There’s nothing like releasing a new software application or update for your customers, especially when you’re unveiling exciting new features or fixes.
But what’s the best way to deploy your software product?
There are several commonly used deployment strategies. Which one is best depends on your specific requirements.
You’ll need to account for the nature of the software, the target platform, the deployment environment, and the development team’s goals and requirements.
In this article, we’ll discuss some of the most common deployment strategies and why you might choose to adopt them.
The continuous deployment strategy automatically deploys software changes to production environments once the updates pass automated tests and quality assurance checks.
By automating the entire deployment process, this method minimizes lead times while accelerating the release cycle.
These six tools can benefit a continuous deployment workflow:
Version control tracks revisions to a project’s assets and improves the visibility of its updates and changes to help teams collaborate more efficiently.
Code review is used to test the current code source. They help find unseen bugs and help developers address software integrity issues before deploying updates.
Continuous integration (CI) helps simplify the process of multiple developers working on the same project. We’ll get into this more thoroughly in the next section.
Configuration management ensures that software and hardware maintain a consistent state, including the proper configuration and automation of servers, storage, networking, and software.
Release automation is what keeps the process of continuous deployment automatic. Connecting processes to one another helps developers follow the necessary steps before pushing the changes to production.
Infrastructure monitoring helps developers visualize the data that lives in their testing environments. It assists in analyzing application performance to test the positive or negative impact of any changes made.
Continuous Integration/Continuous Delivery (CI/CD)
Considered a DevOps and Agile best practice, CI/CD allows software development teams to easily ensure code quality and software security while still meeting business requirements.
Continuous integration (CI) is the process of consistently integrating small code changes into a shared repository, where developers can easily collaborate and commit changes more frequently. Doing so leads to enhanced code quality.
Continuous delivery (CD) then takes these code changes, automatically tests them, and deploys them into production if the code passes all tests. If they fail, development teams are alerted to the issue to make changes.
Unlike continuous deployment, CD does require some human intervention to determine the rate at which the changes will be released.
CI/CD “embodies a culture, operating principles, and a set of practices that application development teams use to deliver code changes more frequently and reliably,” StarCIO’s Isaac Sacolick said.
This process ensures that changes are quickly incorporated, tested, and deployed, reducing the risk of integration issues.
In a nutshell, this strategy shuts down the old version of the application, deploys the new version, and reboots the entire system.
Considered an “all-or-nothing” process, it lets your team update the software immediately but incurs downtime.
It can frustrate users because they can’t use the system between shutting down the old software and launching the new one.
This can be useful when you have easily built-in and planned maintenance schedules where your software is rarely accessed, and any downtime will go unnoticed.
In a blue-green deployment, two identical production environments, referred to as blue and green, are set up.
The current version of the software runs in one environment (blue), while the new version is deployed in the other environment (green).
Once the green environment is verified and tested, the switch is made, directing traffic to the green environment.
This approach allows for zero-downtime deployments and easy rollback in case of issues.
Canary release is a strategy that involves deploying a new software version to a smaller subset of users or servers while most users continue to use the stable version.
This allows for testing the new version in a controlled environment and collecting feedback before rolling it out to all users.
“A benefit of canary releases is the ability to do capacity testing of the new version in a production environment with a safe rollback strategy if issues are found,” said Danilo Sato, a software developer, author, and speaker. “By slowly ramping up the load, you can monitor and capture metrics about how the new version impacts the production environment.”
Sato said he likes this alternative approach as it entirely separates the capacity testing environment, making it as production-like as possible.
The Canary Release helps mitigate risks and can lead to a much smoother transition to the new software environment.
A/B testing, also known as split testing, is the process of deploying two versions or variations of a software application to different user groups simultaneously.
Each group’s interactions with the software and their feedback are compared to determine which version performs better.
This strategy is commonly used for optimizing the user interface (UI) and user experience (UX).
Rolling deployment is a strategy where software updates are gradually rolled out across different servers or clusters, one at a time, while the application remains operational.
It allows for a controlled and phased deployment process, reducing the impact of potential issues and facilitating easier rollback if necessary.
While there are similarities to the blue/green deployment method, rolling deployment is usually quicker.
However, there is no separation of environments between the old and new applications, so there’s a greater risk to this process if a deployment fails.
Manual deployment is a strategy that works just like it sounds—developers manually push changes and updates to the production environments.
While this strategy provides more control over the deployment process than its automated counterparts, it can be time-consuming and error-prone.
As more and more automation tools become available with less risk, manual deployment is typically used for smaller applications or scenarios where the deployment frequency is low.
This approach treats the infrastructure, including servers and environments, as immutable and unable to be modified once deployed.
Instead of updating the existing infrastructure, new instances are created with the updated software version, replacing the old ones.
According to Reblaze, there are multiple benefits to deploying an Immutable Infrastructure, including a more robust infrastructure.
“Infrastructure components tend to be more stable since each one is always in a fresh ‘out of the box’ configuration. And system administration becomes much easier; instead of manually configuring, maintaining, and patching servers, engineers just destroy and replace them as needed.”
This approach helps ensure consistency, repeatability, and easier rollbacks.
Which deployment strategy is right for you?
After reviewing the most common deployment methods, all that’s left to do is determine which one fits the needs of your software, development team, and, most importantly, your customers.
Be sure to consider factors such as the size and complexity of the application, the development team’s agility, the need for scalability, the desired release frequency, and the tolerance for downtime or disruptions.
Whether you choose to adopt a more traditional deployment strategy or one that is fully automated, be sure to monitor how it is received by your customers and adapt accordingly.