What Is Continuous Deployment and the Difference Between CI/CDel/CDep

What Is Continuous Deployment?

Continuous deployment (CD) is a software release method that automates the entire process from code commit through to testing and deployment. Once a commit passes all tests, it is automatically released into production, and updates become visible to software users. This is considered an evolution of Continuous Integration / Continuous Delivery (CI/CD).

Continuous deployment replaces the manual safeguards that traditionally prevented unproven code from reaching the live production environment. When implementing this approach, it is essential to ensure that all IT and development teams adhere to rigorous testing requirements and development practices for production-ready code. It also requires monitoring production in real time to quickly identify and resolve problems with each new release.

In the past, continuous deployment was considered a hard-core practice that could only be implemented by “unicorns” or technology giants like Amazon and Facebook. Today, new development practices like GitOps and improved infrastructure, powered by Kubernetes, is making continuous deployment accessible to everyone

Benefits of Continuous Deployment

Continuous deployment provides numerous benefits for your software development team, including:

  • Faster time-to-market: By automating the deployment process, organizations can deliver new features and bug fixes to production faster, enabling them to respond quickly to changing customer needs and market conditions.
  • Improved collaboration: Continuous deployment fosters collaboration between development, testing, and operations teams, as each team can see the results of their work in real-time and make adjustments as needed.
  • Increased reliability: Automated testing and deployment processes help to reduce the risk of manual errors, making software releases more reliable and reducing downtime.
  • Faster feedback: By making changes to production quickly, organizations can receive faster feedback from users and make adjustments as needed, helping to improve the overall quality of the software.
  • Better resource utilization: Automating the deployment process allows teams to focus on higher-value tasks, such as writing code and fixing bugs, rather than spending time on manual deployment tasks.
  • Reduced risk: Automated testing and deployment processes help to reduce the risk of introducing new bugs or breaking existing functionality, helping to ensure that software releases are stable and reliable.
  • Improved security: Continuous deployment can help organizations to adhere to security and compliance requirements by enabling them to deploy security updates and bug fixes quickly and efficiently.

Continuous Integration vs. Continuous Delivery vs. Continuous Deployment

Continuous Integration (CI), Continuous Delivery (CD), and Continuous Deployment (CD) are related software development practices that differ in their approach to automating the release process.

Continuous Delivery vs. Continuous Deployment

Continuous Integration

Continuous Integration (CI) is a software development practice that automates the process of building, testing, and integrating code changes into a shared repository. The goal of CI is to catch and fix integration issues as soon as they occur, reducing the risk of bugs in production and allowing teams to work more efficiently.

Code changes are integrated into the main branch of the codebase regularly, and automated tests are run to ensure the changes do not break the application. This allows teams to identify and resolve integration issues quickly, ensuring the codebase remains stable and production-ready at all times.

Continuous Delivery

Continuous delivery builds on continuous integration (CI), extending automation beyond the build stage to deploy all code changes to the testing and production environments. In addition to automated tests, the release process is also automated, making it easy to deploy applications with the click of a button.

Continuous delivery enables scheduled releases daily, weekly, or however often the business demands. However, the benefits of continuous delivery are greater when releases occur in small batches as soon as possible. This approach enables early troubleshooting to identify issues before they become costly to repair.

Continuous Deployment

Continuous deployment extends the CI/CD approach even further than continuous delivery. It automates the release of each change that has passed the other stages of the production pipeline. Continuous deployment eliminates human intervention in the deployment process, with all changes deployed to production unless they fail a test.

Continuous deployment helps speed up the customer feedback loop with shorter development cycles and no stressful deadline (i.e., release day). It lets developers focus on creating software, enabling code changes to go live within minutes of a build.

Related content: Read our guide to the CI/CD pipeline

Continuous Deployment Tools

Continuous deployment demands a significant upfront engineering investment. Some of the tools required to establish a CD pipeline include: 

  • Test Automation—test automation is the main capability required for continuous deployment. The whole CI/CD chain depends on automation. Development teams can use automated tests to prevent regressions when introducing new code without relying on manual testers to review every code change. 
  • Containerization—containerization allows developers to create and deploy applications faster and more securely. It is easier to deploy an application as a container, bundled with all relevant configuration files, libraries, and dependencies needed to run application code. This single software package or “container” is abstracted from the host operating system, portable, and able to run on any platform or cloud.
  • Deployment automation—the main difference between continuous delivery and continuous deployment is the added step of automating code deployment in a live production environment. 
  • Progressive deployment—continuous deployment pipelines require tools to upgrade software to a new version and automatically roll back a deployment when it introduces a bug or undesirable change. An example of a progressive deployment strategy is a green/blue or canary deployment.
  • GitOps tools—GitOps gives developers greater control over their application deployment pipelines by unifying many important tasks such as deploying, managing, and monitoring environments. GitOps gives you full control over the deployment of both infrastructure and applications. DevOps teams create a declarative configuration saying what they need to run, and GitOps tools deploy it automatically and make sure deployments are consistent and reliable.
  • Monitoring and alerting tools—continuous deployment pipelines must have continuous, real-time monitoring. Teams should automatically receive alerts to significant issues. Monitoring tools offer crucial health visibility across the development system for the entire deployment lifecycle. It is also possible to configure alerts to trigger automated rollbacks of flawed deployments.

From Continuous Integration to Continuous Deployment

Modern development organizations are making the transition from continuous integration to continuous delivery, and subsequently to full continuous deployment. This is a challenging process, but one which provides significant benefits for software teams and the business as a whole. 

Here are the key steps to moving from continuous integration to continuous deployment:

  1. Establish a strong continuous integration (CI) process: The foundation for successful continuous deployment is a strong and reliable CI process. Ensure that all code changes are automatically integrated, built, and tested, with clear processes for managing and resolving build failures.
  2. Implement automated deployment processes: Once the CI process is established, the next step is to implement automated deployment processes. This involves creating scripts and pipelines to deploy code changes to various environments, including testing, staging, and production.
  3. Test deployment processes: thoroughly test the deployment processes in a non-production environment to ensure that they work as expected and to identify and resolve any issues before deploying to production.
  4. Establish monitoring and alerting: Establish monitoring and alerting systems to monitor the health and performance of the application, and to receive alerts in case of any issues. This will help you to identify and resolve any problems before they affect production.
  5. Implement rollback strategies: Implement rollback strategies to quickly and easily roll back to a previous version of the software in case of any issues or failures in the deployment process.
  6. Ensure high-quality code: To move to continuous deployment, it’s essential to ensure that all code changes are of high quality and have passed rigorous testing before being deployed to production.
  7. Foster collaboration: Foster collaboration between development, testing, and operations teams to ensure that everyone is working together to achieve the goal of continuous deployment. This includes regular communication and coordination, as well as a shared understanding of the processes and tools involved.
  8. Continuously monitor and improve: Continuously monitor and improve the continuous deployment process, making changes and improvements as needed to ensure that it remains reliable and efficient over time.

Continuous Deployment with Kubernetes

Kubernetes is a popular open-source platform for automating deployment, scaling, and management of containerized applications. Kubernetes can be used to implement continuous deployment by automating the deployment and management of containers, making it easier to move from development to production.

Here are the steps to implement continuous deployment with Kubernetes:

  • Package your application as a container: Package your application as a Docker container, which makes it easier to deploy and manage on Kubernetes.
  • Set up a Kubernetes cluster: Set up a Kubernetes cluster, which will host your application containers. You can use a managed service like Google Kubernetes Engine (GKE) or set up your own cluster on-premises.
  • Define your deployment: Define your deployment using a Kubernetes manifest, which specifies the desired state of your application, including the number of replicas, resource requirements, and other configurations.
  • Automate the deployment process: Automate the deployment process using a CI/CD pipeline that integrates with Kubernetes. The pipeline should automate the build, test, and deployment of your application containers to the Kubernetes cluster.
  • Monitor and manage your deployment: Monitor and manage your deployment using Kubernetes-native tools. Open source tools like Argo CD, based on a GitOps paradigm, can provide full management of CI/CD pipelines in Kubernetes at enterprise scale.

By using Kubernetes for continuous deployment, organizations can benefit from the platform’s powerful features and capabilities, including automatic scaling, rolling updates, and self-healing, making it easier to deploy and manage applications at scale.

Continuous Deployment in Kubernetes Made Easier with GitOps

GitOps is a development method that uses Git repositories to manage deployment and management. GitOps makes continuous deployment in Kubernetes easier by using Git as the source of truth for the desired state of the cluster and fully automating software deployment and updates. Argo CD is a popular, open source tool that can help you implement GitOps practices in Kubernetes at enterprise scale.

Here are the key benefits of using GitOps, and tools like Argo, for continuous deployment in Kubernetes:

  • Version control: Git provides version control for the desired state of the entire Kubernetes cluster, making it easier to track and revert changes to the system.
  • Collaboration: Git provides collaboration features, making it easier for teams to work together on changes to the cluster, with a full audit trail of all changes.
  • Automated deployment: GitOps tools automate the deployment process, ensuring that changes to the desired state defined in Git are immediately reflected in the cluster.
  • Improved visibility: GitOps provides a clear and transparent view of the state of the system, making it easier to diagnose and resolve issues.
  • Repeatability: GitOps enables repeatable deployments, making it easier to deploy the same application across multiple environments.
  • Reduced errors: GitOps reduces the risk of human error by automating the deployment and management process.

By using GitOps for continuous deployment in Kubernetes, organizations can streamline their deployment processes, improve collaboration, and reduce errors, making it easier to deploy and manage applications at scale.

Codefresh: Continuous Deployment Made Simple

Codefresh provides delivery pipelines, which greatly simplify the creation and monitoring of development workflows. These pipelines are optimized for DevOps flows such as CI/CD pipelines for checking out code, building and testing artifacts, etc.

Codefresh GitOps provides the application deployment layer. Defining an application is as simple as identifying a source repo and its target. Codefresh GitOps is built on Argo CD and Argo Rollouts to power progressive delivery.

Codefresh dashboard

The platform seamlessly integrates with Git, JIRA, and other systems to provide a clear dashboard of all activity in the software supply chain. Bringing all these components into a single flow makes it easy to identify the cause of breaking changes, and keep track of all your running infrastructure and applications as changes flow into them. 

With easy remediation, teams have more confidence in deploying more frequently. Today, even high velocity organizations might only deploy frequently on a few applications, Codefresh enables companies to deploy frequently for every application.

This also works at scale. Filtering all changes by deployment time, committer, application, JIRA issue, or several other dimensions brings incredible traceability and clarity. The dashboard can even track all the locations a particular artifact is deployed across the entire organization.

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