Reducing DevOps Burnout with Next-Gen Continuous Delivery: Progressive Delivery

Mar 28, 2022 by Maria Ashby

The development experience can be interesting and enjoyable, but it can also be daunting. From writing code to committing new features and fixes to getting them working in production, the work we put into developing a software application is brain-intensive and challenging.

Software engineers face many challenges. They regularly deal with changing requirements and fresh demands from clients. Engineers also have to learn and understand new frameworks that enhance the development experience, updates to existing frameworks, new language features, and many other innovations.

DevOps teams have to find ways to continue delivering top-notch services that keep the client happy while not burning out from work stress. Knowing that the client’s happiness ultimately lies in the hands of the software team, technology companies must do their best to reduce drudgery in the development cycle. Updating and modernizing processes and tools, and emphasizing automation, helps reduce this tedium.

A key way to bridge the gap between motivated, healthy developers and happy customers is to pay attention to the “beautiful chain” connecting them: the continuous delivery (CD) pipeline.

Let’s explore some contributions to DevOps burnout and discuss how progressive delivery, the next generation of continuous delivery, helps reduce this burnout for happier workers (and happier customers).

Contributors to DevOps Burnout

Customers often have strong demands for new features, changes, and fixes. And they have high expectations for the speed said updates are delivered and stability with which they perform. Satisfying that demand falls on the shoulders of developers. There are four delivery metrics that reflect a development team’s ability to deliver against these demands.

First, there’s deployment frequency. How often does your software team release new changes into production – daily, weekly, or monthly? Second is the lead time for changes. How long does it take for your team to deploy a commit into production? Third, your change failure rate. What is the ratio of failed deployments to the total number of deployments? Finally, customers are concerned with your time to restore services. How long does it take to restore services when a deployment fails?

SlashData research shows that only about 10 percent of developers release multiple deployments per day. Nearly two-thirds of developers take at least a week for their committed code to run in production.

Some development lifecycle lapses result from poor practices and tools. When developers manually do processes that they should instead automate, it adds to their mental and physical stress. Your development team can be composed of great software engineers, but if your company fails to give them the right tools they need to do their work, productivity and efficiency drop drastically. Of course, this in turn drops the quality of service delivery.

Additionally, software teams relying on manual processes live in constant fear of being paged at midnight. Chances are, a priority customer is using the software for crucial work when the application crashes. And this can be simply because a bug found its way into production undetected.

As more people worked from home, businesses moved their processes online. This digital shift caused increased workload and anxiety for development teams. Statistics show that about 83 percent of developers and DevOps professionals are experiencing burnout.

As researchers dug into this burnout’s root cause, they traced it to cycle time. Developers are under intense pressure to reduce their cycle times while maintaining or, better still, improving the application’s quality. Trying to meet these demands, especially with flawed tools and processes is one of the biggest causes of DevOps burnout.

Developers can mitigate this burnout by embracing better practices like effective communication, taking regular breaks, sticking to dedicated and properly regulated working hours, and using the correct tools. Of course, you need your organization’s support to achieve this.

Software delivery requires continuous improvement. Organizations and individuals who fail to improve will fall further and further behind. If companies really want to ensure that their clients are always happy without sacrificing the health and well-being of their developers, they need to pay close attention to DevOps practices.

How Progressive Delivery Helps Reduce DevOps Burnout

Progressive delivery is a technique for managing new application releases. Organizations can deploy new functionality to a subset of users before gathering feedback and delivering these new functions more widely. Progressive delivery refers to deployment best practices.

Much of the pain development teams experience while deploying solutions arises from faulty DevOps processes and tools. When processes that should be automated are manual, it increases the workload for development and DevOps professionals. This heavy workload causes burnout and other issues.

Manual DevOps practices introduce human errors, especially in large deployments. These errors include misinterpreting a line of text, missing an error code, or making changes directly on the server. These “minor” mistakes can cause grave issues, like a system crash, deployment to the wrong environment, or changes in one section of an application causing breaks in another part.

Developers get trapped in a loop of endless fixes and deployment errors. Development and DevOps professionals experience burnout at the beginning of the loop due to manual processes that should be automated and at the end of the loop. This is because they still have to bear the brunt of all the other issues that crop up. They must find ways to fix these issues as soon as possible while simultaneously struggling to add new features.

Progressive delivery helps resolve these issues and reduce development team burnout in many ways.

First, progressive delivery replaces manual processes with DevOps automation. Technologies that perform tasks with minimal human intervention facilitate DevOps automation. Automation also enhances the feedback loop between development and operations teams, making deploying application updates into production iteratively easier and faster.

Ops personnel no longer need to babysit deployments to ensure they go smoothly. This automation leads to increased business value and overall improvement in service delivery quality since it minimizes human errors  and development teams are free to focus on their core task of developing application functions. The fully automated CD pipeline does all the low-level work. When focusing on the work they love, developers are much less prone to burnout, and everyone is happier — including clients.

Deployment Techniques

Multi-environment orchestration enables you to perform more reliable pre-deployment testing before pushing changes into production. This includes running integration test and security scanners in staging before the new version ever reaches production.

Deployment strategies, such as blue-green and canary, enable you to test your deployed production software before exposing it to full production traffic. With blue-green deployment (also called red-black deployment), DevOps runs two production environments side by side: one as a test server and the other as a live server. These functions are interchangeable.

The development team tests new updates on the test server while the client workload remains on the live server. As soon as the new deployment is certified production-ready, DevOps switches the workload from the live server over to the test server, making it the new live server. The previous live server becomes the test server for the next set of updates.

Considering that both servers are production environments, it’s straightforward to detect any inconsistencies or bugs and resolve them before going live.

The canary deployment technique, in contrast, progressively increases how much production traffic is reaching the new version of the software. This is often implemented by deploying updates to smaller subsets of production servers before cascading them to the rest of the servers. After each increase in traffic the logs and monitoring can be checked to ensure that production traffic is not causing unexpectedly high error rates, or unhealthy behavior on the new version. With this technique, DevOps can deploy, for instance, to 5 percent, 10 percent, 25 percent, 50 percent, then 100 percent of servers. This method ensures that if a bug or system glitch makes it into production, it affects only a few users.

The blue-green and canary deployment techniques help reduce downtime to the barest minimum, ensuring that the live application is in the best possible state at every point in time.

Progressive Delivery’s Benefits

Progressive delivery tools and techniques strive to eliminate the need to roll back changes by facilitating high-quality deployments. However, there may be cases where you need to revert to a previous build. This isn’t necessarily because of a bug or glitch — you might want to go back in time for any other reason. In such a situation, most progressive delivery tools provide features to roll back changes quite quickly.

Following progressive delivery techniques and deployment best practices make the whole deployment process seamless, reduces human errors, and minimizes the need for unnecessary rollbacks. These techniques help ensure development teams stay happy and motivated rather than burnt-out. Plus it keeps the customers pleased as well. It’s a win-win!

Embracing Progressive Delivery Solutions

Armory, a premier member of the Continuous Delivery Foundation, offers an enterprise-grade version of Spinnaker, the world’s leading Continuous Delivery solution. This CD tool empowers developers to deploy instantly and to the cloud, ensures compliance, and promotes better security. Armory also helps engrain the culture of progressive delivery into the software development lifecycle, minimizing DevOps burnout.

Armory ships with blue-green and canary deployment features. These deployment styles give development and DevOps teams the confidence to deploy without surprises from sudden failures.

In the unlikely event that a failure does occur, Armory also automates rollbacks with one click. This automation ensures that the efficiency of the feedback loop between customers and the development team remains top-level. DevOps burnout is reduced to the barest minimum, leaving the developers and operations professionals happy and motivated. Clients are also delighted as they meet their business objectives — and satisfied clients generally increase your organization’s revenue.

In addition to Armory Enterprise, Armory recently announced a new standalone offering that provides continuous-deployments-as-a-service. This offering, Project Borealis, is focused on meeting companies where they are at in their CD journey and simplifying the most common progressive delivery practices. The average time for a design partner to start leveraging canary or blue/green deployments is under an hour, and that includes design partners who have never done progressive delivery before. If you are not ready for or don’t need Spinnaker, but want a simple progressive delivery capability that you can easily trigger from your existing toolchain, Project Borealis is still accepting new design partners. Spaces are limited, so sign up today.

Summary

Technology is changing rapidly, and if you’re not improving, you’re getting worse. You should review your stack to ensure you employ the right tools and techniques. Manual DevOps processes lead to burnout and ultimately reduce the quality of service delivery to your clients, increasing the risk of losing them to competitors.

One of the critical causes of DevOps burnout is manual processes. DevOps employing progressive delivery experience a clear difference.

Armory helps you improve your continuous delivery process efficiency and your overall DevOps ecosystem. Contact Armory today for a complimentary assessment of your software delivery practices and learn more about how your organization can benefit from safe, reliable deployments.

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