Continuous Delivery Best Practices
Simply put, continuous delivery (CD) is an approach to software development in which the software can be released to production anytime.
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Continuous delivery is one of those software development buzzwords you may have heard before but aren’t sure what it means.. As with many buzzwords, however, behind the term is often a great idea that can produce massive benefits for your business.
What Is Continuous Delivery?
Simply put, continuous delivery (CD) is an approach to software development in which the software can be released to production anytime. As such, CD prioritizes having a stable, functioning product at all times over building new features, and usually requires close coordination between team members and automation of various steps in the software delivery process.
Continuous delivery can be seen as a natural extension of continuous integration (CI) practice, which requires software developers to merge their changes with a larger shared code base frequently. To find bugs and errors as soon as possible, CI/CD usually involves automated testing, such as unit tests and integration tests, to see if the new code is compatible with the code base.
Another software development practice, continuous deployment, takes continuous delivery even further. Continuous deployment adds all changes to the software’s production version once they have passed the automated tests. With continuous delivery, however, the changes are available, but not automatically required, to be added to production.
Continuous delivery is often conflated or confused with DevOps, a software development trend emphasizing tight collaboration between software development and operations teams and automating software delivery processes to speed up the delivery of new features and bug fixes. Read the blog “Continuous Deployment vs. Continuous Delivery - Which is Better?” to learn more about the similarities and differences between both terms.
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Pros and Cons of Continuous Delivery
There are several benefits to practicing continuous delivery and continuous integration that have boosted their popularity among businesses.
- For one, continuous delivery allows development teams to improve either their release speed or their release quality. Developers can add new features, improvements, and fixes faster or release a refined finished product with fewer bugs.
- Secondly, continuous delivery can simplify the software development process and the lives of your development team. By emphasizing polished features and bug-free code available for anyone to examine, developers require less oversight and fewer meetings. Continuous Delivery also encourages developers to tackle one task at a time and to fully complete and commit to their solution before moving forward, which helps them to focus better on their work. Simplification means that the development life cycle is less stressed and intense.
- Finally, continuous delivery can make companies more competitive because it improves teamwork and streamlines development. Developers can receive immediate feedback from automated testing and fast feedback from users because the end product will be released more quickly. In an era when so many companies rely on continuous delivery, not doing so can put you at a substantial disadvantage.
Perhaps the most significant drawback to continuous delivery is that it is not easy to do. Implementing continuous delivery for your development team means creating an administering automated tests for your production environment, which is a high startup cost. A substantial learning curve will also require developers to adjust to a new way of thinking and perhaps training in new technologies and practices.
Best Practices for Continuous Delivery
Introducing continuous delivery into your organization requires careful thought and planning. The transition is rarely achieved overnight. Usually, it involves many intermediate and incremental steps to shift away from your current development methodology.
1. Break the Process Up
Using continuous delivery to build an extensive, monolithic application can be challenging. It may require you to break down the application into more easily manageable modules or microservices.
The continuous delivery pipeline involves several stages — including coding, commits, building, unit testing, integration, and production — that must each be aligned with the CD ethos through various tools and technologies.
2. Automate Every Repeatable Process
It’s common for one or two manual steps to be overlooked. However, to eliminate bottlenecks that may arise throughout the production pipeline, automating all repeatable processes throughout software development life cycle is essential.
3. Only Build Once
Don’t rebuild software for different stages as it may introduce inconsistencies and mean you cannot be confident that all previous tests have passed. Instead, the same build artifact should be promoted through each stage of the CI/CD pipeline.
4. Clean Pre-Production Environments
Keeping environments running for a long time makes it harder to track all the configuration changes and applied updates. Environments will inevitably diverge from the original setup, and tests might not show consistent results across environments.
A better approach is to utilize containers to take environments up and down for each new deployment with ease. Scaling and testing become more streamlined and save costs on maintaining old environments.
5. Adopt GitOps
GitOps is an operational framework to achieve continuous deployment of cloud-native applications. With GitOps, you can automate deployments, boost developer velocity and productivity, and release new features to your customers faster. Download our Ebook “GitOps for Absolute Beginners'' to learn more.
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