What is Continuous Delivery in Software Development? [A Complete Guide]

If you are looking to quickly release software updates or automate the software development process, you must be knowing about continuous delivery (CD).

Before applying the CD approach in your software development process, you might have the following questions in mind:

  • What is the continuous delivery approach?
  • How does continuous delivery work?
  • Why use the continuous delivery approach?
  • Which are the best tools to apply CD in software development?
  • Which are the best practices to follow while applying for CD?

As a leading software development company in Canada, we have experience in creating software solutions for various industries like transportation, food, and health. That’s why we decided to write a dedicated article that helps you to clear all your doubts. So, let’s get started.

First, let’s understand the CD method with its definition.

What is Continuous Delivery in Software Development?

Continuous delivery is the process of automating the software release cycle. This simply means a release pipeline is created where every code change goes through build, test, and configuration before it is automatically passed to the staging environment.

The idea is to deliver continuous and error-free releases of your software solution.

To learn more about a staging environment, check out this blog on environments in software development.

Let’s understand how continuous delivery works.

How Does the Continuous Delivery Approach Work?

Continuous delivery is a completely automated process that begins when a new code is added to the repository. This new code commit calls the CI(Continuous Integration) process into action. Once it passes through the concerned build repositories, the new code is tested through automated testing tools. The code is then passed to the pre-production phase before it enters the deployment stage.

The continuous delivery pipeline comprises five stages. Each stage works towards ensuring a complete and quality product.

  1. The Build Phase

    In this phase, the logic is converted into machine-readable code using pre-built libraries and tools. In this phase, the source code is taken from the repositories and customized to create the new component or feature. After customization, the source code is compiled before committing back to the repository.

  2. The Commit Phase

    In this phase, the changes made to the source code during the build phase are transferred to the repository. When a new feature or product change is committed to the repository, it triggers the deployment pipeline.

    During this phase, the system checks if the build is unreliable or not fit for the production stage. If there are issues during the commit stage, it is passed to the build stage again for further improvement.

    You need to run commit-related tests and define the binaries for the phases. This stage also performs the code health checks before proceeding to the production environment. It is referred to as static code analysis.

  3. The Test Phase

    After the health checkup of the build, it is transferred to the continuous testing phase. This software development practice ensures dynamic testing of the code that has undergone static testing.

    Two tests are conducted at this stage:

    • Unit tests: This helps check if the code changes are performing the intended function.
    • Regression tests: They are automated tests that help check if the new feature hinders the old processes.

    The software development teams will proceed with tests that help with user acceptance, performance improvement and integration. You can also conduct security testing at this point.

    In fact, to get in-depth information about testing, you can refer to our guides on what is software testing, the types of software testing, and the software testing life cycle. Going through these guides will help you to get a better understanding of testing in the software development life cycle.

  4. The Staging Phase

    This is the pre-release process where the testing environment conducts an extensive code check to see if it fits the live environment. The staging environment is similar to the actual software environment.

    The software development team will then replicate the production environments and check for all the assumptions made during the coding. They will also check if the new features are in sync with the business requirements.

    The quality assurance team will also work with a team of developers to finalize the code changes.

  5. The Deployment Phase

    The continuous delivery pipeline moves the code changes to the deployment teams to get their approval and finalize the changes. The CD pipeline will ensure that the approved code is then deployed into the production environment manually.

    Before you deploy the code, you need to create a deployment environment. You need to move the code to the particular environment before moving it to the production stage.

    The DevOps engineer is at the core of the CI/CD pipeline. Let’s understand why you should use continuous delivery for software delivery.

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Why Use Continuous Delivery in Software Development?

Continuous delivery can automate software development processes and enhance overall productivity. There are several advantages associated with this automation. Let’s see how continuous delivery helps.

  1. Automates the Release Processes

    The repeatable deployment process is one of the tedious manual tasks. You will continuously progress with the same tests, which can affect your productivity. The best way to ensure smooth deployment is by automating the process from the build to the staging phase. It will provide test automation, code commits and smooth operations.

    By dividing the overall operation into short cycles, you can enhance productivity, and release the software faster into the market.

  2. Reduces Resource Costs

    When you initiate only manual approval towards the last phase of continuous delivery, you save time. They are required to improve the services, introduce different techniques and ensure the software is in sync with the customers. This means you will only need resources to manage some of the tasks throughout the pipeline.

  3. Better Operations

    Continuous delivery can enhance service levels and improve regulatory compliance. It improves the bottom line and enhances efficiency. The automated tools immediately point at the issues and ensure minimal vulnerabilities in the system. Eventually, with the CD pipeline, you can monitor the software application code in real time and remove code/features that offer poor experience and security.

    Check out what makes continuous delivery different from continuous deployment.

Differences Between Continuous Delivery and Continuous Deployment

We will take an in-depth look at the differences between continuous delivery and deployment in software development.

Continuous DeliveryContinuous Deployment
The continuous delivery process prepares the code for the release stage and then manually deployed itThe continuous deployment process involves releasing the actual code into the production environment through an automation process
This software engineering process is the best fit for teams that need to release features or new code frequentlyYou should use the continuous deployment process if the software changes need to enter the live production environment hourly or daily
Creation of a build-to-delivery pipeline to test the commits and code changes in the pre-production stage (staging environment)It helps create the automated CI/CD pipeline for better workflows
Instant bugs fixes are possibleReliable and complete quality check

5 Tools Used for Continuous Delivery in Software Development

We have listed down the 5 most useful tools that help you in continuous delivery.

LogoName of ToolDescription
JenkinsJenkinsJenkins is a CI/CD tool that allows the teams to create automated builds, test the software, enhance version control, commit code and deliver the software to the deployment environment.
GitLabGitLab CIThis is a DevOps software package created by GitLab that allows operations teams to collaborate with developers to create, operate and securely transfer the software application to the production environment.
BitbucketBitbucketThis tool integrates with Jira and offers an in-built CI/CD pipeline to improve collaborations, deploy quality codes and automate the deployment processes.
TravisTravis CIThis is a CI tool that improves the process of developing code, testing the features and building a strong foundation for deployment.
BambooBambooThis CD tool ensures that build, test and release workflows are interconnected for smooth operations.

We have seen all the tools that make the application development teams efficient. Do you want to learn about the best software deployment tools in detail? Check this blog post on the list of the top software deployment tools used in the entire software industry.

Further, it’s time to see the best practices you should implement in making continuous delivery successful.

5 Best Practices of Continuous Delivery in Software Development

Check out some of the must-follow continuous delivery best practices for your software.

  • Automate all aspects of delivery to ensure smooth operations and remove bottlenecks
  • The things you build, test and commit should be kept in version control form so that new members are aware of the original and revisions
  • Make sure the binaries were accepted during the acceptance testing before deploying them
  • Avoid checking the binaries into the version control during the build phase
  • It is important to conclude a smoke test before you deploy the code
  • Create the service level objectives in sync with the service level agreements before you define the CD workflow
  • It is important to define the framework for SLO test evaluation that can help enhance the quality

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Now that you have an understanding of continuous delivery, let’s answer a few frequently asked questions.

FAQ About Continuous Delivery in Software Development

  1. What are the benefits of using continuous delivery?

  2. The continuous delivery process automates the software releases, enhances developer productivity and ensures real-time bug fixes.

  3. Which challenges do you face during continuous delivery?

  4. One of the biggest challenges is that you tend to include different environments for testing, building and committing. This can make you miss out on several important issues. If the pipeline is not defined properly, it can lead to collaboration and communication issues. The tight deadlines can also lead to quality issues if the workflow is not defined.

  5. How does continuous delivery improve security?

  6. During continuous delivery, every code is checked from the build to the testing phase for bugs, issues, validity and common mistakes. As a result, the code that goes live is fully reliable and secure, ensuring there are no vulnerabilities.

Use Continuous Delivery Approach to Update and Maintain Your Software

Continuous delivery is an incredible way to manage new code changes or feature additions to your existing application. It can help enhance the software solution without increasing the overall cost or adding new resources.

Continuous delivery can make software secure and remove bugs during the early phase. It is a must-include software engineering process for enterprises that improve their code frequently.

If you are looking to develop software solutions using a proper software development methodology, let’s connect. Fill out the contact us form to describe your requirements.

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Rakesh Patel

Written by

Rakesh Patel is the Founder and CEO of Space-O Technologies (Canada). He has 28 years of IT experience in business strategies, operations & information technology. He has expertise in various aspects of business like project planning, sales, and marketing, and has successfully defined flawless business models for the clients. A techie by mind and a writer at heart, he has authored two books – Enterprise Mobility: Strategy & Solutions and A Guide To Open311

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