What is Release Planning in DevOps?
Release planning in DevOps involves planning, scheduling, and controlling the software development and delivery process. Unlike earlier development approaches, DevOps includes both developers and IT operations collaborating from the beginning of the process to the end. By this method, they allow fewer, shorter feedback loops and faster releases.
Besides this, DevOps teams share accountability for the services they deliver, their code, and take on-call responsibilities. When software developers and IT professionals are involved in the entire delivery lifecycle and on-call, incidents are detected and resolved faster. This process is followed during and after the release process.
To understand more about release planning, you need to take a look at the key areas of the release cycle that can help you make a better decision about release planning.
Release Cycle in DevOps:
- Continuous Exploration: By engaging in practices of continuous exploration, teams can provide each other with honest feedback, and compare their performance to the industry standard. It is an extension of the lean startup methodology, which acknowledges that problems often come from persevering for too long, and encourages teams to retrospect, learn from their mistakes, and improve with each project. Business agility depends on the decider’s understanding that tells when to persevere or rotate. This also includes the ability to change direction when required. Strong performance in this phase allows teams to identify the viability of diverse ideas and become clear about their goals.
- Continuous Integration: DevOps teams continuously integrate components, systems, and solutions using a prioritized backlog from continuous exploration. It is the build phase, owned by the developer. This stage should be automated, and the process of committing, containerizing, testing, and deploying code should ideally take no more than a few minutes. Continuous integration covers the development, building, testing, and staging.
- Continuous Deployment: Improved performance in continuous deployment involves reviewing each sub-dimension and comparing the performance of all teams to the industry standard. Features are deployed to production in this phase, and teams aspire to consistently release features that can then be utilized by the business.
- Release On Demand: Through continuous deployments, businesses release features on-demand. However, all features need not be necessarily or immediately visible to end-users. How features are ultimately consumed by end-users depends on decisions made in the release on-demand phase of the DevOps reliability. In this phase, businesses ensure features provide optimal business value by releasing, stabilizing, measuring, and getting feedback from the complete cycle.
Best Practices for Effective Release Planning in DevOps
After knowing the release cycle, you need to understand the practices that will help you map out effective release planning. Here are some of the best practices that you can implement:
- State the Criteria for Success: Before you release an application, you should know whether it’s ready to be released or not. One way to find this our: Clear acceptance requirements. Once you know what’s expected from the product, you can explore whether the product should be released or not. The clear acceptance requirements are essential in both releases and testing to do more reliable releases. You should throw away the process of learning from your mistakes and continue to iterate on the release management process to figure out what works best. Product owners, quality managers, and release managers need to define key release metrics and acceptance criteria before moving ahead to a new project.
- Aim for Minimal Customer Impact: A release should be reliable and should not impact the customer. Hence, the focus of the release managers should be on reducing downtime and customer impact. And there are some key steps like Proactive testing, active monitoring, and real-time collaborative alerting where they can do better to identify issues during a release or even before the customers do. By working on a collaborative incident response plan, the team can quickly resolve incidents for a successful release.
- Take Advantage of the Staging Environment: Constantly monitoring the staging environment and keeping it as close as possible to your production environment can ensure more successful releases. Everyone, from product owners to QA, should be combing through staging and running tests to identify any issues with a new deployment. As long as your staging environment is nearly identical to production, you can easily find issues in staging before deploying the code to production. A well-designed staging environment reduces customer impact and helps DevOps teams to meet acceptance criteria faster.
- Streamline CI/CD and QA: By moving QA, automation, and testing earlier in the development lifecycle, the DevOps team can identify potential issues faster. And this is possible through the shift-left approach. This approach reduces the amount of time spent in feedback loops and allows the delivery pipeline to continue moving forward. The more you integrate testing with development workflows, the easier it will be for you to maintain a consistent CI/CD pipeline.
- Replace Manual Work With Automation: Always look for the processes that can be automated. It can improve the efficiency of your people, processes, and technology. Be it software development, QA, or IT operations, automation should be used to reduce human error and make day-to-day operations easier. This allows your teams to spend more time on strategic thinking and less time on day-to-day tasks and helps you consistently deliver reliable services to your customers.
- Make Things Immutable, If Possible: In programming, an immutable object’s state can’t be modified once it has been created. Immutable programming helps teams deploy entirely new configurations rather than modifying existing ones. By doing this, you reduce errors and bugs that could appear from changing current configurations. This causes releases to be inherently more reliable and makes customers and employees happier.
Tools for Release Planning
Throughout your DevOps journey, you will encounter many tools of every sort. Since release planning is a key phase in DevOps, you will need tools for this stage as well. So, here is a list of tools that will ease your release planning:
- Ansible: It is a release management tool that simplifies IT automation. It automates cloud provisioning, configuration management, application deployment, intra-service orchestration, etc. The tool turns tedious tasks into easy-to-use, repeatable playbooks.
- BuildMaster: It is an end-to-end CI/CD solution that allows developers and operations personnel to coordinate and optimize every step of the application release management process.
- CA Release Automation: This release management tool stops unplanned work by regulating and speeding up app delivery across the entire software development process from development to production.
- Jenkins: It provides hundreds of plugins to assist in building, deploying, and automating your projects. It is one of the most popular tools currently available.
- Spinnaker: This open-source cloud delivery platform is created by Netflix that offers fast, safe, and repeatable deployments.
- UrbanCode Release: It is IBM’s release management tool that allows users to plan, execute, and track releases through every stage of the delivery lifecycle.
Be it any software development approach, the focus always remains on the release. Every organization eyes the reliable release, hence, planning in advance is a must. From building an application to deploying it, you need to cover each aspect of the release planning. This includes complying with the best practices and using the right set of tools, so the chance of errors can be reduced and a quality application can be delivered.