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As applications’ complexity is rising, the demand for minimizing the risk of software deployment is growing as well. Some teams tend to overlook the importance of getting ready for the worst during deployment. But it can be the difference maker between a user-winning user experience and a UX worthy of Razzie nods.
Felling a tree sounds simple. Cut into the tree and wait for it to fall. In the matter of seconds, you’ll find out if any damage was caused. That’s why fellers, the people responsible for cutting out the tree, take appropriate measures to protect themselves and their surroundings.
On the other end of the complexity spectrum, there are applications. As they turn into more interconnected and interdependent with each other, one mistake can create havoc within the blink of an eye. That’s why you should design your software deployments accordingly.
Software deployment is the process of installing a piece of software to the designated environment. This could be of the end-user or a production environment where several end-users gain access to it.
The purpose of deployment is to provide secure and compatible program within said environment. Nowadays deployments are mostly automated, but they can be semi-automatic, as well.
Release and deployment are terms that are often confused but technically they refer to different aspects of software development.
Software release covers the iterative process to provide more functionality, or invisible improvements – bugfixes or security fixes, for example – to the already existing ecosystem. In the meantime, deployment is when the application is being pushed to an environment.
Users can launch deployments as easy as a tap on their screens. But a while ago it just wasn’t that simple. In the earlier days, software deployment meant not only the installation of the program but sometimes a specialist had to go on premise to assemble the required hardware to run the application.
This led companies to look for simpler ways and the result of that is how we look at software deployments. Decades ago, physical data storages, for example, floppy and CD were good enough. Then came the internet and higher bandwidth provided a sufficient way to eliminate physical data storages for both personal and business users. This enabled the emergence of not only more convenient but more frequent deployments.
“Dude, it’s just, like, software deployment” – one might think. But it’s a relevant aspect of the logistics of bringing the program from development to the environment where people will use it.
To better understand this, let’s dig deeper about the purpose of software deployment. As mentioned above, deployment aims to deliver more security and compatibility. Most environments where the program runs are usually connected to the internet. This can lead to vulnerabilities that can cause several problems to the users. And be sure that those who intend to breach your system will look for the weak spots everywhere.
Business requirements demand the application to run safely and protect the data of the users. In order to avoid vulnerabilities, your team needs to maintain security constantly. To keep up with security requirements, you must deploy frequently. There’s no better way to put a target on your application’s back than leaving it as is. In the next section we’re going to detail some of the software deployment best practices you can follow.
A general rule of thumb is that before you deploy, you run tests and make a game plan for your deployment. In other words, you do your diligence in regard of two things:
The program functions as expected,
and the path of deployment is designed properly.
There are certain frameworks that thrive on these rules that sound a lot simpler than the way they are.
DevOps methodology not only enables but requires frequent deployments. For this, organizations working under DevOps use CI/CD pipelines.
CI stands for continuous integration. It means that codes are continuously integrated into the software. Currently, when applications often operate as a cluster of microservices, it’s important to sort out dependencies to not hurt functionality on a broader level for the sake of one function. Continuous integration’s purpose, therefore, is to break things early, so the users won’t discover them when it’d be important for them to get their things done.
CD stands for continuous delivery. It means that after thorough testing practices the new piece – let it be an update, a patch or a functionality – goes from sender to receiver – in other words, from the developers to the environment where users will have access to it.
Good CI/CD pipelines don’t stop at pushing the software to the environment. They need to give constant feedback on the functionality of the application, as well as delivering notifications when a security problem emerges so your Ops team can react faster. Also, there are public vulnerability databases and various type of static code analyzers, having them in the CI is important, not having them is the equivalent of keeping yourself in the dark.
A CI/CD pipeline is crucial when it comes to decreasing deployment costs, too. Due to their automated nature, pipelines can reduce workload off the developers who automate deployment steps just once. This is how automated steps of deployment contribute to cost reduction. Therefore, the pipelines are far more than easier software deployment.
Software deployment is a critical point of development. Failures during the deployment process might cause user experience to plummet, which eventually hurts business goals. Teams should never underestimate the importance of designing deployments to avoid pitfalls and provide users with secure and compatible programs.
This blogpost was written by the team of dyrector.io. dyrector.io is an open-source continuous delivery & deployment platform with version management.
Find the project on GitHub.