Most software developers at some point (or perhaps many points) in their careers run into the age-old problem of integrating new features into existing codebases and all the fun problems that come along with that task.
For smaller projects, you can usually manage a custom deployment pipeline for software releases. But as project complexity and size escalates, the time and effort needed to plan, build, test, and deploy software releases become unwieldy and unmanageable.
Before you know it, it’s 4:30 pm on a Friday, your team just deployed a new update to production because management wants that feature added ASAP, and what do you know, your new feature somehow broke login functionality.
You don’t want to be there. Nobody wants to be there. Without a suitable DevOps plan, releasing code to production becomes more of a hassle than programming itself. So, what is the solution that will help you not be there? Software Product Release Orchestration.
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An effectively implemented DevOps pipeline is meant to make deployment of code builds be as painless and smooth as possible. With the rapid-release nature of modern SaaS and other web-based software platforms, there is an increasing emphasis on being able to quickly push out new features without interrupting software service.
Automation is already a common component of many DevOps pipelines. Usually, however, these systems are self-contained and don’t play very nicely together. Software Product Release Orchestration takes the Software Release Pipeline and automates it from planning through deployment simultaneously.
Keeping in mind the goal of making deployment an increasingly efficient process, it is advisable to implement some form of large-scale automated solution. Rather than trying to jerry-rig it all yourself, however, you can rely on tried, tested, and true DevOps automation solutions to save time, help your team work more smoothly, and ultimately avoid software-breaking bugs making their way into production.
Building and deploying a new feature to production isn’t something you entrust to an intern. It requires the coordination of multiple moving parts and the time of some of your more experienced programmers.
Every moment that they spend building, testing, integrating, and deploying a release is time not spent doing what they do best: programming.
A properly implemented Software Product Release Orchestration system doesn’t just automate elements of the release process. It automates every element simultaneously. The purpose of the system is to minimize human interaction without sacrificing quality assurance.
For that reason, each step of the Automated Release Pipeline is built to quickly transition from one to the next, only stopping to get approval from necessary team members for important decisions.
DevOps and Release Orchestration have become such a fundamental part of the software release that entire engineering positions are dedicated to the task. Development teams and software companies are finding that this investment is providing ample returns. In fact, the average annual salary for DevOps Engineers is $101,000!
Not only does automating your Release Pipeline save you time and money, but it also reduces stress on the employees who would be stuck doing it otherwise. Any task that benefits from automation is inherently monotonous.
Monotony is more than just a simple killjoy. Having to repeat tasks over and over in the workplace will lead not only to employee dissatisfaction, but it can lead to health issues for them as well. Less monotony will improve employee moods, productivity, and overall happiness.
In addition to eliminating the monotony of automatable tasks, using Release Orchestration can help prevent interpersonal conflicts during the release process. Teamwork makes the dream work, but when your build has failed five times in a row and your team is diving head-first into their code to find the issue, tensions and voices can both rise at the drop of a hat. If you can easily identify precisely where the problem lies, then the likelihood of interpersonal difficulties will decrease.
In case it isn’t obvious, for your team to be able to pull off a successful DevOps Release Orchestration system, you’ll need the participation of your entire team. Even your most advanced DevOps engineer isn’t able to handle implementation all on their own, no matter how much you pay them.
You may get some grumbling at first, but it’s vital that you get your whole team on the same page when it comes to DevOps. In the same way it takes a whole team to build awesome software, it takes a whole team to build an environment for that software.
That leads to the next point: effectively using a Software Product Release Orchestration solution will require your team to implement best code practices. Your team will need to standardize workflows and processes to ensure maximum compatibility with the Automation Pipeline’s systems.
By standardizing code and implementing best practices as needed for the Pipeline to function properly, you will by necessity decrease the number of issues that arise from sloppy code. Spaghetti programming won’t be acceptable anymore.
It might seem a bit frustrating for your team at first, but standardizing your code is a best practice no matter what toolset you’re using. Nobody wants to stumble upon years-old code that looks like it was written by an insomniac hyped up on Mountain Dew and Pop Rocks, especially if they have to expand that codebase.
Effective Release Orchestration simply adds an impetus to get your team into gear. No more spaghetti. No more slop. Clean, pristine code is the way of the future, a future with fewer headaches.
Beyond that, by implementing automated test cases for your builds, you will be able to catch any major bugs before they can be deployed to the product. No more finding out your new feature breaks the login function after you’ve deployed it. Automated testing can run through common customer activities to ensure that nothing is out of whack before you press the big red “release” button.
Continuous Integration (CI) is a development workflow that emphasizes making frequent, small commits to your repository instead of infrequent, large ones. It uses Integration toolsets to build and test software through automation, encouraging teams to rapidly iterate one small commit at a time.
Continuous Delivery (CD) takes those integrations and automatically moves them to the appropriate environments. Because different team members can be working on related code within different environments, these integrations must be swiftly delivered to avoid code conflict errors and to prevent delivery bottlenecks.
By using a CI/CD pipeline, you can treat different elements of your application as microservices, upgrading individual features with minimal risk to the overall product. Even if one service or feature stops working as intended, this granular, systemic approach to release will allow the rest of the code library to work as intended.
And when one of those features does go down, isolating the root cause of the problem becomes much easier. Once you find the build that caused the issue, it will take less time to isolate the problem code because the commit size will be much smaller. The alternative to this is combing through thousands of lines of code because your “big update” broke everything and the kitchen sink.
Because of the granular nature of a CI/CD pipeline, you can also track data generated by the toolset on a fine level. Using that data, you can generate reports to reveal which builds tickets were solved, which builds succeeded in running which tests, and more. You can actually use all this information to further adjust your CI/CD pipelines to be even more efficient.
It is so easy to focus on the in-house developmental benefits of a fully automated DevOps pipeline that the impact on the end-user experience can be overshadowed. However, it cannot be overstated how this system transforms the way customers experience software.
Gone are the days of waiting for a monthly patch (or worse yet, a new release altogether) to fix a bug. Not only can you gather data from your CI/CD pipelines to pick up on inefficiencies in your code and to pick up on customer interactions, but you can also implement direct feedback from customer support tickets into your dev cycle.
And instead of waiting weeks or months for a feature to be fixed, updated, or implemented, customers now can see a turnaround in as little as 24 hours. Of course, this can only be the case if the deployment pipeline is efficient enough to handle such a quick turnaround.
If at all possible, you want the longest part of implementing changes to code to be the actual programming itself, not sending it to product. Customers notice when a bug that was frustrating them gets fixed quickly. The end result is that they stick with your software instead of eventually migrating over to a competitor’s.
Software Product Release Orchestration is as much a change in development culture and team mindset as it is an emphasis on certain software. Before any changes can occur on the computer, changes must first occur within the hearts of your programmers.
You should already be familiar with version control. Whether it’s Git, SVN, or something else, you’ll still need your source control repository. If you’ve made it this far in development without touching source control, that’s okay. There are many different quality version control tools that you can use.
Next, you’ll need to start writing production-worthy automated tests for vital parts of your codebase. You’ll be running these tests a lot, as they’ll be telling you when something incredibly important breaks down in your application. This is where your DevOps Engineer will come in handy, as programming these test cases typically falls under their purview.
Finally, for CI/CD, you’ll need to find a suitable Continuous Implementation and Delivery solution that can integrate with your repository and your test cases. This way, with every push you make to your repository, you’re running those test cases on the newly added code.
Obviously, there are a lot more steps to this process. Making the transition to this release system isn’t something you can do overnight. Be sure to do plenty of research to determine the solution that works best for you.
At the end of the day, the goal of any automation process is to reduce time spent working on a task, decrease the opportunities for error, and ultimately make developers’ lives easier. Rather than trying to hogtie disparate automation systems into one of Frankenstein’s Monster pipelines, take the time and effort to invest in a solution that makes product release a much more painless process.
Using a system like a CI/CD pipeline adds an iterative touch to your deployment processes, allowing you to narrow down problems in the codebase by commit. Frequently pushing to the integration repository helps dev members avoid losing large bodies of work to storage failure, and automated testing decreases the likelihood of system-breaking bugs making it into product.
The role of DevOps automation is only going to increase as systems become more robust and as customers come to expect the quality-of-life improvements it brings. Take the opportunity now to start looking at how you can begin moving toward full-scale automation of your deployment process.
Use Software Product Release Orchestration to eliminate the Friday afternoon release pandemonium and raise the development standard for your team. Become more agile in your implementations, gain faster turnarounds on updates and bug-fixes, and become more responsive to feedback. Your code deserves it, your customers deserve it, and most importantly, your team deserves it.
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