Deployment automation allows applications to be deployed across the various environments used in the development process, as well as the final production environments. This results in more efficient, reliable, and predictable deployments. Solutions that automate your deployment processes improve the productivity of both the Dev and Ops teams and enable them and the business to develop faster, accomplish more, and ultimately build better software that is deployed more frequently and functions more reliably for the end-user.

Main Benefits of Deployment Automation

  • Repeatability – Every deployment deploys the same.
  • Fewer errors – Removing manual steps reduces human error.
  • Anyone can deploy – eliminate bottlenecks by removing the need for experts to do the work.
  • Work on what matters – developers can spend time working on new features, not on fixes for manual deployments.
  • Customer satisfaction – frequent updates with new features addresses customer needs sooner and keeps organizations competitive.
  • Lower costs – fewer errors, fewer human hours needed for deployments means lower costs.

Deployment Automation Approaches

  • Scripting – deployments can be automated by writing scripts which perform actions automatically on specific environments in a specific context. The scripting approach is simple but limited, because as soon as environments change, without careful ongoing maintenance, scripts will break and deployments can fail.
  • Deployment with CI systems – continuous integration servers like Jenkins make it possible to deploy applications automatically as part of the build process. This is an extension of the scripting approach, because the CI system usually is not aware of the details of the application and the underlying environment, rather the CI system automatically triggers scripts which can deploy the application.
  • Basic deployment tools – there are numerous tools that can deploy applications automatically, without requiring organizations to write and maintain scripts. However, these tools are typically suitable only for simpler applications that do not have multi-step or multi-component installations, because they do not have "orchestration" capabilities. So they cannot support deployments that have a sequence of steps occurring in a certain order with dependencies between different components. Also, the basic tools typically cannot fully model the underlying environment on which the application is installed.
  • Model-driven deployment – the most advanced tools are able to package even the most complex software systems, model the environments on which these systems run, and orchestrate the deployment process across numerous software components, servers and installation steps. They also provide visibility, tracking and auditing into what happened in deployments across the organization.
  • Continuous Deployment - an extreme form of deployment automation where numerous, or all, changes made in development undergo automated testing and are immediately deployed to production.

Deployment automation is closely tied to release automation. An essential part of releasing a software product is deploying it, first on development environments, then on QA and UAT environments, and finally on the real production environment, either on the developing organization's premises, on a customer's premises or on the cloud.

On-Demand, Disposable Testing Environments

No matter how agile your platform is, you may still experience delays in provisioning server instances and setting up the required software such as web servers and databases. Without virtualization or the cloud, agile teams are limited to one physical server per development. When cloud instances are used, development teams have practically an unlimited number of servers available to them and they need not wait for physical servers to continue their work.

With cloud, you essentially pay for what you use. You can have your developers working during the day during which time your servers are powered on and you are paying for them. When everybody leaves the office at night, you can turn off or pause those same servers and not pay for them during this time. If someone needs them outside of office hours then they can easily start them again via the web portal or API.

You may also scale down costs for testing and development infrastructure in the public cloud by scheduling instances to automatically start up and shut down at certain times during the day, and avoid additional charges when resources are not in use.

Parallel Testing

Another advantage of the cloud is the ability to create multiple environments, where you can quickly build the new environment and isolate the versions of code that you are testing. You can have one environment for one developer testing a feature and another environment for another developer testing other feature. Multiple people would be working on different parts of the code and this allows them to work in parallel.

IaaS platforms offer great functionality around provisioning new instances with a full range of features and configuration options. In the hands of system administrators and agile developers, these platforms can provide the flexibility to create custom environments perfectly suited to the requirements of an application.

Testing directly on IaaS platforms allows wider and deeper testing of new software before launch, for example conducting proper load testing.

Continuous Integration and Delivery

Having a large number of virtual machines available to an agile software development group can greatly improve continuous integration and delivery. Agile teams can spawn as many instances as needed on an ad hoc basis.

External Services

Agile development groups may need a variety of project management, issue management and automated testing environments. But some of these services are available as Software as a Service (SaaS) offerings in the cloud. Agile teams can therefore combine virtualization, private clouds and the public cloud at the Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) level.

Automated Feedback

Instant feedback is extremely important to the Agile methodology. This is achieved through continuous integration, testing but also through inputs from stakeholders. The cloud can automate feedback at all stages of a project.

For successful Agile development, organizations can rely on the cloud to provide distributed and easily accessible source code management to any number of developers. The cloud enables secure and reliable availability to source code that enterprises can easily scale up to thousands of developers without infrastructure concerns. It also provides access to production environments in just few minutes, and in some cases, a push-button control to automate deployment. Leading cloud service providers empower organizations to export code to production with minimal time investment or delays.

Quality Standards

Combining agile methodology with cloud computing brings together the best of both worlds. The opportunity offered by cloud platforms can optimize achieving iterative software releases as well as facilitating organizations to examine quality standards and receiving user feedback routinely.