Today’s IT departments are under increasing pressure to release new solutions and enhancements to existing capabilities. Many are expected to deliver updates and new applications in tight timeframes. In a recent survey, 90 percent of DevOps professionals report increasing pressure to accelerate application release, and 93 percent link challenges to manual processes.
IT leaders need to find a way to deal with those challenges to meet business needs. Rapid development and release of new applications and enhancements to existing applications is crucial to improving business functionality and user satisfaction, not to mention responding to market changes and maintaining a competitive advantage.
As organizations focus on accelerating release cycles, more and more are turning to DevOps practices, one of the most crucial of which is automation. Application release automation (ARA) provides IT teams with a consistent method of releasing new or updated applications in less time, with fewer manual tasks.
Application release automation provides a number of benefits, including:
- Streamlining processes
- Reducing timelines and decreasing manual tasks
- Increasing departmental agility and flexibility
- Improving productivity and collaboration while controlling risk
Unfortunately, not every company that implements application release automation sees these benefits. Companies that fail to incorporate ARA’s key components often see only partial benefits – many even spend extra time trying to make processes work, costing the business more in the long run.
To ensure your company doesn’t fall into the same trap, incorporate the following five elements into your application release automation processes.
Critical Application Release Automation Components
1. Orchestration and Packaging
A crucial two-part element, orchestration is the planning, tracking, and communication that comes with every release. What needs to be released when? To which environment? Orchestration manages your release processes, often from the beginning development stages through release to production.
With orchestration comes packaging, when pieces of code, configurations, and other resources are bundled together so they can be handled and released in a functional manner. To automate application release, both orchestration and packaging need to be included, or release automation is more likely to deploy incorrect or incomplete releases to production or other environments.
A successful application release must take into account all the interactions between the new product and other systems, applications or databases. For example, if your release removes functionality that another application relies on, you’ll create inefficiencies at best, and errors and outages at worst.
To account for dependencies, develop a thorough process that clearly indicates what dependencies each application or enhancement has. Take all dependencies into account before automating your release. Our next element, approvals, can help ensure dependencies have been properly reviewed and incorporated into your plan.
A common feature of DevOps software (including ARA tools), approvals allow enterprise IT leaders to ensure crucial elements and quality checks are performed before releases.
You can set up multiple approval requirements, including having different team members or managers check each release for dependencies, errors, testing needs, and quality control measures. Releases can’t move forward without required approvals, which helps improve release quality and decrease production errors and outages.
4. CI/CD Support
A major trend in the IT sphere, continuous integration and continuous delivery help accelerate software delivery with automated build, deployment, and testing of new code in small, regularly scheduled batches.
Application release automation is part of the larger CI/CD landscape. As you create and implement your release automation processes, build them into a CI/CD methodology to create a complete process. This will likely result in a process that includes ARA, continuous build, and automated testing.
5. Application Release Automation Tools
To effectively enable any type of automation, you need tools. Application release automation software is the most obvious choice, but you’ll often find ARA functionality built into platforms with larger capabilities. For example, DevOps platforms often contain ARA functionality along with build, deploy, and release features that further enable CI/CD processes.
If you’re looking at best-of-breed ARA tools, consider all the elements included in this post while shopping. If you’re interested in reducing tool sprawl and selecting a platform with wider capabilities, look for a DevOps platform with pipeline management, environment provisioning, a test automation framework, and reporting. The best options will include integrated functionality throughout the software delivery lifecycle, along with integrations with agile software tracking, source control management systems, configuration management, change management, and other tools across the software development and delivery toolchain.
Use ARA to Support Your IT Team and Business Goals
By incorporating ARA into your processes, you can support full CI/CD pipelines and deliver software faster, with fewer manual tasks to burden your team.
While it can be challenging to implement an ARA solution that is scalable, adaptable, and reusable across environments and technology systems, it can be done. By incorporating all of ARA’s critical elements and selecting release management tools with the features, plugins, and integrations that meet your company’s current and future needs, your IT team can modernize its processes for better business results.