What Is Application Release Automation?
Application Release Automation is also known as Application Release Orchestration. This practice is a must for contemporary DevOps teams that want to integrate CI and CD in the software development life-cycle (SDLC). When you integrate continuous integration (CI) and continuous delivery (CD) in your business, you can roll out new features consistently and quickly for production while ensuring security and no downtime.
Using application release automation, agile teams can collaborate in programming across workstations using version control utilities. Plus, the software can be deployed in containers across public cloud hardware vendors. Application release automation fastens up your software development process while ensuring better code testing and security.
Components of Application Release Automation:
- Version Control for Software Programming Teams: Version control lets multiple developers, designers, and team members work collaboratively on the same project. This ensures everyone has access to the latest code, and once the development gets more complex, the team needs to control multiple versions of the entire product. It keeps track of the changes and makes every team member aware of the latest version. The right way to take the maximum advantage of version control is to use version control software for all code, files, and assets, where multiple team members will collaborate. It helps you manage and track files. In fact, it allows you to develop and ship your product faster, which is essential for teams that are practicing DevOps.
- Release Scheduling: In the release scheduling process, release managers coordinate with clients, business users, developers, and other experts to know about the software development cycle, roadblocks, release requirements, and timelines regarding the software development in various environments, such as production, user acceptance testing, etc.
- Versioning: Versioning is a way to categorize various unique states of computer software as it goes through many developments and release phases. The version means a number or word, which identifies the uniqueness of a software. For example, version 1.0 is commonly known as the initial release of an application. However, there is no industry standard regarding how the version number should be formatted. And to resolve this issue, every company has its methods of assigning a version number to the software.
- Sandbox-Based Code Testing: It is a type of software testing environment that isolates the execution of software or programs for independent evaluation, monitoring, or testing. Its primary purpose is to develop new features, test patches, identify and crush bugs, or detect cybersecurity vulnerabilities. Based on its usage, it may be known as a test server, development server, or working directory.
- Dashboard Analytics: The dashboard is a data visualization tool. It allows all users to understand the analytics that matters to their business, department, or project. During automated release orchestration, even non-technical users can see and interpret the progress of the release cycle by seeing the dashboards. It allows them to participate and understand the analytics process by compiling data and visualizing trends and occurrences.
Benefits of Application Release Automation
- Less Error-Prone and Much More Repeatable Deployments: Manual deployment involves risk because the majority of the work requires human intervention. And if there is a 1% chance of things going in the wrong direction, it could go wrong. For example, important steps of the release can be accidentally missed, faults that are likely to happen can show up, an incorrect version of the software can be shipped, or you can end up deploying broken software. However, if you are lucky then the correction can be made but still, it is an embarrassing situation for the development team. Contrary, if you opt for automatic deployment there is no chance of variability as the process remains the same throughout the release cycle. Whether you deploy the software for the first time or the hundredth, it works the same way.
- Any Team Member Can Deploy Software: As the knowledge of how to release the software is stored in the system, it does not restrict the know-how of releasing software in an individual‘s brain. While performing manually or partially automatic deployment, only a small subset of people are responsible to release the software. And this practice is followed by the many teams, which is not right because if a single person is responsible for the release, an unfortunate instance like a leave, sickness, and unavailability can lead to a nightmare for the entire release team. But with automated release orchestration, when everyone is capable of deploying the software, any team member can release it easily if they have access to the deploy button to initiate the release.
- Developers Do What They Meant to Do: Developers have to give plenty of time while performing and validating the manual deployment process. The job of a developer is to develop new software or features of particular software. But when the job of deployment falls to them they need to spend a lot of time on manual validation and approval instead of working on new features or improvement. On the other hand, if the deployment is fully automated, only seconds are required to release the software. And once the deployment is made, they need to validate it. If something wrong happens they need to look for the errors, otherwise, it's a smooth process. Automated release orchestration results in spending less time in deployment and more time in developing a new set of features and improvements.
- Deploy Software Anywhere With Ease: Automated deployment is repeatable and still configurable. It means, if software needs to be deployed to a new test environment, the expense of deploying to that additional target is negligible. By configuring your existing setup and relying on your tried and tested release automation, you can do this easily.
- Frequent Deployment at Low Cost: Single deployment performed with an automated deployment process involves low cost. And since the process requires low-cost you can release more frequently. But overhead expense is not the only advantage of automated deployment. In fact, if you release more frequently then it integrates the agile software development methodology. Teams can deliver valuable features to their users more frequently and they can receive feedback from them. Based on the received feedback they can satisfy their users in the best way possible.
Best Tools for Application Release Automation
Application Release Automation requires a lot of tools so that human intervention can be reduced to the minimum. If you want to know about what those tools are, see the list below:
- Azure DevOps Services: It's a comprehensive tool to plan, test, and deploy the application faster. It lets developers integrate various third-party tools to serve different purposes.
- Ansible: It's a configuration management tool that automates tedious and time-consuming tasks using minimal human involvement.
- Chef Infra: This is another configuration management tool that ensures every system is configured properly to consistently maintain the desired state.
- AWS CodePipeline: It's a fully managed continuous delivery tool that supports easy third-party tool integration and automates your release pipelines to deploy reliable software faster.
- Spinnaker: This tool can be used for continuous delivery and continuous deployment. It is an application management tool that can integrate with third-party tools for continuous integration.
- GoCD: It is an open-source tool that helps software development teams automate the continuous delivery process of the software.
- IBM UrbanCode Deploy: It helps teams to deploy both massive applications and microservices on the cloud and on-premises platforms.
While releasing software, DevOps teams face a lot of challenges. Since the market is constantly changing, companies have to come up with innovative solutions or they need to give up traditional practices. One of such traditional practices is manual approval and validation that is required for releasing an application. It increases the troubles for developers and most of the time it upsets the users.
However, you can get rid of it by including an application release automation approach. It reduces manual efforts and releases costs. Besides this, you can level up the user experience by providing consistent updates.