Release Engineering Vs. Release Management


DevOps, with its collaborative and agile approach, has paved the way for quality, rapid, and consistent software development and release. Today, organizations are rapidly embracing DevOps because of the numerous benefits it offers to remain competitive, maintain reliable CI/CD pipelines, continuously improve operational efficiency, and deliver value faster.

The impact of DevOps is just not limited to development and delivery but spans release engineering and release management, the two critical phases of the software development life cycle (SDLC).

Release Engineering and Release management are two phases in DevOps-based software development that are often confused with one another. Though the two seem similar, release engineering and release management have different functions and implementation processes.

This article defines the differences between Release Engineering and Release Management to help get a comprehensive understanding of the two.

What is Release Engineering?

A new and fastly-growing approach to software engineering, Release Engineering is responsible for the compilation, assembly, and delivery of source code into finished products or other software components. Associated with Software Release Life Cycle, Release Engineering's objective is to improve the software build and release pipeline to ensure rapid and consistent software deployment.

Release engineers leverage their extensive understanding of source code management, compilers, build configuration languages, automated build tools, package managers, and installers to ensure the development and release of quality software at a reliable and predictable rate.

Moreover, release engineering is concerned with various aspects of software productions, such as:

  • Identifiability: Identifies the source, tools, environment, and other components that make up a particular release.
  • Reproducibility: Ensures operational stability by integrating source, third-party components, data, and deployment externals of a software system.
  • Consistency: Provides a stable framework for development, deployment, audit, and accountability for software components.
  • Agility: Automates build and release pipelines using automation tools that improve the speed and reliability of the release process. Continuous integration and continuous delivery (CI/CD) plays a critical role in these build/release systems.

Release Engineering in DevOps:

In DevOps, Release Engineering plays an extremely critical role. It accelerates the path from development to operations and acts as the integration hub between the two. Implemented by organizations like Google and Facebook, release engineering involves building fast and reliable pipelines to transform source code into viable products.

Apart from ensuring smooth collaboration between development and operations teams, it also involves software configuration management, builds, deployment, and environment management. DevOps approaches like Continuous Integration, Continuous Deployment, and Continuous Delivery are all modern release engineering practices, where all the steps in the release engineering process are automated. It helps increase the release velocity of individual changes and also ensures a sufficient level of release confidence.

It is the responsibility of release engineers to work with software engineers in product development and SREs to define all the steps required to release software. Moreover, they automate processes and track changes in a configuration management system or revision control system.

Other areas emphasized by Release Engineering are:

  • Implementing Version Control: Involves maintaining code in version control repositories such as Git, Perforce, etc. to add traceability and reliability to the code and keep a track of its evolution.
  • Configuration Management: Ensures consistency of product attributes throughout the software lifecycle, from development, testing, staging, and production.
  • Production & Deployment: Ensuring every component of the released software is tied to its origin to make problems and issues that arise later easily retractable and reproducible.
  • Infrastructure-as-Code: Involves automating the configuration of servers, middleware, applications, firewalls, etc.

Release Engineering Best Practices:

Some of the critical practices that can help you ensure the accuracy and reliability of release engineering processes are:

  • Make sure build artifacts, application, and environment configurations are version controlled similarly to software source code.
  • Ensure effective collaboration of different organizational functions of development, testing, and operations.
  • Automate the build, testing, and deployment processes.
  • Release changes individually instead of as parts of larger releases.
  • Ensure consistent testing and defect detection both before production deployments and during deployments.
  • Give attention to the ability to roll back failed deployments.
  • Perform continuous testing to ensure quality.

What is Release Management?

A core practice of software development for decades, Release Management is the process of planning, building, testing, preparing, and deploying new code and services to production environments while ensuring alignment with business priorities. It ensures the delivery of new and enhanced services by organizations while protecting the integrity of existing services. With the help of release management, organizations can increase the number of successful releases by preventing unexpected outcomes.

Moreover, release management deals more with the non-technical aspects of the whole release process like release process, tracking release workflow, release coordination, and taking the release to the production.

The main objective of Release Management is:

  • Manages risks encountered throughout the software delivery lifecycle.
  • Coordinates IT resources.
  • Ensures compliance and auditing process.
  • Maintains alignment of the business with software development.
  • Oversees the cutover to new versions.
  • Ensure that auditable release controls are established and documented.
  • Optimize and oversee the development and release processes.

Release Management in DevOps:

In DevOps, the focus of release management is on planning, scheduling, and controlling the software development and delivery process. However, unlike traditional software development, here, both developers and IT operations collaborate from the beginning of the process to the end, ensuring fewer, shorter feedback loops and faster releases.

This collaboration and shared accountability for the services delivered, enables teams to detect and resolve incidents and issues faster, both during and after the release of the product/features.

Furthermore, release management helps create a continuous flow to the production that DevOps strives for and aligns work within the team and across the organization.

Release Management Best Practices:

To ensure successful implementation of Release Management, teams must follow some critical practices like:

  • Define the criteria for success.
  • Strive for minimal user impact.
  • Automate processes for maximum advantage.
  • Shift-left CI/CD and QA to streamline the process.
  • Keep the staging environment updated and aligned with the production environment.
  • Define specific requirements and criteria for the upcoming release.
  • Specify concrete acceptance criteria for defined requirements.
  • Push deployments to a staging server or environment.
  • Always create new updates.


Though different in their objectives and practices, Release Engineering and Release Management are two significant concepts of DevOps, responsible for the success of a software project. These two practices provide multiple benefits to software companies and effectively transform the way release engineers work and collaborate with the development and operations team.

In short, both Release Engineering and Release Management are two critical practices responsible for the successful delivery of a reliable software product.