Many developers steeped in the world of agile startups view continuous delivery pipelines as an accepted standard requirement for software development. Yet many companies, particularly large enterprises with traditional infrastructure, still struggle to make this approach a standard part of their development process.
Whether your company is an enterprise looking to make continuous delivery pipelines a standard project element to increase agility and speed time to market, or your firm is looking to simply implement code delivery pipeline best practices, optimizing code delivery pipelines through DevOps-based automation will increase developer output and strategic contributions and deliver substantial business value.
Efficient code delivery pipelines that balance security and agility can be achieved by using automation coupled with cloud infrastructure. Together, these technologies and processes can deliver big dividends in the form of lower development costs, higher-quality results and faster times to launch. By focusing on optimizing a delivery mechanism for value versus just delivering more code, code delivery pipelines can meaningfully and measurably impact business objectives.
Continuous Delivery in Modern Development Environments
Continuous delivery is a design practice wherein developers use automation to accelerate the software delivery process. It is a high-value process because it enables programmers to cut the overall cost of software development. Faster delivery of high-quality code makes it easier for companies to improve customer satisfaction, capture new markets and gain a competitive advantage.
To optimize this development model, companies need to automate their build, integration and testing processes as well as provisioning and retiring infrastructure components.
Let’s look at a typical scenario. Code delivery starts from a feature or bug request filed with a developer. The developer takes existing code, modifies it, does local testing and commits it to the code repository. The code in the repository is then tested by QA and tagged for production, where IT or operations professionals deploy the code to production servers.
This creates loops at the local testing, QA, and production stages of the process. Each of these loops has a cost, which is directly affected by developer productivity and how long it takes to execute each loop.
The local testing loop executes most frequently, so it’s critical to make this part of the testing process fast. Production bugs are the least frequent but most expensive for businesses when they exist. Consider the cost of a significant disruption to the workflow, or the negative customer experience, or the inability to deliver a service, or security vulnerabilities. Imagine if you could keep delivery time and costs under control while minimizing total effort at every stage.
Ideally, code should be pushed in smaller batches. The downside to this approach is it creates overhead and room for error as more and more things move through the process. To reduce the overhead of too many pushes, automation can play an important and meaningful role. Indeed, automation makes it cheaper, faster and more reliable to do things in smaller batches and helps streamline delivery.
Stories from the Front Line: Automated Code Delivery Pipelines
DevOps automation such as automated code delivery pipelines can be more easily achieved when coupled with cloud technology. For example, Flux7 recently worked with a Fortune 500 enterprise to set up an automated code delivery pipeline using AWS CloudFormation, AWS CodeCommit, AWS CodePipeline and Jenkins. Developers would use a Git flow methodology, and once they merged code to the master branch in CodeCommit, polling would alert to a new commit. CodePipeline would create a CloudFormation change set and queue it up for review by the Ops team. Once the Ops team approved the change set by manually pressing a button, CodePipeline would trigger a CloudFormation stack update. This allowed for very high full-stack agility while not losing central governance.
Many leaders in technology organizations are moving to Agile and DevOps as methods of improving the speed of delivery, of which an automated code delivery pipeline is foundational. Optimized development pipelines deliver significant value by minimizing the time and costs of local test, QA and production processes and by promoting code from one development stage to the next.
When you engage in this process, you reduce the time it takes to identify problems and their causes. And when you automate development steps, you dramatically reduce the cumbersome and time-consuming tasks that slow down the release of software code.
Impact to Your Business
Efficient developer workflows in a cloud-based environment are the foundation of pipeline optimization. Their importance relates to the need to:
- Control ever-increasing developer labor costs. Your monthly developer labor cost is almost guaranteed to exceed the monthly cost of your cloud server setup. Keeping your developers working efficiently means you get the most out of that labor and can focus that on what projects are bringing the most value to the business.
- Get a clear understanding of developer activities. When we interview developers and IT team members, what emerges from these discussions is astonishing. Companies learn that they really don’t know as much as they thought they did about their employees’ day-to-day activities and workflow.
- Find developers with the required skill sets. Hiring the right talent is costly and time-consuming. If you can help your developers work more efficiently, you can avoid the search costs. And, building a reputation as a company that supports developers helps attract new talent.
- Accelerate time to market. It’s possible to improve the performance of less-productive developers by accelerating their work process with optimized code delivery pipelines and by building best practices in through automation.
- Avoid rework-related slowdowns. Rework comes at a cost of time and effort. Automating development processes can avoid many of the human errors that cause rework.
An effective code delivery process is highly valuable as it reduces risk from each release, ensures that rogue code is not introduced and helps organizations effectively manage global deployments. Most importantly, optimized code delivery pipelines can significantly impact business objectives and business outcomes, making DevOps a strategic contributor to achieving business imperatives.