Continuous Delivery vs. Continuous Deployment: What’s the Difference?

Discover the differences between Continuous Delivery and Continuous Deployment, and how to make the call for which one is best for your DevOps teams.

DevOps and CI/CD/CD

When we think of DevOps we focus on the artistry of great software built using an agile framework – working fast, minimal downtime, timely updates, and the goal of undisrupted service to our end user. The only way these facets of our industry can be attainable is by using the right infrastructure to automate what can be automated, allowing our developers the time to create code that drives the innovation of modern software. 

That’s where Continuous Integration (CI – the continuous merging of source code), Continuous Delivery (CD – an automated process for delivery code updates at your command), and Continuous Deployment (CD – the new gold standard of fully automated deployment) come into play.

The Primary Difference Between Continuous Delivery and Continuous Deployment: Release Quality and Efficiency KPIs 

Understanding the difference can be the difference between code releases that are medium to high efficiency (Continuous Delivery) and elite efficiency (Continuous Deployment). 

When looking at the measurement for quality releases for DevOps teams, we typically look at these four areas:

  • Deployment frequency
  • Lead time for changes
  • Time to restore service
  • Change failure rate

We know that Continuous Deployment is the new gold standard for releases because of the comparison of success metrics in these categories. First, let’s take a quick look at the difference between these two release methods.

What is Continuous Delivery?

You’ve written your source code, compiled it, built it into artifacts, and all your tests have come back successful. You’re ready for your hard work to start doing its job in its next environment, and that’s where Continuous Delivery comes into play. Someone must go in, click a button, and deploy your code.

What is Continuous Deployment?

Imagine Continuous Delivery, but without the manual button pressing for testing, or being required to make the choice for timing of deployment. If the code is approved, tested, and ready for deployment, it goes to production automatically without the need for human intervention.

Benefits of Continuous Delivery

  • Medium to High Efficiency for all DevOps KPIs
  • Time Saver: While this method does require assessing and deciding when to push the code live, once that decision has been made it’s typically just one button push to launch the code. 
  • Risk Reduction: When used effectively by pushing code live is smaller, easier to fix pieces if a problem does occur

Benefits of Continuous Deployment

  • All of the benefits of Continuous Delivery, and:
  • Elite Efficiency for all of DevOps KPIs
  • Happier DevOps Team: Removes “Release Day” pressure from DevOps teams
  • Ongoing Development: No need to pausing DevOps for timed releases
  • Risk Reduction: Continuously releasing smaller batches of code makes fixing and rolling back faster and easier 
  • True Agility: Once an iteration has been tested successfully, it’s pushed live – no roadblocks, no red tape. Just a continuous commit(ment) of great code by your Dev team.

CD Benefits DevOps, SREs, and Your End User

Looking at the nitty gritty benefits of CD/CD is important, but we’d be remiss if we didn’t take a step back and look at the grander vision of why these release styles are so valuable for our key players: Developers, SREs, and the End User.

Developers: More time back to focus on the product vision and time to build great code, while removing the tedious pressure packed portion of release days.

SREs: The nature of CD/CD arguably benefits SREs the most simply due to the improvement in time savings and risk reduction for their jobs. These deployment mechanisms help them streamline their roles. When that happens, they can accelerate daily tasks to meet their primary objective: deploy great code and offer the highest quality code launch experience for the end users.

End Users: The value of a well working product and software can mean the world to your end user, creating happy, loyal customers and clients. From alleviating daily frustrations, improving mandatory compliance, and increasing their bottom line.

How They Each Work with Continuous Integration

A quick refresher on the first part that leads into both Continuous Delivery or Continuous Deployment – Continuous Integration (CI). 

Continuous Integration does exactly what it says it does – it is an automation that continuously integrates different code branches, build an artifact for you, and then tests it to make sure the code doesn’t break within its own build. To err is human, and CI is an automated process that reduces our likelihood of potential errors when combining code branches together.

Continuous Delivery and Continuous Integration

Where Continuous Integration ends is where Continuous Delivery picks up. As soon as your code has been vetted and tested, it’s time to roll it out. Using Continuous Delivery as your method to push your code live, whenever you’re ready (typical cadences are once day to once a week), you click a button to send your code to your environments.

Continuous Deployment and Continuous Integration

We know that Continuous Deployment is a full automation of pushing code live once approved, meaning that once Continuous Integration is complete and the testing is complete your code gets pushed live right away – no manually intervention needed. 

Choosing the Right CD Platform

Continuous Delivery: While it’s no secret that we at Armory favor Continuous Deployment, there is a scenario that we think could best fit your end user under continuous delivery. If the person who makes the judgment call on whether or not a code release should be pushed live is not the developer or an SRE, then this might be the right choice for your software development life cycle. 

Continuous Deployment: In order to obtain a DevOps environment that promotes business agility, stability, and security, Continuous Deployment is an industry best practice.

When you work with a Continuous Deployment provider (like Armory), you’ll be codifying the golden standard of release quality and efficiency within your organization. If your goal is to build innovative software in a truly agile environment that benefits your DevOps, SREs, and your End Users, then implementing a CD Tool is imperative.

Commit. Deploy. Repeat.

Continuous Deployment at any scale, for all developers.