Test early, collaborate easily, deploy often
Today’s most sophisticated, engaging apps are built and deployed using modern development practices. These include optimized processes and workflows that increase developer productivity, efficiency, and speed, as well as improve app quality. Adoption of agile development practices and distributed version control systems have now become widespread. To complement these, a new practice has emerged—continuous delivery (CD)—that enables teams to streamline the app release process.
Continuous delivery features short release cycles, automation, and a direct connection to the source code repository. It's designed to enable teams to get incremental app updates to production quickly and safely. A successful CD process aligns an organization’s technology, processes, people, and culture so that deployment becomes a streamlined, automated activity.
With continuous delivery, businesses and end users benefit from faster delivery of new features, as well as increased app quality due to early testing and bug fixes. For development teams, code stays clean and at a releasable state at all times. The backlog is also manageable and deployment becomes a painless, low-risk process that can happen whenever needed.
When practicing continuous delivery, it’s vital that development teams establish a process and agree upon a common set of tools that ensure consistency across app performance, function, and user experience. Configuration management enables version control of all the parts of the CD process, such as source code, databases, documentation, test and deployment scripts, and app configuration information. Developers can then reproduce an environment when needed, and trace all dependencies used to re-create the environment. Having one source of truth—and a reliable one—provides a stable foundation on which to build a smooth deployment pipeline.
In complex apps, changes that may seem simple and self-contained can actually produce unintended consequences. Multiple developers may be working in parallel on multiple code branches in isolated environments. When changes are merged to a common master branch, unpredictable results can occur. This often means multiple rounds of regression testing and bug fixes. Continuous integration (CI) is a component of the continuous delivery process that enables developers to integrate their updates into the master on a regular basis. With CI, automated tests before and after the merge validate that no bugs have been introduced.
Traditionally, testing has been done manually after code is “dev complete” to ensure that any changes don’t break the app or its systems. However, manual regression testing is time-consuming, costly, and prone to human error. Moreover, QA teams have to spend considerable time and effort keeping test documentation up to date. With continuous delivery, many different tests are run throughout the process. Some are automated, such as unit tests. Others, such as usability/acceptance testing, are still performed manually. The goal is to bring all testing into the CD process from the beginning of the delivery lifecycle, and automate repetitive tasks as much as possible. This allows developers to focus on coding and improving the app.
When starting a new continuous delivery practice, persistence is key—it does get easier with every release. As teams become more familiar with CD, new opportunities arise to automate tasks and make the process even more efficient. Building and preserving a CD culture might be challenging in the beginning, but support from senior management and an enthusiastic advocate with CD experience will certainly help.
Continuous delivery on Heroku
The Heroku platform is designed to maximize developer productivity and provide a great developer experience, from an app’s first build to production and beyond. As part of this focus, Heroku extends the platform with a range of tools that support modern development practices, such as continuous delivery.
Heroku development teams can take advantage of a unified environment for the setup and management of their CD workflow, along with a CD toolkit that’s seamlessly integrated into the platform experience. This amplifies the inherent benefits of continuous delivery, enabling developers to ship releases even faster, more easily, and at scale.
Heroku Flow—app-centric, optimized.
Heroku Flow is a structured deployment workflow that combines tight integration with GitHub, visually presented pipelines, and disposable “review apps.” Heroku Flow is designed to streamline the app release experience by making continuous delivery easy, visual, and efficient.
The components of Heroku Flow include:
Heroku apps that share the same codebase can be organized into deployment pipelines, easily promoted from one stage to the next, and managed through a visual interface.
Developers can spin up a temporary test app for teams to review, discuss, and decide whether to merge changes to their code base during development.
Tight integration between a Heroku app and its GitHub repo enables automatic or manual deployment of merged branches, with notifications in both GitHub and Heroku.
For us, it’s all about agility. We employ continuous delivery methodologies, and we’re very test-driven. Heroku was not only a great fit for our workflow, but the platform made our developers happy.Read customer story >>
We started using Heroku Pipelines as soon as it was released and now we use it for continuous delivery of all our microservices.Read customer story >>