Continuous Delivery Is Good for Business and Customers
By Kristel Staci ; June 21st, 2019

Innovation is accelerating at an unprecedented pace. In such a constantly changing and evolving environment, it is positively crucial for companies to develop the agility to adapt to these sorts of changes quickly and effectively. Changes need to happen not in a matter of months or even weeks, but sometimes as frequently and as swiftly as days or even hours. How quickly can your development team respond to a pressing need? And how quickly can that response be rolled out to the end user?


A software engineering approach ideal for modern circumstances is called continuous delivery. And if you're not already using it as part of your DevOps (software development and information technology operations) workflow, you may already be behind the curve with the competition.


What Is Continuous Delivery?

In a more conventional DevOps scenario, you might see longer development cycles wherein developers and engineers work on larger, more substantial changes before pushing the app -- whether that's a mobile app, web app, or any other type of software -- out to deployment. We have to remember that several intermediary steps exist between the app developer and the final user. The app needs to be planned, coded, built, tested, released, deployed, and monitored, for example.


Continuous delivery not only works with dramatically shorter development cycles, but it works in such a way that the software can be reliably (and automatically) moved between the different DevOps phases at any time. To power such an approach, your company will need to leverage a framework like the Buddy Continuous development tool. The objective of these types of systems is so that even the most complicated continuous delivery workflows can be created in a matter of minutes.


Respond and Innovate Faster

In the case of Buddy in particular, you can leverage smart changes detection, advanced caching, parallelism and other optimizations such that the average deployment time is cut down to a mere 12 seconds. This allows your company (and its software) to be far more agile and able to respond to changes, whether that's rolling out new features, adjusting configuration settings, or experimenting with the software in general.


Under such a system, it's important to have tremendous integration and ease of communication across all teams. In this way, if someone in quality assurance (QA) discovers something in one version of the software, a build engineer can quickly and easily address the discovery in his own environment, all while utilizing the exact same configuration and settings as the QA tester. Everything moves along the continuous cycle... continuously.


It's Not Continuous Deployment

Because they sound so similar to one another, continuous delivery and continuous deployment are oftentimes confused for one another. While continuous deployment requires continuous delivery in order to work, continuous delivery does not necessitate continuous deployment. IBM Distinguished Engineer and Author Sanjeev Sharma, in an IBM Cloud video, describes the difference between continuous delivery and continuous deployment like this.


With continuous deployment, any change that is made along the DevOps workflow is automatically and immediately deployed out to the end user. This could hold great appeal in a dot-com startup, for example, that wants to push the newest features out to users as quickly and as frequently as possible. It may also be good for website owners. However, it may not be as appropriate for larger enterprise users who may want to push out official new versions of software on a less frequent basis.


However, just because you adopt continuous delivery as part of your company's DevOps workflow does not mean that you necessarily have to adopt continuous deployment as well. Continuous delivery is only such that different builds, features, and configuration settings can be easily and automatically moved between the stages of the development and deployment cycle. Remember that this kind of movement is rarely as simple as copying a few files. It requires orchestration, but this can be automated and facilitated with tools like Buddy.


In any case, you will still have full control over when those changes are deployed to the end user or customer.


Real World Benefits

In that same IBM Cloud video, Sharma goes on to describe a simple, yet remarkably common hypothetical scenario wherein a company would benefit tremendously from continuous delivery. Let's say that one of your customers encounters a bug in your software. The version that the customer is running isn't exactly the same as the one that is currently in your development cycle, of course, since it uses different configuration settings, connects to a different app server, and so on.


For your development team to suitably address this bug, they must first be able to replicate it in their own development environment. And to do that, they must be able to access the version of the software exactly as the end user had on his or her device. With continuous delivery, those changes (even if they go "backwards") can be easily applied, the dev team can recreate and fix the bug, and then they can push it through the rest of the cycle with the build team, the QA team, and so on.


Going further, the fix can then be adapted and applied to the newest version of the software under development, and once again continuously and automatically delivery across the different phases of the DevOps workflow until it is ready for public deployment. Continuous delivery allows for a continuous feedback loop, making for faster and more agile development cycles.


The Smarter Way to Develop

Software development is a complicated process that involves many steps and many people. As a result, it's very common to encounter bottlenecks and other roadblocks that can stifle your forward progress. If one team member has to wait days or even weeks before they can start working on their part on a version of the software, that can grind your development cycle down to a halt. Continuous delivery means that all hands can actually be on deck at any given time, working on the newest and most relevant version available.


With the right tools and systems in place, you'll be able to execute on your plans more efficiently, more effectively, and ultimately in a better way for all parties involved. What's in your pipeline?

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