Continuous delivery means the capability to promptly, securely, and consistently deploy various types of changes to software whenever necessary. Teams adept in continuous delivery possess the capacity to introduce software updates and modifications to production with minimal risk, even during standard business hours, all without adversely affecting end-users.
Continuous Delivery Principles
There are five principles at the heart of continuous delivery:
- Build quality in
- Work in small batches
- Computers perform repetitive tasks, people solve problems
- Relentlessly pursue continuous improvement
- Everyone is responsible
It’s easy to get bogged down in the details of implementing continuous delivery—tools, architecture, practices, politics—if you find yourself lost, try revisiting these principles and you may find it helps you refocus on what’s important.
Continuous delivery rests on three foundations: continuous integration, comprehensive configuration management, and continuous testing.
So, what are the processes involved? who should contribute to continuous delivery? What are their responsibilities? We’ll see it in this blog post.
The Core CD Team
At the heart of a successful Continuous Delivery process is a core team dedicated to making it happen. This team typically comprises:
DevOps engineers are the architects of your CD pipeline. They specialize in automating and streamlining the software delivery process. Their responsibilities include:
- Building and maintaining deployment pipelines.
- Managing infrastructure as code (IaC).
- Ensuring smooth and rapid code deployments.
For instance, at Company X, a team of DevOps engineers uses tools like Jenkins and Docker to automate deployments, enabling developers to focus on coding without worrying about the intricacies of deployment.
Release managers play a pivotal role in coordinating and overseeing the release process. Their duties include:
- Ensuring that releases align with the organization’s goals and schedules.
- Coordinating activities between development and operations teams.
- Managing rollback plans in case of issues during deployment.
- Release managers are essential in maintaining a balance between speed and stability during CD.
QA team are the gatekeepers of software quality. Their contributions to CD include:
- Creating and maintaining automated test suites.
- Executing tests at various stages of the CD pipeline.
- Identifying and reporting defects early in the development process.
Developers and Their Role
Developers are the backbone of any software project. In a CD environment, their roles extend beyond writing code:
Developers actively participate in the deployment and operational aspects of their code. This shift toward a DevOps culture empowers developers to:
- Write code that’s easily deployable and maintainable.
- Take ownership of their code in production.
- Collaborate closely with operations teams.
GitHub is a shining example of developer involvement in CD. Developers use GitHub Actions to automate workflows, seamlessly integrating their code changes into the CD pipeline.
Stakeholders and Product Owners
The involvement of stakeholders, including product owners and business teams, is often underestimated in CD:
Stakeholders bring a unique perspective to the CD process. Their roles encompass:
- Defining project requirements and priorities.
- Ensuring that CD aligns with business goals.
- Providing crucial feedback to shape the product.
At Startup Z, the product owner actively participates in the CD process, using tools like JIRA to prioritize user stories and provide feedback, ultimately ensuring that the CD pipeline delivers value to customers.
The Importance of Continuous Testing
Continuous testing is the bedrock of CD:
The Testing Backbone
QA engineers create and maintain automated test suites that:
- Run at various stages of the CD pipeline.
- Ensure code changes meet quality standards.
- Detect defects early in the development process.
Google is a prime example of an organization that heavily relies on continuous testing to maintain the quality and reliability of its products throughout the CD pipeline.
The following diagram shows the types of automated and manual tests to run
The following diagram shows an example of a simple linear deployment pipeline. In this example, green means no problems were found, and red means that one or more problems were discovered.
Continuous Feedback and Monitoring
Continuous feedback loops are the lifeblood of CD:
Feedback loops enable teams to:
- Gather insights from production environments.
- Learn from customer behavior and performance metrics.
- Make data-driven decisions to improve CD processes.
Amazon Web Services (AWS) provides a suite of monitoring and observability tools, such as Amazon CloudWatch, that help teams collect real-time data and make informed decisions.
Security and Compliance
Security is non-negotiable in CD:
Security as a Priority
Integrating security into the CD pipeline is crucial for:
- Identifying and mitigating vulnerabilities early.
- Ensuring compliance with industry regulations and best practices.
Netflix, known for its robust CD practices, incorporates security checks into its pipeline using tools like Netflix Security Monkey.
To sum up the above, DORA research found that the following technical capabilities drive the ability to achieve continuous delivery. Transformational leadership within the organization also drives the implementation of many of these technical capabilities.
To help your team get higher throughput and lower risk releases, implement the following continuous delivery practices:
“The above is a quoted section from an article on DevOps tech” (Google cloud, “DevOps tech: Continuous delivery”, https://cloud.google.com/architecture/devops/devops-tech-continuous-delivery)
Challenges and Considerations
While implementing CD, organizations must address common challenges:
Cultural considerations are paramount:
- Embrace change and a culture of continuous improvement.
- Learn from failures and adapt.
- Foster open communication and collaboration among teams.
While continuous delivery is often combined with continuous integration and shortened to CI/CD, research shows that continuous integration is only one element of implementing continuous delivery.
To achieve reliable, low-risk releases, you need close collaboration between everyone involved in the software delivery process, not just software developers, and your team needs to adopt new ways of working and learn new skills.