Continuous Delivery Benefits and Barriers
What Is Continuous Delivery?
Continuous delivery is a software development practice that enables continuous process and software improvement via automation.
Rather than having developers manually develop, test, and deploy code — often over a period of several months — continuous delivery uses:
- Automated continuous-integration processes that perform code analysis to pinpoint where improvements can be made as well as unit, regression, and integration tests every time a modification is made to proactively resolve issues and ensure more stable production releases.
- Infrastructure automation to consistently provision and configure servers, and manage dependencies, on the fly to meet real-time demands.
- Release automation to deploy software applications into production as needed to meet real-time requirements and dependencies.
Why Automate a Manual Process?
For many, the process of manually developing and deploying software into production is archaic at best. However, even in highly automated software development environments, at least one developer uses manual workflows even though manual:
- Code analysis allows technical issues to accumulate.
- Testing often misses regressions and other issues until software is in production.
- Infrastructure management introduces anomalies in environment configuration and can slow issue resolution.
- Deployments require significant time and introduce risks from inadvertent errors.
The Benefits of Continuous Delivery
Continuous delivery is driving new levels of innovation and success across industries because organizations can realize massive scale. For example, consider that on average::
- Amazon often performs automated software deployments every 11.6 seconds.
- Facebook performs automated software deployments at least twice a day.
- Netflix often performs automated software deployments 100 times per day.
By using automation in every stage of software development and deployment, organizations can improve efficiency, savings, and service levels by:
- Streamlining workflows.
- Lowering staffing costs.
- Improving operational confidence.
- Enhancing teamwork.
- Speeding iterations.
One of the biggest benefits of continuous delivery is streamlined workflows. Continuous delivery provides efficiency and accuracy through automated tasks that perform the same way every time. You can configure these tasks with dependencies that you place within a workflow. For example, you can configure the tasks in a continuous delivery process to perform a system test only after you have received approval from a subject matter expert.
In addition, service levels typically improve because needed actions are taken immediately, instead of being added to a long queue of tasks. And developers receive near-instant feedback on the state of applications, allowing them to react quickly to bugs and improve their overall efficiency.
Lowering Staffing Costs
With the addition of automation, team members perform fewer manual steps, instead moving to roles that provide greater value. Similarly, teams can be streamlined to eliminate redundant roles. Depending on the size of the team, the cost savings can be significant — without compromising the quality of the end product.
Improving Operational Confidence
Continuous delivery provides confidence because the processes are executed efficiently and consistently every time. Ongoing improvements to the continuous delivery process enable business agility while maintaining stability. Shortfalls can easily be identified and corrected because feedback for changes is immediate. You can adhere to regulatory standards with consistent process and meet SLAs through monitoring.
With automated processes handling the brunt of the work, the IT team is free to focus on the unique activities of your organization that provide business value. Software developers, application integrators, and testers can work more collaboratively with the business to deliver software because automation and processes allow them to spend less time working in the trenches.
When time is of the essence, heavily automated processes make the solution viable. By streamlining the steps of the process, continuous delivery results in shorter processing times.
The Barriers of Continuous Delivery
The initial installations, configurations, and workflow changes required for continuous delivery do require upfront investments and culture changes, which can create barriers for some organizations.
Changing workflows requires time, and in the beginning, can create disruption. The business must establish a strategy, making sure that new workflows and automated processes align with business objectives and meet operational requirements.
Organizational Culture Considerations
If the business is accustomed to developing software using waterfall, spiral, or other methodologies, it must overcome learning curves before implementing continuous delivery. This is critical to minimize disruptions and ensure operations continue to run while staff complete their training and tweak processes. In addition, team members who are accustomed to being more “hands on” may mistrust the heavy use of automation inherent to continuous delivery.
Even when you take into account the initial investment and cost that comes with the adoption of continuous integration, infrastructure automation, and release automation, the benefits of following a highly automated continuous delivery process far outweigh the initial costs. The key to building the most efficient and effective continuous delivery processes is to engage experts as you develop — and possibly implement — your strategy. Successful outcomes at the onset will build confidence in the process, help to increase momentum, and deliver the best return on investment.
- Blog: The Keys to a Strong CI/CD Pipeline
- Computer Weekly Application Developer Network article: Is “Continuous Delivery and Integration” a Developer No-Brainer?
- Article: Why Continuous Delivery and BDD Play so Nicely
- Blog: Choosing Continuous Delivery
- 101 Guide: Developing Web Applications with PHP
Note: This post was originally published in 2015 and has been updated for accuracy and comprehensiveness.