The Ultimate Guide to Continuous Deployment

With countless years of CD experience in technology, people, and process, Armory is The Continuous Deployment company. Tap into that expertise (for free!) in The Ultimate Guide to Continuous Deployment.

What Is Continuous Deployment?

Continuous Deployment (CD) is a software development strategy where code and configuration changes are automatically released into production. CD ensures easy product deployment without negatively impacting the application’s performance or user experience. The CD process removes the need for pre-scheduled releases, increases user feedback, and gives developers the opportunity to address user feedback faster.

Learn more about the basics in our Continuous Deployment 101

What Are the Steps of Continuous Deployment?

Not every organization is the same when it comes to Continuous Deployment. But in our experience, Continuous Deployment usually consists of several main phases:

  • Code, Build, Commit – These stages occur left of deployment in the software development lifecycle. This is where the value wrought by software engineers becomes the code that will be deployed to the world. 
  • Testing – In good CD workflows, testing is built into the pipeline and automated. Successful code that passes all tests is automatically released to the next stage. 
  • Staged/Approved – the code has passed all testing and is ready for deployment. In continuous delivery, this is a gated step that is handled manually. In continuous deployment, declarative deployments determine how approved code is handled automatically. 
  • Deployment – Obviously the most important stage in continuous deployment is the deployment itself. It is automated, optimized, and always available. If the code has passed automated testing and is deployment ready, it will be deployed. 
  • Operate/Monitor – while this step lives after deployment, it is still essential in the software lifecycle. Once the software is deployed, it must be managed and monitored to ensure it works as intended. This is also where rollbacks can occur if needed.
The stages of DevOps highlighting continuous deployment via

Continuous Deployment in CI/CD

Where Does Continuous Deployment Fit into the DevOps Lifecycle?

The DevOps lifecycle is a combination of phases throughout the creation of software and applications. These include continuous software development, integration, testing, deployment, observability and monitoring. A solid, repeatable DevOps lifecycle is required to build and release high-quality software.

What is CI/CD/CD?

CI/CD (sometimes CI/CD/CD) is the combined process of continuous integration and continuous delivery or continuous deployment using people, processes, and technology. 

Difference Between Continuous Deployment and Continuous Delivery – while there are merits and needs for both styles of CD, there are differences between continuous delivery and continuous deployment.

  • Continuous Delivery automates the build and testing processes leading up to deployment but does not automate deployments into production. This allows teams to review code changes before they’re released, ensuring that only properly tested, secure releases are deployed. It also gives teams the flexibility to quickly deploy new features when they’re ready. It also provides the opportunity to test them in a production-like environment before making them available to customers.
  • Continuous Deployment automates the process of deploying code into production, skipping the manual review and testing steps that are part of continuous delivery. This speeds up deployments and improves the quality of deployments via automation. To mitigate risk, continuous deployment requires a high level of automation when it comes to testing and deploying code. Automated tests must confirm that builds are stable before being released and deployments should be automated as much as possible to reduce the chance of human error.

Difference Between Continuous Deployment and Continuous Integration

Unlike Continuous Delivery, when it comes to Continuous Integration and Continuous Deployment it’s less a matter of “or” and more a matter of “and.” Continuous Deployment and Continuous Integration are two powerful tools used in software development. They both help automate processes, speed up deployment, and reduce errors. However, they are two distinct types of strategies with different goals, each suited to a unique set of needs.

  • Continuous Integration is the practice of frequently integrating code changes into a shared repository. This process helps to detect errors early, as code changes are often tested and validated before being integrated into the main code base. Continuous Integration also reduces manual intervention by automating parts of the build, test and release process. The end goal of continuous integration is to improve the combination of code branches to ensure each piece is reflected in a timely manner, reducing errors and time spent fixing errors as a result. 
  • Continuous Deployment is a step beyond Continuous Integration. It uses automation to continuously deploy updates whenever any code changes are made. This means that all code updates can be deployed to production in a fully automated manner, minimizing human errors and accelerating the process of releasing updates. The end goal of continuous deployment is to allow teams to iterate and innovate their code (and their product) at a faster rate, which is achievable only by reducing time spent manually deploying code and ensuring that only approved code is deployed.
The stages of DevOps highlighting continuous deployment

Can You Commit with Confidence?

  • How to win in a software-driven world and the steps needed for achieving an elite status
  • What metrics to track and how to track them to focus on building unique value and a competitive advantage 
  • Increase successful deployments and drive better development with a quick and cost-efficient solution 
Commit your code with confidence the continuous deployment ebook

What Problems Does Continuous Deployment Solve?

Let’s break down the problems that Continuous Deployment solves, issue by issue.

  • Lack of Software Innovation Leads to Non-Competitive Products: By allowing for more frequent updates to be deployed into production, CD helps make it easier for development teams to introduce new features, experiment with different ideas, and make adjustments quickly based on customer feedback. With this increased agility, companies are able to rapidly iterate upon their existing products and services, introducing new features and updates to the market faster than ever before.
  • Poor Software Quality Leads to Frustrated Customers: CD is also beneficial in that it helps reduce the amount of time spent troubleshooting errors and bugs. With more frequent deployments, any issues can be identified and addressed quickly, meaning fewer disruptions for customers. This reduces customer frustration while ensuring product quality and reliability
  • No Development Agility Leads to Frustrated Teams: Software development teams are constantly asked to be more agile. But how can that be more agile in practice? Standardize your deployment processes, and have the flexibility to leverage multiple progressive strategies across teams. When your deployment is no longer manual, you have more reliability, insight, and confidence in your deployments. That means you can deploy small changes more frequently, reduce risk, observe the health and state of all your services and deployments; and pinpoint issues and roll back (or leverage automated rollbacks!) if and when needed.
  • Unstable Software Leads to Frustrated Customers: No one likes flaky software. In CD, automated controls replace manual checks and steps to drive more consistency and reliability. Automated Canary Analysis leverages observability data and statistical analysis to assure the expected load and performance. Progressive deployment strategies like Blue/Green, and Canary, allow minimal impact and easy rollback to known working versions. 
  • Minimized Scalability Leads to Lack of Business Growth: Organizations that strive for growth want to do so in a way that makes sense. Automating the deployment process means simplifying operations, accelerating time-to-market, and decreasing the risk of change failures that cause customer outages. CD can improve developer experience and your customer experience, faster, all leading to better scalability for your organization.
  • Poor Security and Compliance Leads to Risk: Automate creating and enforcing policies that govern your software and infrastructure deployment so you can deploy to production knowing you are compliant. When it’s audit time, your history and policies can tell your story: Operational policies to ensure best practices, security policies to secure resources and data, regulatory policies to meet requirements, and business policies to optimize for cost and performance.
  • Lack of Optimization Leads to Increased Cloud Costs: During economic downturns, especially in technology, teams are expected to do more with less. That means consolidating tools, buckling down on waste, and perhaps even layoffs. Navigating a tight budget with fewer tools means investing in solutions and processes that bring your business value, fast. One way to bring fast value is to use CD to manage cloud costs
  • No Deployment Expertise Slows Down Development: Instead of spending valuable time building homegrown solutions that stitch together disparate tools with brittle scripts riddled with error-prone deployments, let Armory help. Deploying software is Armory’s focus and expertise. Armory brings proven experience and products to enable repeatable, reliable, safe, and secure deployments to your organization. Instead of investing your resources into the cost of maintaining homegrown tools, you can focus on writing great code and innovation.

Deployment frequency is the top success metric for deployments, selected by over half (52%) of engineering and operations leaders. The majority (54%) of IT leaders cited manual steps and poor workflows are holding back improving deployment frequency.

Learn more in this report:

The Benefits of Continuous Deployment

So how does Continuous Deployment allow developers to focus on creating better software?
Here are a few of the benefits:

  • Release Code Quickly and Increase Deployment Frequency: The most important part of Continuous Deployment is that new releases get into production fast. And with multiple teams working on multiple projects, the more releases, the more innovation your company can see.
  • Achieve Better Reliability: But fast releases require better processes and technology to prevent outages and flakiness. In a recent joint report with Gartner, Armory found that 82% of IT leaders say ensuring reliable deployment is their application development priority. 
  • Ensure Better Quality Releases: 67% of respondents in this joint Gartner and Armory report measure software deployment quality by customer satisfaction, meaning that releases have to be high quality and not cause outages.
  • Create a Faster User Feedback Loop: When your software is released quickly into a production environment, it creates more immediate opportunities for user feedback. Rapid releases give developers the chance to hear directly from their users and implement changes even faster.
  • Take Advantage of More Automated Processes: CD helps developers automate the software development process including testing, leading to better outcomes. Automation lets developers spend less time on manual processes and produce more quality work. Automated processes can also lead to better testing and more cost and cloud savings. 
A blue rocket with a canary in the window blasting off from continuous deployment

Learn about what 400 software leaders, developers, and engineers care about when it comes to software deployment in these joint Gartner and Armory reports.

Continuous Deployment and DORA Metrics

One of the best ways to demonstrably improve DORA metrics — the criteria used by DevOps teams to measure performance and determine whether their teams are low to elite performers —  is via implementing CD. The four DORA metrics are:

Lead Time for Changes

how long it takes to make a change

Change Failure Rate

how often a change breaks something

Deployment Frequency

how often a team deploys to production

Mean Time to Recovery (MTTR

how long it takes to recover after a break

Learn how Armory pairs with GitHub Actions to enable customer Tesouro to improve development quality and speed, achieve elite status, measure DORA metrics, and meet their development goals in this webinar.

Continuous Deployment Tools

When choosing a CD tool, it’s important to consider the needs of your organization. Factors such as scalability, compatibility with existing platforms and integrations, ease of use, cost, and security are all important considerations.

The Best Continuous Deployment Tools

  • Continuous Deployment-as-a-ServiceContinuous Deployment-as-a-Service (CD-as-a-Service) is a simple, easy-to-use, effective cloud-based solution for automating the deployment of software. Developers can push new versions of their code to production with minimal effort and maximum reliability, saving time and resources while still staying ahead of the competition. This service provides a streamlined process that allows developers to deploy code changes faster, so they have more time to focus on innovating and pushing the boundaries of their product.
  • Continuous Deployment Self-Hosted Continuous Deployment Self-Hosted (CDSH) is a powerful automated deployment solution powered by open-source Spinnaker. By utilizing CDSH, you can keep your application up-to-date with minimal effort. CDSH provides a flexible deployment architecture that allows you to set up an automated process for application releases that can be easily customized and adapted to fit your specific needs, ensuring that your builds are deployed correctly and efficiently. Additionally, CDSH supports multiple environments, allowing you to test and deploy different versions of your applications across separate environments.
  • Open Source Spinnaker Open Source Spinnaker is a powerful yet complex open-source continuous delivery platform that enables developers to rapidly deliver software changes with high confidence. It’s designed to provide flexibility, scalability and portability in order to meet the needs of modern cloud-native applications. It also allows developers to manage multiple cloud providers, operating systems and container technologies such as Kubernetes, Amazon ECS and Docker.
  • Armory + Argo Open Source – Combining Armory’s tech and people solutions with open-source Argo ​​allows devs to scale and stage production deployments across all clusters. With Armory and Argo’s automatic and reliable cross-environment orchestration that you don’t have to spend time building, you can take advantage of more advanced deployment strategies like Blue/Green Deployments Canary Analysis.

Compare several popular Continuous Deployment tools here.

Continuous Deployment for Teams

Every development team is concerned with writing great code. Those who manage and run development teams want to enable developers to create great software. The software development lifecycle, whether on a small team or in a large enterprise organization, can benefit from CD. 

How Can a Small Team Run Continuous Deployment?

When it comes to software development, continuous deployment can be a great benefit for small teams. This method of deployment allows you to quickly and automatically deploy changes to your system without having to manually execute a series of steps each time. 

  • Identify Manual Tasks – Map out your manual tasks throughout the software development lifecycle. Then you can begin to add automation through tools like Continuous Deployment-as-a-Service to cut down on manual efforts. 
  • Set-Up Automations – By utilizing automation, small teams are able to deploy their changes faster and with fewer errors, resulting in improved efficiency and productivity, all leading to increased developer satisfaction.
happy customer experience from continuous deployement

Learn more about enabling Continuous Deployment at small organizations in this customer success story webinar.

How Can an Enterprise Team Run Continuous Deployment?

When it comes to enterprise teams, CD can be a great way to reduce the risk of downtime and errors. CD enables developers at enterprise organizations to quickly cut through bureaucracy and confidently deploy new features, bug fixes, and other changes to their end users.

  • Set Up Version Control – The first step is to set up a version control system, such as Git, which will track all code changes, increase transparency, and integrate with continuous deployment. After this is established, the organization should create a build process that is triggered when code is committed to the version control system.
  • Enable Automated Pipelines and Workflows – Next, a deployment pipeline should be created which consists of automated tests and checks to ensure the quality of code before it goes into production. A CD solution should be used to deploy each iteration of code changes into production automatically and at scale.
scaling logo

Learn more about enabling Continuous Deployment at enterprise organizations in this enterprise-scale continuous deployment use case.

4 Tips for Scaling Enterprise Software Deployments

  • Increase productivity and explore innovative solutions
  • Take the burden off of your DevOps team and drive increased efficiency
  • Empower new development teams and automate your full provisioning process   
  • Achieve Continuous Deployment and all the benefits is brings!
4 tips for scaling continuous deployment the ebook

Who Benefits from Continuous Deployment?

Engineers, DevOps pros, and even security and site reliability experts can all use and benefit from Continuous Deployment. 

What is Continuous Deployment for DevOps?

  • DevOps is concerned with the enablement and satisfaction of developers so they can do what they do best: create great software. Continuous Deployment is an integral part of DevOps because it allows for frequent, automated releases. It enables developers to automatically deploy their software at any time without manual intervention and eliminates the need for developers to manually test changes each time they are made, freeing up valuable resources that can be better used elsewhere.
  • Ultimately, CD helps DevOps teams reduce the time spent on delivery, giving them more time to focus on innovation and increasing developer satisfaction.

What is Continuous Deployment for Platform Engineers?

  • Platform Engineers play an important role in setting up the infrastructure required for creating internal or external platforms at their organization. They manage the testing, staging and production environments and ensure that changes made to code meet security and quality standards. Additionally, they must design processes to monitor application performance as well as develop automated tools to ensure that the system remains stable and secure.
  • By leveraging Continuous Deployment, Platform Engineers can help teams integrate with technology and processes throughout the development lifecycle, move faster, and stay ahead of their competition. 
Happy Developer practicing continuous deployment

What is Continuous Deployment for Site Reliability Engineers (SREs)? 

  • Continuous Deployment is an important strategy for Site Reliability Engineers (SREs). It allows SRE teams to continuously deploy software updates in a safe, secure and reliable way. By automating the process of deploying new code or improvements to existing code, SREs can ensure that their systems remain up-to-date and running optimally.
  • Continuous Deployment also minimizes the risk of errors that occur as a result of manual deployment processes and helps SREs keep up with the ever-changing demands of their systems and customers. The automation process ensures that each new release is tested before it goes live, so any issues can be quickly identified and fixed.

What is Continuous Deployment for DevSecOps?

  • Extending from DevOps, especially at larger organizations, DevSecOps teams are able to use Continuous Deployment as part of their overall security strategy, allowing them to reduce the chances of a breach while still enabling rapid development cycles.

Learn about what 400 software leaders, developers, and engineers care about when it comes to software deployment in these joint Gartner and Armory reports.

What Are the Different Deployment Strategies?

There are a few different deployment strategies that can be used depending on the needs of the organization. The most common types of deployments include Blue/Green deployment, Rolling deployment, and Automated Canary Analysis. Good Continuous Deployment solutions easily enable all progressive deployment types across multiple environments, allowing for zero downtime and preventing software issues from reaching the majority of users. 

Rolling Deployments 

What is Rolling Deployments Strategy? 

  • A rolling deployment strategy works by introducing new releases in small batches and gradually increasing the number of users that are exposed to them over time. 

Why Organizations Choose Rolling Deployments

  • This allows organizations to monitor the performance of each batch and make any necessary adjustments before rolling out the release to all users.

Blue/Green Deployments  

What is Blue/Green Deployment Strategy?

  • Blue/Green deployment is a process where two identical environments are set up that contain the same content and services. When a new version of the application is released, it gets deployed to one environment (the green environment) while the other remains unaffected (the blue environment).
  • Once the release is confirmed to be working correctly, services can then be switched from the blue to the green environment.
Blue/Green continuous deployment

Why Organizations Choose Blue/Green Deployments

  • Blue/Green deployments allow organizations to minimize risks by confirming that a release works completely before fully switching to the live production environment.

Automated Canary Analysis

What is Automated Canary Analysis?

  • Canary releases involve releasing a new version of software to a subset of users in order to test its performance and reliability before releasing it to everyone else. 

Why Organizations Choose Canary Analysis

  • The largest benefit of this deployment strategy is that it gives organizations the chance to address any potential issues before they affect the entire user base.

Learn more about progressive strategies in this blog.

a progressive continuous deployment and the blast radius

Advance Your Deployment Strategies

  • Confidently deploy software and increase reliability, every time
  • Accelerate your innovation and time-to-market, maintain stability, and avoid outages
  • Increase your deployment frequency and improve your productivity and DORA metrics
  • Ensure your business is performing optimally by tracking market standard metrics
Advanced Your Continuous Deployment Strategies eBook

Why Continuous Deployment Shows Software Maturity

Until recently software deployment has come with a lot of pain points. The most troublesome of these pain points include stability, scalability, security and compliance, agility, innovation, resourcing, and deep expertise. Let’s take a closer look.

When deploying code to production, even the smallest mistake in preparation or execution can have big consequences. For context, updates cause ~80+% of outages. These outages create unplanned work that slows the process, impedes innovation, and has a high financial cost.

This is true for teams of all sizes but the larger your team and the more complex the apps, the more complex the deployment process becomes.

Automation is the Key

When you have hundreds or thousands of members across disparate teams – as is often the case as software development has historically been a different skill than scaling and maintaining stability – there is a lack of end-to-end ownership that leads to quality problems, slower deployments, and reduced innovation. 

In short, across all of the most pressing issues, the manual nature of software deployment is at the root of the problem.

Upwave improves code quality and consistently deploys to production in <20 minutes with Armory CD-as-a-Service. Learn more about how they’ve improved development maturity in this case study.

When Does Your Organization Need Continuous Deployment?

Continuous Deployment can be a beneficial approach to software development and deployment for organizations of any size that want to prioritize speed, flexibility, and scalability. 

By introducing automation into the code release process, Continuous Deployment makes it easier to deploy multiple versions of the same application simultaneously while making sure they are compatible with each other. This is particularly helpful when developing applications or services that need to grow and scale quickly.

Learn about how stealth FinTech Tesouro adopted Continuous Deployment from the beginning of their software journey in this success story.

Continuous Deployment Case Studies

What’s Next for Continuous Deployment?

Continuous Deployment lets you take the final step toward software development maturity and leave legacy practices in the dust. Reduce the workload on development teams so they can spend their time executing application improvements. Manual deployments are the way of the past; Continuous Deployment is the future.

The Future of Continuous Deployment

While Continuous Deployment has been around for some time now, there are still plenty of possibilities for improvement in the near future.

  • More Automation – One of the most promising advancements on the horizon is automation. Currently, many continuous deployment processes require manual intervention, but with advanced automation tools, this could potentially be taken out of the equation. This would allow developers to deploy updates without any user involvement—even for complex releases that involve multiple stages and components. Not to mention the advancements in AI technologies that can and will be leveraged for Continuous Deployment.
  • Improved Testing – Another development to keep an eye on is improved testing and validation. As Continuous Deployment evolves, more reliable methods of verifying that deployed code works as expected are being developed. For example, AI-powered tools can automatically verify the functionality of released code and even suggest improvements.
  • Resource Optimization – There are other areas of improvement that will make Continuous Deployment even better. For example, tools that help manage infrastructure resources such as servers, databases, and storage are becoming increasingly advanced. This makes it easier to scale up resources in response to changing demand—a key component of continuous deployment.

These advances in automation and testing will make Continuous Deployment even more efficient in the future. With less manual intervention required by developers and more reliable testing, software deployments can be completed more quickly and with less risk. It’s an exciting time for continuous deployment—and it looks like the best is yet to come.

Learn more about Imperative to Declarative to Generative Continuous Deployment and The Future of Continuous Deployment in this blog.

Scale Your Business Efficiently with a Declarative and Dynamic Continuous Deployment Process 

  • Accelerate your innovation and time-to-market, increase stability, and decrease customer issues
  • Improve your developer experience
  • Ensure verification of resources deployed at runtime
  • Scale your people and process by optimizing onboarding, configuration, and reducing time spent on maintenance
Declarative and Dynamic Continuous Deployment eBook

Want to get Started with Continuous Deployment at Your Organization?