If your IT department isn’t using Continuous Delivery to develop and release software yet, there’s a good chance it will be in a couple of years.
More companies are adopting Continuous Delivery, a model that uses automation and constant collaboration to produce enterprise software – way faster and much more frequently than the traditional push to put out only a few new releases per year.
In a Perforce survey of 600 companies in the U.S. and U.K., 65 per cent said they already use Continuous Delivery “at least some of the time”; 28 per cent said they use it “across all projects.” SaaS companies have an even higher adoption rate of 80 per cent, according to the survey released in January.
Why are companies embracing this trend? And what does your organization need to put it into practice? Here’s your primer on Continuous Delivery.
How it works: Instead of assigning only a few developers to work for months towards one software release or update at a time, developers and IT operations collaborate to make sure software is constantly developed and tweaked based on customer demand. All phases of the process – development, testing, integration, monitoring, production and release – operate on a continuum. This can be used for both huge projects (like releasing a major new software program) and tiny tweaks (updating software or adding a new widget to your website). It’s applicable to customer-facing software as well as software your company uses internally.
The business benefits: Continuous Delivery is all about speed, baby. Since both sides of the equation (developers and IT operations) are constantly communicating from start to finish, it’s all much more efficient. By automating parts of the pipeline – including integration, testing and monitoring – you can spot (and fix) potential issues much earlier in the process. Continuous Delivery allows you to respond swiftly to customer demands, marketplace trends and changes in technology.
Continuous Delivery also appears to boost corporate revenue. Forty per cent of the surveyed firms using it saw their revenue jump by at least 10 per cent during the previous year, according to a study released in June by EMA.
Remember the hoopla surrounding the release of Windows 95 almost twenty years ago? Microsoft spent three years developing it, $300 million marketing it and months promoting it. Now Facebook puts new software into production twice a day. Fundamentally, Continuous Delivery is a recognition that technology moves incredibly fast today and that customers have adopted an on-demand mentality.
What you need: As noted earlier, technology that automates parts of the software pipeline is key to Continuous Delivery. So are tools that foster collaboration among IT and operations teams. (In the aforementioned Perforce survey, 95 per cent of companies said a collaboration platform is important for successful Continual Delivery.) Some vendors like Chef, Puppet and Thoughtworks have emerged as early leaders in the space catering specifically to Continuous Delivery solutions. But as a 2013 PWC report notes, “the market is still young” and “most of the tools work only in greenfield environments, not with the legacy applications that exist in most established organizations.”
In the meantime, you can look at acquiring a new mindset. Continuous Delivery is often associated with DevOps, a philosophy that encourages various players in the software pipeline (especially IT and operations) to take equal ownership of the endeavour. As consultant J. Paul Reed suggests in a blog post, however, it won’t happen overnight.
The “cultural rewiring” required for Continuous Delivery “can help start chipping away at organizational silos,” Reed writes. “But unless the people in those silos are prepared for that, it can feel like their silo is coming down on top of their heads.” He still ends on a positive note, though, saying that Continuous Delivery “requires focused investment in tooling, hardware and people. All of that takes time. But all of it is possible.”