery is about manual deployments. Consequently, Continuous Deployment results in numerous production changes every day. With Continuous Delivery, on the contrary, you can choose the frequency of the daily deployments.
Speaking of CD, the notion of Continuous Delivery metrics should also be mentioned. It is a tool for measuring CD performance. If you solve particular business problems, such as a poor deployment rate, or too many defects when implementing new features, overseeing CD metrics will help you improve product quality and deployment frequency as well as reduce production defects.
So why Continuous Delivery? For many business organizations, releasing a new product is still a major source of stress, which includes sleepless nights devoted to bug fixing and making configuration changes. If your team still relies on manual testing and semi-scripted deployments, it is no wonder that a pre-release preparation takes countless hours and feels like hell.
With Continuous Delivery all sorts of releases are no longer stressful. New products are released more frequently and with lower expenses as CD presumes smaller teams, regular changes based on a real-time feedback, and fast deployments.
Cost reduction particularly stands out among the numerous business benefits of continuous Delivery. In particular, CD reduces the amount of time spent on deployment and integration, which carry no business value. In Continuous Delivery, integration, testing, and deployment are continuously performed throughout the whole development process. With automated building, testing, deployment, and release you save a lot of money on those tasks in comparison with their manual performance.
Apart from that, speaking of the financial benefits of Continuous Delivery, business costs become significantly more predictable. With traditional software development, not only is it always difficult to estimate the release time but also the release costs. In Continuous Delivery, which is based on a constant flow of small changes, tracking progress becomes much easier. Consequently, the costs for every set of changes are realistically measurable.
In fact, Continuous Delivery is available for both big and small players, from large businesses to start ups, from complex product environments to simple apps. At the same time, we should also mention that launching a CD “pipeline” requires investment and effort. First, you should already have a high level of operational culture and organization of the technical processes. Second, be prepared to invest in a company’s software delivery infrastructure. Third, creating a CD “pipeline” requires the best specialists available due to the complexity of this task.
Here, we explain how Continuous Delivery helps businesses grow. The business benefits of continuous delivery include:
With the help of Continuous Delivery automated deployment cycles, you can track the project’s progress and obtain real-time feedback. Therefore, you will be able to fix any shortcomings as soon as possible. As a result, your product will be deployed much faster to the market to the joy of your customers.
Obviously, CD lowers risk to your system and customer service, as the software is regularly tested and modified. While most errors are discovered prior to a production deployment, even in case a small failure happens, it will be easy to fix.
As developers spend less time on fixing bugs, they are able to concentrate on research and product improvement. Furthermore, due to frequent user feedback, a development team can concentrate on the essential features to work on.
Continuous small changes can be easily reprioritized, and teams don’t have to wait until the following release cycle.
It is easy to experiment by arranging the quick development and deployment of alternative features and later on testing each of those features with real users.
With the help of various CD metrics, such as quality, velocity, lead time, and defects you can measure the performance of each feature and select the best one for your business needs.
Finally, we touch upon the degree of happiness in your office. Continuous Delivery will significantly reduce the level of stress faced by development teams when doing tiresome last minute fixings. Apart from that, technical talent can be redirected into more creative and fulfilling tasks, which really matter. As a result, people will avoid burnout in the workplace and keep their spirits high.
At Yellow, we love working with GitLab, which is a popular tool for code management. We use GitLab as a git-repository to host the source codes of our projects. The use of GitLab possesses several benefits: it is open source, saves costs, and offers powerful tools for continuous delivery.
With GitLab, development processes occur in feature branches, so each feature has its branch. For each particular feature branch, there is a separate deployment. It makes sure that all of the features are deployable, and all of the deployment-related troubles can get fixed in feature branches.
There is also a master branch where feature branches are merged. As soon as a feature branch is merged with a master branch, there is an automated deployment to the staging environment, where code changes are tested prior to going to a production. It is important to note that a master branch is usually a protected branch, which only merges with those feature branches with the relevant testing done. In this way, the whole CD “pipeline” is protected.
In summary, Continuous Delivery is a cool automation tool that can save you a lot of time and money. It is one of the key pillars to a flexible development process, which results in quick software deployments and updates.
The adoption of Continuous Delivery within companies might take a longer time and require certain investments. Launching a CD “pipeline” might be a challenging task as it depends on a range of factors, including different types of applications, infrastructure, and production environments. At the same time, numerous benefits of Continuous Delivery for business include a better response to market changes, an increase in business productivity and sustainability as well as a reduction of manual labor force.
Therefore, Continuous Delivery is totally worth it. Your employees won’t experience sleepless nights before release dates, and your business won’t run out of steam any more. On the contrary, you will get an opportunity to become more creative and to experiment with new things without fear. The business value of Continuous Delivery is high, so don’t hesitate to give it a try!
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