Releasing a finished software product is no small feat. Before the launch date, the development and deployment team works on removing errors and fixing glitches. It would be nearly impossible to fix all issues in an agile environment before the launch date. This led to the birth of progressive delivery. Progressive delivery is the modern take on the core tenets of Continuous Integration and Continuous Delivery (CI/CD). It offers developers the freedom to deploy new launches in a controlled and phased manner. This approach allows the team to ship code faster, mitigate risk, and work towards customer experience. Progressive Delivery is quickly becoming a welcome concept as it creates an environment that offers the ability to recover from failures quickly. Some of the benefits of progressive delivery are mentioned below.
- Improve efficiency with development pipelines
- Target users based on various parameters such as geographical location or preferences
- Allow users to gradually adapt to new changes, thus reducing user pushback
- Build and maintain customer trust by quirking reacting to update feedback
- Catch vulnerabilities and errors before full release to lower development costs
There are two essential aspects of Progressive Delivery – release progressions and progressive delegation.
Release progression takes a targeted approach to release where an identified group of users are privileged to experience the new features or updates. In this type of progressive delivery, the developers can gather user feedback, experiment with updates, and make improvements as necessary.
In progressive delegation, the software is passed on from one owner to the other in succession until it finally reaches the person closely responsible for the outcome. This way, the developers have the time and freedom to move to other projects without being tied down by launch or release responsibilities.
Types of progressive delivery
- A/B Testing is also referred to as split testing. In this type, two versions of the same software are compared to understand how they perform. This helps gather feedback on how users respond and make modifications if necessary.
- In Canary Testing, the code is released to a selected group of users to test the software and gather user feedback.
- Blue-Green deployment uses two identical production environments, where one is live, and the other is set up for testing. With this approach, the developers swap the live and testing versions at the software release time to reduce downtime.
- Feature flags are an operational mechanism used to turn off certain features for various user segments. Also called feature toggles, this type of progressive delivery helps control version deployment.
- Review apps create automatic live previews of changes in a feature branch. In this type of delivery, the environment creates a new app for each new topic branch, allowing the developer to test and demo new features. Once the testing is done, and the branch is deleted, the environment is automatically erased.
Tools used for progressive delivery
Here are the top three tools used in progressive delivery.
- Sitting over a container network interface (CNI), the service mesh is an infrastructure layer with a control and data plane. It is used in progressive delivery for traffic shifting, user segmentation, and automation.
- Continuous Delivery Release Automation (CDRA) tools introduce automation and monitoring throughout development. With CDRA, developers can focus on creating quality software and rapid application delivery.
- Observability is a control theory method used in progressive delivery to help understand the complex system and determine if an update is necessary. To that end, it includes tools such as tracing and analytics engines and logging to determine performance.
Implementing progressive delivery
Implementing progressive delivery starts with building the key elements incrementally. Start with development workflows. This can be in the form of feature flag management or source code management. Once the basic implementation tools are in place, businesses must focus on implementation strategies. There are four types of strategies – targeted rollout, canary deployment, percentage rollout, and ring deployment.
- In target rollout, a selected group of users receive the new update. Based on feedback, the product manager or business manager will take a call to proceed with the centralized delivery.
- Canary deployment uses a percentage of production traffic to gradually expose the new version. Based on anomalies or errors, DevOps engineers and the product manager will make the call to retreat the older version from production.
- Product managers take a percentage rollout approach by using a targeted audience, without any subcategories, to roll out new features and gradually increase to more users.
- Ring deployment is an advanced form of targeted rollout that rolls out the new feature to a bigger set of users based on feedback and acceptance of the previous batch of users.
While implementing progressive testing, consider these three focus points.
- Use CI/CD to implement progressive delivery. With CI/CD, it is easier to roll out a large group of features quickly. However, it is necessary to have an orchestration tool to define and automate deployment pipelines. These pipelines also help with rollback and roll forward in times of need.
- Focus on security and compliance early in the software delivery process to reduce risk. Having robust SDLC policies will help the organization handle risks and risk-related issues.
- Prepare a mechanism to improve decision-making time. Have analytics and metrics that can scan logs and assess the risk factors in real time.
Progressive delivery is gaining popularity among developers as it allows features to be delivered in a controlled environment, limiting exposure when new code is deployed. It helps receive feedback better and make iterations to the version if necessary. To that end, it also saves time on rollback efforts. For rise-averse organizations, progressive delivery gives complete control to prepare for releases as they see fit. In the era of agile deployment, progressive delivery has created room for speed and safety.
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