Do you struggle with your software deployment process? Do deployments take too much time, sometimes entire weekends or longer? An automated deployment process could help to reduce time and costs, while offering benefits such as improved auditing, confidence and testability of software applications. Managing the complexity of building, testing, and deploying software into a production environment is a difficult task, often involving numerous processes and configuration. Historically, this challenge has often been met by fully documenting the steps of a deployment in manual procedures to be carried out by the development and operations teams. While this approach can be successful, a great deal of time is spent each and every deployment to ensure every step is done just right. How can the amount of time spent on deployments be reduced? Some organizations have worked to automate their deployment process. Instead of documentation describing each step in the process, scripts are written that will handle these steps. If you’ve ever considered moving to an automated process, but just aren’t sure how to get there, it’s not as complex as you might think. Let’s explore some major benefits that you can expect with the move to an automated process.
Automation AdvantagesWe’ve found that automating the majority of our projects is quite straight forward through the use of a Jenkins Continuous Integration Server. Jenkins is an application that helps developers manage virtually any type of software project with an automated build, testing, and deployment process. It will help your software development process is several ways:
RepeatabilityOur deployment process is fully scripted and automated. Each build follows the exact same process such as compiling the relevant code, making configuration changes, and deploying to the proper server. This ensures that each and every deployment covers all of the necessary steps. This greatly increases confidence in the deployment process and in the application itself.
Time SavingDeploying changes between environments has historically involved a lot of manual work. Copying files to the proper server(s), making configuration file changes, etc. can all take a lot of time. Ensuring the entire deployment is done without error can also take a considerable amount of time. Jenkins has allowed us to create scripts to automatically move changes to specific environments. These scripts can copy or remove files, change configuration data, and many other types of automated tasks. Once the script has been created, future deployments are simply the press of a button.
Quick FeedbackJenkins can trigger builds based on commits to our version control system. This gives developers very rapid feedback about problems with integrating their changes into the project. Additionally, quality assurance tools can automatically examine the integration environment, ensuring new features work as expected, as well as existing features continue to work. Developers can be alerted quickly to any issues and resolve them while the changes are fresh in their minds.
Change ManagementVersion control systems already have numerous features to assist with the development process, such as a full history of system modifications. However, manual deployments often cause a divergence between version control and the actual web server environment. Through an automated process, we help ensure that all changes made to the web servers are mirrored in the version control system. This provides an excellent auditing capability to know exactly when and why a change was deployed.
Jenkins Job Status and History Tracking
Automated TestingJenkins has enabled us to deploy several types of automated testing which helps ensures a high quality end product. First, automated deployment to our development environment ensures work from multiple developers is integrated quickly, usually several times a day. Any issues that appear in the integration process are quickly realized and resolved. Secondly, Jenkins provides a platform upon which to run automated software testing, such as unit and integration tests. Unit tests help us with testing the application at the lowest levels, ensuring each software component functions as expected. Likewise, integration testing helps to ensure the application as a whole is working properly. In the common case, this involves directing an automation script to access the website and verify the proper content is appearing. Integration tests are excellent for a quick spot check after a deployment to ensure the process went smoothly, even before the Quality Assurance team begins their review of the application.
The Path to AutomationBefore migrating to an automated process at Primacy, our manual process simply involved copying files from a developer’s workstation to a server environment. Code would be compiled and moved over, along with the appropriate configuration updates. We’ve found that automating the majority of our projects is actually quite straight forward. Using Apache Ant build scripts, we’ve been able to programmatically define the deployment process. Typically a project is compiled, the configuration files programmatically altered or replaced, and the project copied to the appropriate destination. By combining Jenkins for version control integration with our Ant scripts, we’ve been able to automate deployments to our development environments immediately after a developer commits their work. Other Jenkins jobs exist for deploying to our staging and production environments, after the appropriate approvals are obtained.
Automated Deployment Process with JenkinsBy automating our software deployment process with Jenkins, we’ve realized significant savings in time spent on testing and deployments. Are you interested in taking advantage of the many benefits offered by an automated deployment process? We can help to streamline your project’s software deployment, and realize the same benefits and efficiencies we’ve gained through an automated process.