From experience we’ve seen, with most things in life, there’s always a better way to do things. Now, this could be anything from a better way to treat disease, a better way to build cars, or even as simple as a better way to make a coffee.
And software development is no different. There’s always innovation and tools to do things better. One of these tools to do things better when it comes to software development is by implementing continuous delivery systems. In fact, we believe that, because of how competitive the market is, it’s no longer a nice-to-have but rather a must-have.
But what exactly is continuous delivery and how does it work? In this post, we’ll delve deeper into these questions and give an easy way to get started with it.
What Is Continuous Delivery?
So, what exactly is continuous delivery. In simple terms, it’s an approach to software engineering where development teams develop software in short cycles. By developing software in short cycles, these teams can reliably release their software at any time and can build, test, and release software faster and more often.
But how does it fit into DevOps?
According to AWS, continuous delivery is a DevOps software development practice where code changes are automatically prepared for a production release. It expands on continuous integration by deploying all code changes to a testing environment and/or a production environment after the build stage.
When it’s properly implemented, developers always have a deployment-ready artifact that has passed through a standardized test process.
So, will continuous delivery work without DevOps? It can, but it probably won’t be world-class.
Why Do Continuous Delivery?
Moving Away From Waterfall.
Traditionally, development teams have developed software using the outdated waterfall approach. Using this approach, they break down the project activities into linear, sequential phases or sections where each phase depends on the deliverables of the previous one.
So typically, a waterfall project would go through the following phases:
Wasted Time and Cost.
For example, the team conceives the idea of an app, gather’s its requirements, develop the app, test, and deploy. For the requirements, they need the idea. To develop the app, they need the requirements, and so on.
With this approach, the progress of the project flows in one direction, making it less iterative and flexible. And this creates a problem in the sense that delays and wasted costs are a real possibility.
Say, for example, a client doesn’t know exactly what his requirements are before work starts on the project. Once he sees the working software, he changes his requirements, which leads to a redesign, redevelopment, and retesting.
Likewise, developers may not know in the planning phase what challenges they’ll face, causing delays later in the project when a redesign becomes necessary.
Solving Waterfall: The Benefits Continuous Delivery
Continuous delivery aims to solve these problems. Challenges can be solved faster, and no redesigns are necessary as requirements change.
But what are some of the benefits of using continuous delivery as opposed to the traditional waterfall method?
Automating the Software Release Process
It lets the development team automatically build, test, and prepare code changes for production release. Overall, this makes the development process more efficient and allows teams to get products to the market faster, improve the customer experience, and free up time for more innovation rather than fixing problems. Ultimately, this leads to reduced costs and more revenue.
Improving Developer Productivity
Without the necessary tools, developers spend more time fixing code than writing new code. Using continuous delivery makes development teams more productive by freeing them from manual tasks and encouraging behaviours that reduce the number of errors and bugs in the software.
Find and Address Bugs Quicker
Continuous delivery involves functional testing and performance and security tests. Thus, there’s thus a good chance that errors and bugs in the code will be caught and fixed before deployment. Ultimately, this means that these bugs are fixed before they turn into larger problems.
Deliver Products Faster
A competitive market requires that development teams get their products to market as quickly as possible. Continuous delivery makes this possible. With it, release schedules are not dictated by operational issues, but by the business.
Apart from that, development teams can roll out updates to customers faster and more often.
Marketing teams thus know when the next product is coming out, sales teams know when to up-sell, and customer service teams know when the next feature is coming out.
Teams can therefore launch their products faster, improve the customer experience, and, in turn, increase revenue.
How to Get Started With Continuous Delivery?
Understand the Business’s Goals
The first step to getting started with continuous delivery is to understand the business’s goals. In other words, why does it need to adopt continuous delivery?
Without knowing these goals, development teams won’t be able to build the necessary competencies to ensure that these objectives are reached. In contrast, by knowing these goals, they can implement the systems necessary to improve developer productivity and operational efficiency.
Get Everyone Involved Early On
The next vital step is to involve all development stakeholders in the project early on. Thus, all decisions by all stakeholders will play a role in the implementation of the system. For example, IT operations will have a say in architectural decisions, so developers will develop on infrastructure approved by IT.
Choose the Right Software
Next up is choosing the right software in line with the goals and needs of the business. Here, it’s helpful to do some research into the ecosystem and the resources available for it. Listen to developers’ feedback as they will be the main customer of the continuous delivery system.
Remember, the ultimate goal is to get products out as fast as possible and adapt to change, so building, testing, and deploying new features should almost be second nature.
And don’t fall into the trap of misuse once new systems are implemented. It’s all too easy for developers to fall back into old habits, so use the software. Build something. As soon as they see how these systems can add value and ease their workflow, they’ll naturally migrate more tasks to it.
Automate, Automate, Automate!
Did we mention automate? Remember, automation is one of the cornerstones of DevOps and it’s one of the main benefits of using a DevOps approach that enables continuous delivery, so automate everything that can be automated.
For example, focus on using test-first development methodologies that rely on the creation of automated functional and unit tests, create automated performance, security, and regression tests, and have automated tests that test the environment and orchestration platforms.
And it doesn’t stop there. Also, look at automating the management of infrastructure components using the same tools as the development teams.
DevOps is based on the principle of continuous improvement, so track the performance of the continuous delivery systems and compare the results to the previous systems. This is the only way in which to see if the system has the desired results and where to improve.
Here it may be helpful to conduct data inventories on continuous delivery tools to help decide the key performance indicators (KPIs), performance objectives, and analytics to be measured throughout the process.
With these established, the data from the system could be used to not only improve but excel.
It’s simple, continuous delivery is a better way of doing things. It makes for better products, happier customers, and a larger bottom line.
Isn’t it time to give it a go?