Continuous delivery and the DevOps approach to modernization

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cloud transformation 20 percentBusinesses are working to increase agility, deliver innovative and engaging experiences to clients, and stay ahead of competition. Increasingly, companies are modernizing business applications to make these business goals a reality.

Modernizing applications is generally composed of three transformations: cloud-native architecture, continuous delivery and infrastructure automation. These typically occur concurrently, but do have distinct characteristics. For example, the cloud-native architecture journey transforms organizations from monolithic applications to containerized microservices applications in which lightweight data collectors help enable success.

Continuous delivery is also critical to business transformation success. Teams may be responding to industry pressure to keep up with competitors, often cloud-native companies, who are pushing updates out faster. The bar is set increasingly higher as users become accustomed to applications that are highly reliable and frequently updated.

There are two additional levels of transformation that teams must implement in order to reach continuous delivery. Companies must also adopt agile development and a DevOps approach. These approaches are practiced and honed over time to constantly refine and discover what works best for the team.

How to start incorporating continuous delivery

The best way to begin on the continuous delivery journey is to start adopting an agile approach to development. However, agile by itself is not sufficient. Incorporating a DevOps approach also adds another important component in this journey.

DevOps involves increasing collaboration and implementing a tighter feedback loop between the development and operations teams. This enhanced connectivity between the teams translates to increased speed of delivery, along with increased reliability and stability in production.

Another component to DevOps is the Site Reliability Engineering (SRE) approach. An SRE approach involves automating as many repetitive tasks as possible and spending at least 50 percent of team time focusing on improving application reliability, instead of simply maintaining it.

Once a team has organized around DevOps and SRE principles, they can continue refining their process and culture to increase the frequency and reliability of updates.

How to overcome continuous delivery challenges

  1. Ensure seamless communication between developers and operation teams. Development teams often instrument their own tools, such as lightweight and open source solutions, but these don’t necessarily translate into production environments. Particularly for continuous delivery, development teams need to ensure their code is ready for production and operations teams need to trust that this is the case. If the two teams are using separate tools, visibility is limited, which can result in delays. IBM Cloud App Management offers a solution by making it easy for developers to add lightweight data collectors, which will also seamlessly work in the production environment, to their code. Now when a code change occurs, the production team can see it and developers can easily quickly grasp how their code is working in production. This feedback loop is critical to accelerating delivery.
  2. Identify code bugs early with lightweight data collectors. Another impediment to accelerating application delivery is that bugs are often not discovered during development. This can lead to costly fixes once the code is deployed. Again, by easily instrumenting lightweight data collectors early in the development process, the dev team can find and fix bugs before going into production. This is essential for the continuous delivery process.
  3. Automate application processes. Seeing how changes correlate to performance can be another challenge. IBM UrbanCode Deploy automates application deployment by promoting code through the pipeline. It can also rollback or uninstall applications. Automating these processes is a key component in continuous delivery. To make it even more useful, companies can connect UrbanCode events directly into IBM Cloud App Management to see how the deployment correlates with application performance.
  4. Support multiple development pipelines. To successfully implement continuous delivery, it’s important that enterprises support multiple development pipelines for dev, staging, test and production. This enables work to continue in each pipeline without affecting the others. With this agile approach, the same data collectors run in your services whether they are running in dev, staging, test or production.
  5. Continuously monitor key metrics. Lastly, it can be difficult to quickly find the root cause of a problem if and when it does occur. This is due, in no small part, to the wide range of specialized technologies that make up the distributed network of microservices comprising an application. There’s no time to have the experts in each technology look through their logs and determine if their service is causing the problem. Dashboard monitoring tools can help. IBM Cloud App Management monitors the four SRE golden signals, which are latency, errors, traffic and saturation. Teams can immediately see these four golden signals, so root causes can be quickly identified and fixed.

While the path to continuous delivery can be long, implementing the best practices above can ease the transition and help teams incorporate the core components of agile, DevOps and SRE.

Learn more about continuous delivery and a DevOps approach.

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