Why you should automate your release pipeline

Guest post

This is a guest post from Nebbia Technology. Nebbia Technology is a software company based in Orlando, Florida, that specializes in Azure-based solutions and DevOps best practices. We bring together top professionals and provide them with the right environment and tools to produce amazing products and solutions.

Our team is well known in the industry as some of the best Microsoft-focused professionals. We have a cloud-first focus and we partner with our clients to help them get the most out of their Azure investment.

By Unknown or not provided (U.S. National Archives and Records Administration) [Public domain], via Wikimedia CommonsRelease Day used to mean weekends spent deploying the latest code, database changes, and website content. Release teams would huddle together in war rooms troubleshooting issues, deploying hotfixes, coordinating deployments, testing, fixing, and redeploying again and again.

As the trend in development shifts toward more agile delivery, and customers clamor for continuous deployment, this model of monolithic code releases begins to strain. Automating your release pipeline can cut down on your release cycle time and alleviate many of the Release Day issues that arise from still trying to manually deploy code.

So what benefits can you expect from release automation?

Remove repetitive steps that are tedious and error-prone

Manually deploying any sort of content, whether it’s code, infrastructure changes, database scripts, or simple website content changes, can become tedious to perform repeatedly. This is a recipe for boredom and can lead to mistakes during deployment. These mistakes may even go undetected until users have started using the newly deployed changes. Automating these steps gives you a consistent, repeatable process that helps minimize your chance of a broken deployment.

Reclaim time spent manually deploying

Automating your release process doesn’t just alleviate boredom, it gives team members more time to spend on other activities that add value to your company. Time someone is spending pushing code out to websites and running tests is time they could devote instead to designing new features, fixing bugs, or having weekends with their families. Quite simply, automating your releases can reduce costs and make your employees happier.

Improve quality and make your customers happy

As mentioned previously, automating your release pipeline can reduce the number of issues caused by human mistakes. This results in higher quality deployments with less chance for error.

Even with deployment steps completely automated though, time must still be spent making sure the most perfectly deployed code actually works, so automated testing should be included before and after deployment.

Automating tests help you detect critical path failures before your code lands in Production and makes your customers angry. It also further reduces the amount of time other team members are spending manually verifying that deployments were successful, rather than adding additional value to the company.

Turn on a dime

As your release pipeline becomes more streamlined, it becomes easier to adapt to changing business needs because you can quickly see what’s deployed where, and promote or abandon new builds with just a few clicks.

If a new feature isn’t well received after customers begin to use it, for example, improvements can be deployed and tested in hours rather than days or even weeks. Similarly, if a critical bug is found in newly released code, a well-architected release pipeline can deploy previous builds that are in a known good state and get your customers back online while your team works to resolve the issue.

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