What is deployment?
First and foremost, let’s begin with clarifying what is deployment. In the vast and ever-expanding universe that is Information Technology and Software, deployment has come to mean a methodical procedure in which a software system is made readily available for use. The deployment process gets a software program ready for use.
Software deployment entails all the necessary processes that prepare an application or system to run and operate in an environment. From installation, configuration, testing, and optimizing performance, deployment can be performed manually or via automated systems.
In this article, we explore the different deployment tools along the lines of automated deployment and continuous deployment.
The deployment process stage in the system development lifecycle
The deployment process is a necessary stage in the system development lifecycle (SDLC). While it doesn’t get the recognition that other stages such as design or development that are more labor-intensive receive, deployment is absolutely necessary to produce stable and effective software. Because deployment can be a strenuous task, there are numerous deployment tools that have emerged to help simplify the process, from building and testing code to instantly deploying it and reporting errors.
Many consider the deployment stage as the final step in the SDLC to send a software system into a live production environment - this means that the software is ready to be used in the real world by real users.
Typically, the deployment stage includes the following phases:
- Preparation and procedures: The team installs software and conducts tests to prepare for final installation. As installation is completed, procedures are set in place to include instructions for how the software should operate and be used for optimum performance.
- Product deployment: In this phase, implementation of programming is executed in each system location - meaning that it pushes the software into each regional site and computer system.
- Ownership transfer: As the code is deployed to each computer system, official work is complete and the transfer of ownership back to the client is set into motion. The client receives all permissions and access to maintain the system’s functionality, along with all operating procedures.
- Closure: The client is now in full possession of the software and the development team finalizes all activities related to that specific software project.
Automated deployment and continuous deployment tools
Automated deployment and continuous deployment tools have become somewhat “unicorn” terms that signify a fault-free deployment process. Here's what they actually stand for.
Automated deployment is the practice of moving code from a development environment to a production environment in a one-step procedure that is fully or partially automated. The key aspects of automated deployment include triggering with just one action, repeatable and predictable steps, close to no human intervention, and full execution of all steps.
Continuous deployment tools deliver a reliable and automated deployment process to move software in a constant flow into production. The traditional continuous delivery pipeline includes development, basic tests, test environment, QA tests, production-like environment, full tests, and production.
In this following section, we cover some of the most convenient and resourceful automated deployment tools available.
Octopus Deploy is hands-down the crown jewel if you use .NET for deployment servers. Octopus Deploy automates complex application deployments regardless of whether they are cloud-based or on-premise.
The main advantage of leveraging Octopus Deploy is its strict set of requirements and restrictions which you can place on multiple deployment stages. Additionally, this tool makes it simple to have consistent deployments across multiple environments as it supports numerous languages, but its expertise lies in .NET. Additionally, Octopus Deploy supports a diverse group of cloud providers and configurations.
Google Cloud Deployment Manager
The Google Cloud Deployment Manager is an infrastructure deployment service that automates Google Cloud Platform resources. It allows users to specify all necessary resources for an application in a declarative format using yaml - a human-readable data serialization language. With the use of Google Cloud Deployment Manager, the deployment process is repeatable to deliver consistent results and it is also template-driven, which means that it allows the use of building blocks to generate resources that are deployed together. The Google Cloud Deployment Manager features include parallel deployment, templates, updates, parameters, schema files, references, previews, and a console user interface.
The AzureDevOps, formerly known as Visual Studio Team Services Online, is an automated deployment tool that enables collaboration between development and operations through any language and platform. It offers Continuous Improvement and Continuous Delivery techniques to deploy continuously to any cloud.
From Amazon, AWS CodeDeploy is an automated deployment tool that automates software deployments in a variety of computing services such as Amazon EC2, AWS Fargate, or on-premise instances. AWS CodeDeploy enables a rapid release of new features as it reduces downtime during deployment and takes care of the complexity of updating software. AWS CodeDeploy eliminates human errors that are associated with manual operations and it is easier to scale along with infrastructure needs. It provides devices to monitor software health during the deployment process and is configurable to send alerts about metrics.
Reasons to use automated deployment tools instead of manual deployment
Comprehensive automated deployment tools offer the following benefits over manual deployment:
- Reduction of manual-intensive labor.
- Easy collaboration.
- Decrease in problems when transitioning from development to testing to production.
- Secure software deployment.
- A stress-free process that requires minimal human intervention.
How to avoid typical problems with deployment
Deployment errors are typically expensive mistakes which is why we strongly recommend you to carefully select the right deployment tools to help structure and organize operations in a systematic and secure fashion.
Here, we cover some common issues that may happen during deployment along with recommendations on how to address them.
- Automation of the wrong deployment phase. As companies shift from a manual development process to a highly automated development process, it is quite tricky to pick and choose the right development phases that are suitable for automation. A thorough evaluation must be performed to identify the phases that are best suited to be automated in the short term and then leave in the backlog the ones that can be automated in the near future. While we don't consider there's a scenario where you can automate too much, you do need to be strategic about which phases can be broken down into smaller segments and automated iteratively.
- The case of confusing Continuous Deployment. Continuous deployment refers to the near-immediate deployment of code base changes into production if the pipeline yields successful results. Rapid changes are challenging to say the least. And it gets confusing as organizations trust continuous delivery but sometimes fail to completely understand continuous deployment. Continuous delivery refers to the practice of moving every code base change through the pipeline up to deploying to non-production environments. This way, deployment teams address issues instantly instead of during code base release. It is in this intersection where things get confusing between continuous deployment and continuous delivery since companies believe that continuous delivery gives them control over rollout, functionality, and risk factors.
- Lack of meaningful metrics. In a system development process, it is common to have different team members with significantly diverse priorities. Such discrepancies can cause teams to have scattered metrics around deployment that are hard to track or understand. Upper management might be less interested in the status of stories and more interested in actual deployment figures for task completion. We suggest designing a useful dashboard that takes into consideration hard facts about deployment substance over a progressive assessment of what data is useful and what that data represents.
- Lack of DevOps. In the absence of DevOps, the feedback exchange from clients is harder to achieve. By automating the application release and deployment processes and using DevOps tools, you can drastically reduce the amount of manual intervention in the release pipeline, which leads to big gains in deployment such as a faster resolution of problems, which in turn greatly reduces the complexity of issues to be fixed. Organizations increasingly look to continuous deployment to recover from failure. Deployment tools can help transform the deployment process, while practices such as DevOps can increase the feedback loop and reduce failure.
- Deployment without the use of feature flags. With the use of feature flags, deployments become more manageable and seamless. Whether they are large-scale deployments or little by little modifications, feature flags help deploy items all at once under a specific flag or pick and choose specific users to perform the deployment to monitor behavior.
- Deployment in large batches. If you spend a large amount of time deploying with large batches of changes, we suggest you consider deploying in small batches and doing it frequently. While it's not a practice to get the hang of overnight, it will be worthwhile as you'll be glad to have deployments that are predictable and reliable. Additionally, with frequent and small batches of deployment, you increase feedback response and also have better tracking to identifying errors since changes are few. a
A final word about deployment softwares
There you have it, folks: the world of deployment and deployment tools. With this article, we hope to give you enough insight into the environment of development tools that are picking up steam as they become more and more sought after by organizations that look to a simplified and hassle-free deployment process.
As you can probably tell, there are several tools to choose from, and while there is no do-it-all solution, there are a lot of options that can fit the bill of your technical and business requirements. And remember, deployment tools are meant to make your life easier, so choosing the right one can be pivotal to the success of your software projects.
At Svitla Systems, we have expert teams of professionals who are advocates and erudite about deployment tools. By partnering with us, our arsenal of resources is at your service to steer your projects to successful roads, by streamlining the deployment processes along the way to reach your business goals. Interested?
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