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What is Continuous Deployment?

Your customers are waiting. They’re eagerly anticipating much-needed changes to your application, and you don’t want them to wait any longer. Enter Continuous Deployment. Continuous Deployment (CD) is a strategy whereby software testing and sendoff to consumers is automated. It’s a way to make the CI/CD pipeline faster, more efficient, and more agile — and give customers what they want, when they want it.

In essence, Continuous Deployment is the automation of the deployment process, whereby changes to software code are tested and deployed automatically.

More on the pipeline later. Now, let’s get one quick bit of housekeeping out of the way: the difference between Continuous Deployment and Continuous Delivery.

Continuous Deployment vs. Continuous Delivery

Continuous Deployment and Continuous Delivery, both referred to with the acronym CD, are very similar, but not quite the same. They both refer to a level of software development automation. Where they differ, typically, is where the automation ends. In the Continuous Delivery stage, code changes are automated, but the actual deployment is manually completed; in Continuous Deployment, the entire deployment process is automated, from code review to deployment to a live environment. Once the new code is tested and validated, it’s sent out to a live environment.

Continuous Deployment vs. Continuous Integration

Remember that pipeline we mentioned? Well, that’s where Continuous Integration comes in. The entire process of creating/changing code and releasing it into the world is called the CI/CD Pipeline, because this describes the steps changes to the software application must follow in order to reach consumers.

In a nutshell, Continuous Integration ensures that code changes made from different team members, places and time zones all manage to place nicely together. Imagine you’re baking a cake with a variety of other people. Each of you is adding ingredients you know belong, but none of you are aware of the others have already added those ingredients. Continuous Integration keeps track of changes being made and verifies to make sure none of them conflict with one another. It also ensures that all changes are saved and merged in a central repository — a recipe, if you will.

Benefits of Continuous Deployment

All this hype about Continuous Deployment probably has you pretty excited, and rightfully so. Let’s go over some of the key benefits of CD:

  • It saves time. It’s no secret that automation, if done correctly, can save a massive amount of time — even as much as months — in the release of software changes.
  • It saves money. Being able to push changes quicker leads to a happier consumer, and happier consumers mean repeat business.
  • It allows for flexibility. Listening to customer feedback regarding a specific application and matching that with a quick turnaround time for release makes all the difference in the software world, and the business world, too. CD gives developers the ability to listen to consumers, and fix bugs, errors and other issues quickly and efficiently. It also means they’ll be able to make more creative fixes.

Continuous Deployment Best Practices

Continuous Development is a killer strategy when it comes to time-saving, efficient, effective code deployment. But it won’t happen in a vacuum. There are some best practices that should be put into place to make sure your CD strategy is everything it could be.

  1. Test-driven development: This refers to the practice of writing specs to match your new software so the code can be tested correctly. This is done before the code is finished. This way, automated testing befitting of the specific software changes already exists and, by the time the software is finished, automated testing is ready to do its thing. The opposite of this is developing the code and then creating tests to match it after. This is, as you can imagine, a lot more time-consuming, and relatively poor use of manpower. 
  2. One method of deployment: If you’re going to use Continuous Deployment, use only Continuous Deployment. The reason being, if the entire process is automated and someone starts making manual alterations, the automation will be interrupted, and this desynchronization can cause discrepancies in the code. If you’re going with CD, stick with CD.
  3. Containerize it: This sounds like a cheesy superhero catchphrase, but it actually is an important part of the CD process. Containerizing means ensuring that the software application behaves the same across all applicable machines. This is especially important in testing — you want to be sure that the application will act the same on the developer’s machine as it will during testing and, most important, when it’s delivered to the consumer. 

Continuous Deployment Tools

Any system is only as good as the tools it employs. Here are some tools that work best in the CD process:

  • Version control: This is part of the CI portion of the pipeline, as it tracks the changes and revisions made to your asset, but it’s essential in making sure the CD part of the pipeline goes smoothly. Version control makes sure the updates are visible across the board.
  • Configuration management: This refers to the process of ensuring all applicable hardware and software are, in essence, speaking the same language. You want to make sure they’re all operating in a consistent manner when testing software.
  • Infrastructure monitoring: Monitoring tools help you see how your back-end changes are translating in the “real world,” or live environment. 
  • Automated testing: It wouldn’t be the CI/CD pipeline without it. Automated testing is the backbone of the pipeline. 
  • Monitoring/alerts: Alerts are needed to trigger automatic rolling deployments if a failed deploy needs to be reverted. 

Can Incident Management Support a Continuous Deployment Process?

Because Continuous Deployment is a fully automated process extended from code check-in to pushing code to the production environment, it’s vital to have triggers for manual intervention should anything go wrong. Connecting an incident management system like PagerDuty to continuous deployment tools provides visibility into any errors that may take place at any point in the pipeline.  It also allows you to make sure the proper people are notified with the right context to rapidly solve the issue – software development if code errors are found, infrastructure managers if the staging environment or production system are configured improperly, etc.

How to Get More Out of Continuous Deployment

PagerDuty facilitates better continuous deployment by enabling you to deploy the most innovation solutions for your customers, with complete confidence. By hooking up your deployment data to PagerDuty, you can streamline operational responsibilities with the right tools and information to rapidly triage, resolve, and learn from issues when they arise. Try it out now for yourself with a free 14-day trial.