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Continuous Deployment vs. Delivery | Differences Explained

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Noor-ul-Anam Ruqayya
Noor-ul-Anam Ruqayya

Continuous Deployment vs. Delivery | Differences Explained

Curious about continuous deployment vs delivery? We explain what each is, what happens in each step, and their importance in the DevOps lifecycle.

What is the Difference Between Continuous Deployment vs. Delivery?

Continuous delivery refers to the process of automatically deploying releases into a testing environment, with a final manual approval before pushing the releases into production. In continuous deployment, all releases that pass through the testing process are automatically deployed with no final manual step. 

When it comes to CI/CD, the most frequently asked question is whether the CD stands for continuous delivery or deployment. The short answer is both. Depending on your organization’s existing workflow, you can either opt for continuous delivery or deployment. 

Companies that want some control over the final release should opt for continuous delivery as it allows the QA team to revise everything manually before deployment. On the other hand, continuous deployment requires a fully automated CI/CD pipeline. It works best for companies that want to release features more frequently – daily or hourly. Ultimately, a successful product requires continuous testing and continuous monitoring alongside CI/CD.

Continuous Delivery vs Continuous Deployment

What is Continuous Integration (CI)?

In DevOps, we repeatedly hear the term CI/CD where CI stands for Continuous integration and CD stands for continuous delivery/deployment. Continuous deployment and continuous delivery are two terms that are often used interchangeably but are actually quite different. Before diving deeper into how they differ, let’s understand the concept of continuous integration. 

At the core of DevOps is continuous integration, which makes the entire CI/CD process possible. It works as a safety net that allows developers to find and prevent issues before they reach the end-user. They can ship the code with more confidence, but the deployment process may still belong and error-prone. 

The CI process starts with the developers sending a pull request (PR) to merge the code into the central repository. This triggers an automated build and testing sequence to begin. During the build stage, the program is first compiled (depending on the programming language). There’s also increasing popularity of packaging the code in a Docker container. Afterward, automated tests are run on the code to verify its UI behavior, specific units, application performance, etc. Automating the integration and testing allows for much faster and more frequent updates. This allows engineers to make safer incremental changes, rather than needing to make lots of changes to justify the overhead of integration.

Continuous Delivery: What is it and its Benefits?

Continuous delivery is a software development practice in which code changes are automatically prepared for deployment into production. It’s an extension of the continuous integration phase where all code changes are automatically deployed to a testing or production environment after the build stage. 

The continuous delivery phase generally involves at least one manual step where the new release is approved for the production environment. By integrating continuous delivery into their DevOps lifecycle, the process not only becomes faster but also more efficient. 

Benefits of Continuous Delivery

  • Automation of the software delivery process.
  • Improved developer productivity via automation. 
  • Bugs are found and addressed earlier and faster. 
  • New updates are released frequently to the users. 

Continuous Delivery Challenges 

  • Require a strong foundation in continuous integration (CI).
  • The automated testing suite must be good enough to cover the codebase. 
  • The deployment process (once approved) must be automated.
  • Feature flags must be embraced so that incomplete features do not affect the end-users.

Continuous Deployment: What is it and its Benefits?

Continuous deployment takes continuous delivery one step further by automating the release to production step and eliminating any need for human intervention altogether. It significantly improves the time to production, but your testing process needs to be almost perfect. 

What makes continuous deployment efficient is that it eliminates manual testing altogether and allows teams to fully automate their DevOps pipeline. The developer’s job ends with pushing the pull request and reviewing the PR of their teammates and merging it into the master branch. The CI/CD service automatically takes over, runs all tests, and deploys the code into production once it’s ready. 

To make continuous deployment work for your company, it’s integral to implement continuous monitoring, automated incident management, and an excellent on-call team.

Continuous Deployment Benefits 

  • Faster and seamless deployment process.
  • No need for human intervention.
  • Easier to fix problems due to smaller releases
  • Customers frequently get updates and see improvements and new features. 

Continuous Deployment Challenges 

  • Very strong automated testing foundation is required as the release is as good as the testing suite. 
  • Documentation must always be up-to-date. 
  • Feature flags become an inherent part of the process so that specific changes can be walked back without affecting the rest of the service.

How Can Blameless Help?

CI/CD in DevOps is becoming integral to any engineering organization. Blameless can help your DevOps team by making DevOps tooling more robust. You can interpret a variety of DevOps tools and get data that can be transformed into SLIs and SLOs to measure user happiness. To learn more about Blameless, sign up for the newsletter below or request a demo!