Getting started with deployment automation can be overwhelming. The sheer number of choices and decisions can stall even the most avid DevOps enthusiasts. This is precisely why many organizations are doing CI (continuous integration) but aren’t going all the way to automating deployments. To help you understand how to get started with automated deployments, we offer a practical approach by discussing the steps required to get there.
Deployment automation – an outline
Deployment automation is the use of scripted or automated tools to manage the deployment of software and updates. It helps speed up the deployment process, manage configuration, automate the provisioning of resources, ensures consistency across servers, and helps automate tasks such as software installations and updates. Deployment automation aids in improving the speed and reliability of software deployments and can help ensure that deployments are consistent and repeatable. It also helps reduce the time and effort required to deploy software and updates. Automated deployment ensures that the path your code takes from development to production doesn’t break its functionality.
Steps to get started with deployment automation
Step 1: Take a declarative approach to infrastructure, code, and configuration
A declarative approach defines the ultimate desired state of a system including the resources required and the properties they have. You can declare a desired state for infrastructure, which includes how many machines will be instantiated, which applications will be deployed on them, how they would be configured, etc. While it starts as planning, the important part is to translate this to code, and create the resources from this code.
One of the key elements of automated deployments is infrastructure as code (IaC). IaC is the process of using code to describe your infrastructure. This is typically done using various tools to describe the configuration of your servers. By using infrastructure as code, you can manage and version your configuration, which is key for automated deployment. It also allows you to manage your servers as easily as you manage your code.
You can deploy code using various tools and if you are deploying to multiple servers and large clusters, containers are a good choice. It is better to also move the testing process to code. This involves automating manual tests as much as possible (more on this in point #3).
Step 2: Leveraging a CI/CD or GitOps pipeline
CI and CD are two key components of the DevOps cycle. Continuous integration is the process of automating builds, and running unit tests and integration tests on your code. Continuous delivery is the process of deploying your code to the testing, staging, or production environment.
An important concern in the CI stage is to keep frequent updates from conflicting with each other. A successful CI process means new code changes are regularly built, tested, and merged to shared repositories. You can get started with CI by using tools like Jenkins that help monitor your source code repository, run unit tests and integration tests and report their results.
Deployment automation doesn’t work if the development team deploys applications or configuration environments one way and the operations team deploys and configures them another way. The process needs to be consistent for it to be automated.
Teams set up a workflow of CI/CD processes that happen before and after deployment. Then, they monitor the data and performance of their CI/CD pipeline in production to ensure that the pipeline is healthy. This helps automate deployments.
GitOps is a popular methodology used to accomplish the final “deploy” step. It helps improve the deployment workflow by automating tasks.
Step 3: More automation and less manual testing
The first thing to do is to determine a basic testing strategy that isn’t complicated. After you have a defined testing strategy, you need to automate your testing process and configure it to run automatically. This can be done by using any test automation tool that helps deploy your code to a cloud-based test environment and runs your tests automatically.
Automating the testing process decreases the amount of human intervention. It helps detect bugs quickly thus saving time and allowing you to deploy higher quality products to the market more quickly. Testing should occur simultaneously with deployment and feedback should be continuously passed back to the development team. Automated testing is the most effective way of enhancing software application quality as you start to move faster.
Step 4: Rollback failed deployments quickly
When a deployment fails, it is better and technically straightforward to rollback quickly. With good planning, changes can be reverted quickly and safely, with little to no impact on your uptime and service delivery. In order to successfully rollback a change, it is important that there is something to roll back to.
Blue-green deployments involve deploying any new services in parallel with the existing services and then re-routing traffic to the new services. A rollback workflow must support some behaviors that are more specialized than those that entail a regular deployment workflow. It must succeed for all components involved in your deployment and not just for a few.
Getting started with deployment automation can be daunting. There are a plethora of choices to make which could easily become overwhelming. Hopefully, this article will prove to be a structured guide to get started with deployment automation.
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