Software deployment is the process of releasing a software application to users. It's the second-last step of the software development lifecycle (SDLC) and involves nine main steps, including planning, automation, implementing continuous integration/continuous delivery (CI/CD), and identifying environmental differences.
Read on to learn more about software deployment and how to do it. We've included a software deployment checklist and tips for deploying software.
What Is Software Deployment?
Software deployment is one of the most critical steps of the SDLC. Tech companies use it to deliver applications, updates, patches, and modules from developers to users.
Deployment occurs near the end of the SDLC, after testing and before maintenance. To put it into perspective, the seven steps of the SDLC are:
- Defining requirements
- Designing and prototyping
- Software development
- Operations and maintenance
There are many ways to deploy software, including:
Canary testing reduces risk by slowly rolling out software updates to a small group of users before releasing them to the public.
Development teams use a load balancer or router to target a small portion of the overall user base with the newest version of the software. As this group uses the application, the development team collects and inspects analytics to determine whether the new update should be rolled out. If the new update is buggy or unintuitive, the team will roll back the update for further troubleshooting.
Consider using canary deployment when:
- You want to cut infrastructure costs
- You can't afford deployment downtime during software updates
- The development team has the resources and the flexibility to create and implement new features
Recreate deployment involves shutting down the current version of a software before deploying the newest version. This technique requires a full reboot cycle and long downtimes.
You should use recreate deployment if:
- You have a limited budget for new infrastructure
- You want to recreate your software from scratch
- You are okay with extended downtimes
This deployment method involves releasing a new version of your software alongside the old version. Once both versions have been released, traffic to the older version is directed to the new version for production testing. The new version is rolled out after successful load and traffic testing.
Consider using shadow deployment if:
- You have scalable information technology (IT) infrastructure
- You have a large budget
- You want to maximize software performance
- You need to test your software with real-world traffic
Also known as Black-Red testing, Blue-Green deployment is where two identical environments — Blue and Green — run side by side. When one environment goes live, the other will be idle. For instance, if Green is live, Blue will be idle.
The team will test and make changes to the idle environment. Once it's ready for release, they will use a load balancer to switch traffic from the live environment to the idle one. If there are any problems, the load balancer will automatically switch traffic back to the older version.
You should use Blue-Green deployment if:
- You can afford to build, maintain, and use a complex IT infrastructure
- You don't want any downtime
- You have designed your software environment and database schema to support two versions of the same software app in production
A/B Testing Deployment Strategy
A/B testing relies on real-world statistics to decide on a rollback or rollout.
Developers can kickstart A/B testing by running different versions of the same software as experiments. They can then route user traffic to different experiments depending on user demographics like location, age, and favorite products. After the end of the experiments, devs will compare and measure results to see which experiment performed the best. They will then update the software to the best experiment.
You should use A/B testing if you:
- Want to test front-end changes
- Want to learn more about user preferences and behavior
- Have the budget to implement an intelligent load balancer
- Have full visibility and control over your user traffic distribution
- Have enabled your software and databases to run multiple versions of the same software in parallel
Software Deployment Steps
Software deployment consists of nine steps:
The first step is to prepare for deployment. Your development and operations (DevOps) team can do this by:
- Analyzing the purpose and scope of the deployment
- Aligning resources
- Scheduling tasks
- Holding meetings to ensure that everyone is on the same page
2. Automate the Deployment Process
Next, your DevOps team will automate the deployment process. This will help you cut costs and give your team more time to focus on tasks that require human ingenuity, such as troubleshooting and analyzing analytics.
Common automation tools include build servers like Bamboo, TFS, and Jenkins. Besides automated workflows for deployment, these tools offer multiple tools for accelerating the SDLC, including:
- Built-in disaster recovery
- Integrations with popular tools like Docker, AWS CodeDeploy, Jira, and Bitbucket
- The ability to scale with confidence
3. Implement CI/CD
To deploy as effectively and efficiently as possible, your DevOps team must implement CI/CD.
CI/CD is a DevOps software development approach where incremental code changes are made reliably and frequently. It empowers developers to make code changes and automatically test and push updates for deployment. CI frequently integrates code changes into a central repository with automated tests and builds, while CD automatically deploys builds to production or testing.
4. Identify Environmental Differences
Besides setting up a CI/CD pipeline, your team needs to identify environmental changes and differences. They can do this by running scripts on a backup production copy before release.
5. Identify Key Metrics
Your team should identify and set key performance indicators (KPIs) to measure your software's success. After making a list of KPIs, your team must monitor them throughout the deployment process and troubleshoot as problems arise.
Common KPIs for software deployment include:
- Number of known release errors
- Percentage of approved releases that don't result in an incident
- Percentage of releases that are successfully implemented
- Percentage of releases that are completed within the approved time frame
6. Create Synthetic Transaction Tests
Synthetic tests can give your team a better understanding of how users experience your software.
These tests mimic real-world traffic by sending simulated requests to your software from various browsers, devices, and locations. The goal of these tests is to prevent functional, performance-related, and other issues before real users encounter them. This is why synthetic testing is also called proactive or active monitoring.
Popular synthetic transaction testing software include:
7. Use Deployment Tracking Software
Deployment tracking software empowers DevOps to track when deployments occur or will occur. They can also help teams spot how and when errors occur and how to fix them.
8. Tell Users, Staff, and Stakeholders About Deployment
Before you deploy the software, you must tell your users, employees, and stakeholders about the upcoming changes. Otherwise, they will be confused, leading to miscommunication and misunderstandings.
9. Monitor and Fix Issues as Needed
You can now deploy the software. Once that's been done, your DevOps team must continue to monitor the software and address any issues that pop up. Tracking software will help them spot issues and make corrections when needed.
Software Deployment Best Practices Checklist
Deployment plays a large role in how your software is perceived. If the result of the deployment is laggy and buggy, your clients will develop a negative impression of your brand.
To ensure your deployment goes smoothly, follow this software deployment best practices checklist:
Create a Deployment Checklist
First, you need to create a deployment checklist. This document will list all of the precautions and considerations for streamlining software deployments.
At a minimum, your checklist should establish the following:
- A deployment plan and schedule that addresses the scope, timeline, and software for deploying your software
- A rollback plan in case your deployment fails
- Rules and standards for creating coherent deployment documentation
- KPIs for measuring deployment success
- Who's responsible for what
Determine the Best Way to Deploy Software
You also need to choose a suitable deployment method.
As covered above, there are many deployment methods, including canary, shadow, blue-green, and A/B. Make sure you choose a deployment method that fits your software, budget, industry, and business goals.
For example, you should choose canary deployment if you want to validate new features and reduce risk. Similarly, you should pick recreate deployment if you have a limited budget and your users are okay with long downtimes.
Choose Suitable Software Deployment Tools
Besides picking the right deployment method, you also need to choose the best software development tool. Remember to consider the following when choosing a software:
- Your budget
- Your team's level of expertise
- Your team's preferences
- The software's use case (i.e., whether it's meant for big projects, enterprises, startup projects, or all projects)
Here are some of the hottest software deployment tools of 2022:
- Amazon Web Services (AWS) CodeDeploy: AWS CodeDeploy is a fully-managed deployment platform that automates software deployments to various compute services, including AWS Fargate, Amazon EC2, AWS Lambda, and on-premise servers. It scales according to your business and can be used for all projects.
- Jenkins: A leading open-source automation server, Jenkins offers hundreds of plugins for building, deploying, and automating big projects. It has integrations for almost every language and framework.
- TeamCity: TeamCity is an enterprise CI/CD solution that allows maximum flexibility for all kinds of development practices and workflows. It integrates with your test and build tools, flags unstable tests, and keeps a history of your tests. It can also spot failure-causing commits in your pipelines.
- Octopus Deploy: An automated release and deployment management server, Octopus Deploy is perfect for deploying Java, .NET, and other applications. It provides many rich features, including release management, runbook automation, role-based security, an application programming interface (API)-first approach, and native multi-tenancy.
- DeployBot: DeployBot is a visual solution for your deployment records and schedules. It lets users execute and compile code on its servers using custom or pre-defined Docker containers. DevOps teams can use it to instantly build and ship updates with zero downtime. Many big companies use DeployBot, including DigitalOcean, Shopify, AWS, and Heroku.
- GitHub Actions: This CI/CD platform allows you to automate your build, test, and deployment pipeline. As its name suggests, it lets you run workflows on any GitHub event, including issue creation and push. It supports Node.js. Java, PHP, Python, .NET, Rust, and more.
- Gitlab CI: GitLab CI is a CI/CD tool that catches errors and bugs early in the SDLC. You can use it to configure CI/CD pipelines, create test scenarios, cache dependencies for faster execution, and configure runners for script execution.
Automate As Much As Possible
When deploying, you should automate as many steps as possible. Automation decreases time-to-market, reduces human error, and creates a repeatable process that you can easily come back to. It also:
- Reduces lead time by saving time on manual testing and environment setup
- Helps devs catch bugs faster
- Helps devs identify more complex bugs
- Simplifies the process of deploying software to new environments and machines
Deploy Often in Small Increments
Deploying code in small chunks is better than deploying in large increments at once. Smaller but more frequent updates help narrow down issues faster, resulting in more accurate testing.
Finally, you should always follow the same deployment steps in all of your environments for development, testing, staging, and production.
Otherwise, your software may work in one environment but fail to work in another because of differences in configuration and setup. Consistency will also help you perform sanity checks before production.
Hire a Software Deployment Experts Today
Software deployment can make or break your software or service. Accordingly, you need to hire experienced deployment experts to release your software.
However, recruiting the best deployment professionals can be challenging. Traditional job sites like Indeed require you to manually test and vet applicants for their skills, personalities, and experiences. This can easily take months, especially if you're in a highly-competitive industry like eCommerce.
Schedule a meeting with us today to hire FAANG-caliber software deployment experts.