For an average user, buying the right software is the greatest feat. But, in the end, how you deploy it makes all the difference.
Deployment in software is all about making a tool available for use in a way that ensures maximum optimization, security, and compatibility. Software solutions vary in their uses and performance, so the software deployment process has to be customized to their specifications.
What is software deployment?
Software or application deployment is one of the last stages in the development process. It involves installing, configuring, and testing a software application to prepare it for operating in a specific environment.
The software deployment process can be manual or automated, but developers should do it at the least disruptive time in an organization’s workflow. Many companies use software asset management (SAM) tools to monitor and manage software deployment and licenses for all end users. These solutions also make the process of installing software to all endpoints easier.
Development and operations (DevOps) tools like continuous delivery software enable developers to generate deployment-ready code quickly. This means software releases remain in a deployable state, enabling automatic deployment to production within seconds.
As far as management goes, the deployment phase comes right after the buying process is over when you’re ready to introduce the new solution to your team. The deployment phase will cover the period when your company goes from not using new software to using it efficiently.
Why is software deployment important?
The development process is incomplete without deployment. The software can’t serve its intended purpose until correctly distributed.
Software deployment is designed to meet changing business needs by delivering new features and updates that drive customer satisfaction. It enables developers to deliver software updates and patches to users by building and testing the impact of new code and how fast it responds to demand changes. Patch management software solutions are commonly used to automatically alert users of new updates.
Deployment in software eases business processes with custom solutions and enhances company-wide operations and productivity. You can save time with an automated software deployment process, which makes the installation faster than native ways.
The software deployment process also includes continuously monitoring newly deployed environments to execute the timely rollback of an update if something goes wrong. Moreover, software deployment enhances the safety of critical processes and sensitive information by delivering necessary updates as soon as possible.
Software deployment vs. software release
Software deployment and software release sound similar, but they refer to two distinct aspects of the development process.
Software release focuses on the different stages of developing an application, but software deployment is the process of running an application on a server or device and making it available for end users.
A new software release includes a distinct code version and supporting resources that are assigned a version number. The new version is given a unique release number when this code is updated with bug fixes. This lets developers distinguish between the different versions and identify the latest release.
A software update is either deployed to a test environment (machine or server) or into a live environment. The deployment process is repeated until the application is running error-free.
Software deployment methods:
There are mainly two methods through which software deployment is carried out.
- Network or domain-based deployment connects different IT devices like computer systems and servers to release the software.
- Agent-based deployment uses an internet connection to successfully deploy software to any device.
Stages in the software deployment process
Deployment in software comprises three stages: preparation, testing, and deployment. The software deployment process changes from company to company, but it’s usually either based on an existing framework or a customized strategy that caters to business objectives and goals.
Let’s take a look at what each stage looks like, along with a checklist of best practices.
During this stage, developers test if the code is running smoothly and ready to deploy. Then, they must gather all the code along with all the configuration files, libraries, and resources needed for the seamless functioning of the application. These items combined create a single package to be released.
- Notify all the stakeholders about the upcoming deployment.
- Identify and inform all the collaborators to reduce friction between the teams involved in the software development lifecycle (SDLC) process.
- Check third-party software requirements to ensure everyone knows their uses to minimize any issues in the future.
- Map out the deployment process to ensure everyone is on the same page.
- Have a rollback plan ready in case any critical issues occur during deployment.
- Establish key performance indicators (KPIs) to measure the deployment’s effectiveness and determine whether it succeeds or fails.
The testing stage has to validate the software update before it reaches the deployment stage. During this phase, the update is deployed to a test environment and subjected to automated tests. Developers then review the results of these pre-configured tests to fix any errors before deploying the update to a live environment.
- Conduct unit tests on a small portion of the software to verify that the results meet your requirements.
- Integrate unit tests with the continuous integration (CI) tools to automatically build and verify each portion and remove bugs easily.
- Create a staging environment like your target production environment and run tests to ensure your code works as intended.
- Run end-to-end tests to check the application’s workflow and its compatibility with other components like hardware and network connectivity.
- Seek feedback from stakeholders to determine whether your code is ready for production.
- Use smoke tests after deployment to make sure the software has no regressions.
Once the update is thoroughly tested, you can deploy it to the live environment. At this stage, the main job is to look out for bugs and errors that might occur on the live server and fix those to deliver the best experience possible.
- Deploy to the production environment to let users interact with the software.
- Monitor performance closely by matching it with your predetermined KPIs and checking for errors.
- Automate rollbacks so you can go to the previous version if the release is unsuccessful.
- Check environment health to identify potential issues with the operating system (OS) or database.
- Keep track of logs to gain insight into how the software is running and identify security threats.
- Document everything to maintain consistency when you want to change the new version.
Many developers still prefer to host applications using on-premises IT infrastructure. However, cloud service providers like Amazon Web Services (AWS) and Google Cloud Platform (GCP) offer tools like IT infrastructure as a service (IaaS) and platform as a service (PaaS).
These tools allow developers to deploy software into live environments without worrying about handling their storage and virtualization servers.
Types of software deployment
When it comes to the different types of software deployment and strategies, here are a few common ones to know about.
The basic deployment type is simple, quick, and cost-effective. It updates all target environments simultaneously to introduce the new version of the software. But it’s also vulnerable and risky as it doesn’t deploy software in a controlled fashion, which makes it difficult to roll back an update.
This software deployment involves slow updation and replacement of the old application version with the new update. It’s flexible because it allows gradual scaling up of the new version before scaling down the old version, resulting in no downtime. But rollbacks are also slow and gradual in this case.
This deployment type works with two versions of the application: the current version (blue) and the new version (green). Only one version is live at a time, allowing developers to run the blue version while testing the green version simultaneously. Once the deployment is successful, you redirect the traffic from the current version to the new one.
This deployment allows instant rollbacks, making it less risky. But it’s also expensive since you need to cover the operational cost of two environments.
The canary deployment method sends out application updates in an incremental fashion. It starts with a small badge of users and continues the rollout until you reach 100% deployment. This is the least risky deployment strategy as it allows teams to test live updates on small groups of users before pushing them out in larger badges.
It’s also more effective because you conduct tests on the live version instead of staged environments. Rollbacks are fast, and there’s no downtime in this case.
A multi-service deployment is similar to a basic deployment but a little less dangerous. It updates the target environment with multiple services simultaneously; it’s useful for applications that have version dependencies. This deployment type is fast to roll out, but slow to roll back.
This deployment type releases two parallel versions of the software, redirecting the incoming request from the current version to the new version. It aims to test whether or not the newer version meets the performance and stability requirements. If it does, the deployment is safe to roll out. While this is considered low-risk and accurate in testing, this strategy is highly specialized and complex to set up.
This method is more of a testing approach than a deployment technique, but it works similarly to canary deployment. A/B testing involves reviewing two versions of updates in small badges on a targeted set of users. It helps organizations identify which features have a better conversion rate.
Benefits of software deployment
With software deployment, organizations thrive by meeting changing business needs and enhancing business processes. But it brings many other benefits to the table, like:
- Assisting with Internet of Things (IoT) integrations to ensure connectivity of user devices and other physical appliances, resulting in improved business efficiency.
- Saving time with automated solutions that require no human intervention. When executed correctly, the entire deployment process takes only a few hours. For example, this paperless savings calculator shows how much a service business can save by deploying management software.
- Enhancing security by providing control over the IT infrastructure of your organization. Deploying software in a structured way is more secure and effective than downloading and installing software on individual systems.
- Managing big data effectively by gaining the ability to process and comprehend big volumes of data and monitor trends to set more accurate goals through an organized dashboard.
- Increasing productivity by introducing state-of-the-art features that cater to specific requirements.
Common challenges with software deployment
While the expectation with software deployment is that the update will perform as intended, sometimes it doesn’t happen like that. A lot can go wrong after the deployment stage, resulting in the need for re-deployment, hardware upgrades, or other fixes.
- Preserving data integrity: Maintaining consistent data records is one of the biggest challenges when deploying software, especially in an organization that relies heavily on traditional methods of data management. If the captured data is inaccurate, it affects the workflow of the entire organization.
- Lack of backup: Many things can go wrong with software deployment, like an error in the code, an infrastructure issue, or a sudden hardware failure. To avoid the worst consequences, it’s essential to keep a stakeholder-approved database backup ready to be restored in emergencies.
- No feedback loop: The deployment success can only be determined when the end users are satisfied. Opening yourself to intake feedback from them allows you to identify challenges and make practical improvements to your update.
- Failing to anticipate pricing: Every deployment process will have hidden costs that you must account for during the preparation stage. Failing to do so results in unforeseen expenses and hefty bills.
- Resistance to change: It’s only natural, especially when you suddenly want to introduce digital tools to more traditional employees, so make sure you’re communicating the benefits and training them well.
Best practices for deployment in software
Considering the many challenges that may arise during or after deployment, it’s always a good call to be cautious and preventive. Bring effectiveness to your software deployment process by keeping in mind the following best practices:
- Implement a deployment checklist to ensure you know what needs to be done and when. It also enables you to track every detail without missing crucial steps.
- Keep separate clusters for production and non-production instead of one large cluster for everything. This prevents issues with resource consumption and security.
- Use compatible software deployment tools that work with multiple platforms like Windows, Linux, macOS, Android, and iOS. This stops vendor lock-in and gives you higher flexibility and functionality.
- Track deployment metrics to continuously monitor the performance of the process and for measuring its success. Ideally, tracking metrics should be part of an automated workflow.
- Automate the database to application code that also includes a rollback mechanism in case of a failed update. This incorporates an automatic update pipeline for new changesets and makes reviewing the code safe in a temporary environment.
Ready, set, deploy!
Effectively implementing a software deployment process enables your business to scale software management across devices successfully. By preventing extensive downtime and enabling automated rollbacks, deployment supports business continuity and productivity.
While every deployment process probably has a few hiccups, the benefits outweigh the risks – easily. Plus, you can include several best practices in your deployment checklist, like using automation technology, to minimize those risks by a significant margin.
Learn everything about test automation and how it can simplify your software testing process.