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Continuous Delivery vs. Continuous Deployment: Where To Draw The Line?

continuous Delivery vs Continuous Deployment

You’ve likely heard of the term CI/CD pipeline. You have probably known about these practices: continuous integration, continuous delivery, and continuous deployment as well. But the uncertainty remains: what are the differences between continuous delivery vs continuous deployment? Which one should you apply to your CI/CD pipeline? How are these terms related to one another? How to find out which one suits your team best? 

This blog will clear out the confusion, from the definitions to the differences and help you pick out the most appropriate practice for your team.

What is Continuous Delivery?

Continuous delivery is a software engineering practice in which code changes are prepared to be released to production. However, keep in mind that the codes must pass the automated unit testing, integration testing, system testing before being pushed to production. 

The transition between continuous integration and continuous delivery is usually completed automatically, including automated testing at the unit, integration, and system levels.

Automated tests provide more thorough validation. Developers can update and locate issues before the release is publicly available. Additionally, when incorporated with an automated release process, it is a perfect combination to establish a seamless and mechanized pipeline.

With the releases available in the staging environment, continuous delivery allows developers to release at any rate of their choice, within a single push of a button. That means the decision to initiate a release must be made by a human, and only after that does continuous delivery takes place.

What is Continuous Deployment?

Continuous deployment takes a further step from continuous delivery. It is a software engineering practice that ensures code changes are continuously released into the production environment. The goal is to release a new version whenever developers make changes and automatically get those changes to the end-users. 

This is the ultimate goal of software development companies. Your company’s development and IT teams must properly prepare to tackle implementing continuous deployment as well as preparing production-ready environments and appropriate practices to make sure the live environment is up to par. 

In continuous deployment, codes are run and maintained in a simulated environment, ensuring that the ultimate quality is taken into consideration. Real-time monitoring of the live environment is also a requirement to keep track of any arising issues and resolve them quickly. 

Continuous Delivery vs Continuous Deployment: Key Differences

Simply put, Continuous Delivery focuses on ensuring software is always release-ready with manual approval, while Continuous Deployment automates the release process, deploying changes to production automatically once tests pass.

An interesting question commonly asked is what CD in CI/CD mean - does it stand for deployment or delivery? Well, the answer is both. Depending on the existing workflow and requirements, QA teams would pick the practice that best fits them and their product. 

Continuous delivery is the best choice for companies that want to take control and be the last filter before new releases are deployed to the end-users. This practice also allows businesses to operate in a more regulated way: automatically test the final product with automation testing tools, then have it manually revised by the Quality Assurance (QA) team.

Continuous deployment can be considered a special case of continuous delivery. In this practice, the team must ensure the builds passed all tests and that the test suites are good enough to qualify builds and automatically deploy them.

Both continuous deployment and continuous delivery depend on real-time infrastructure and application monitoring tools to maintain the product and uncover any issues that had not been found before release. 

Continuously testing and monitoring the product and incorporating new releases into tests is the ultimate aspect of quality control that any successful product needs. 

Continuous Delivery vs Continuous Deployment Table Comparison

 

Continuous Deployment

Continuous Delivery

Definition

The practice of automatically releasing changes to production once they pass automated tests and quality checks.

The practice of ensuring that software is always ready for release by automating the build, testing, and deployment processes.

For Whom?

Organizations that release new features on a daily and hourly basis.

Organizations that want to stage new features and releases on a frequent schedule

Automation Effort

Requires a high degree of automation to ensure that changes are automatically deployed to production without human intervention

Also requires automation but allows for manual approval/coordination

Release Frequency

Frequently, often multiple times a day.

Regularly, typically scheduled intervals.

Scope of Deployment

Entire application or system.

Can be a subset of features or components of the application.

Risk Management

Requires robust automated testing and quality assurance processes to minimize the risk of bugs or issues in production.

Emphasizes rigorous testing and quality assurance, but allows for manual intervention if required.

Customer Feedback

Enables faster feedback loops from users as changes are deployed quickly.

Feedback loops may be slower as releases are controlled and scheduled.

Rollback Capability

Easy to roll back changes as the process is automated.

Rollbacks may require manual intervention or coordination.

Team Collaboration

Close collaboration between developers, testers, and operations teams is crucial for rapid and seamless deployment.

Collaboration is still important, but the process allows for more coordination and validation.

Adoption Complexity

Requires a mature and well-automated development and deployment infrastructure.

Easier to adopt, as it allows organizations to gradually automate their release processes.

Organizational Readiness

Requires a culture of trust, collaboration, and strong DevOps practices.

Requires a focus on automation, continuous improvement, and Agile methodologies.

Use Cases

Ideal for organizations with a high demand for rapid changes and innovation, such as web-based applications or SaaS products.

Suitable for organizations with regular release cycles and a focus on stability and reliability.

Benefits Of Continuous Delivery

Continuous delivery ensures that releases are completed on a regular basis in smaller chunks. Even if the end users do not notice the significant changes, releasing on a smaller scale several times a day is often more effective than a giant release on a weekly or even longer timescale.  

End users are more receptive to small changes than large ones. These smaller changes are also more stable, reliable, and controllable. 

Failed test cases can arise at any level and environment. Therefore, the CI/CD pipeline must include a feedback channel to report failures to developers quickly. These feedback loops must be as short as possible to compete against the steady stream of releases. Developers can then put the failed tests into the backlog to repair at a later sprint — or if the failure is critical, repair right away. Quick responses to critical failures is a key benefit of implementing a CI/CD pipeline into every development lifecycle. 

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Benefits Of Continuous Deployment

Successful continuous deployment happens when teams rely on an automated infrastructure to ensure each part of the deployment is achieved in a quick and reliable manner. Manual testing is not an option in continuous deployment as it slows down the process and overall not always as efficient compared to automated testing. 

Continuous deployment allows teams to commit to a fully automated pipeline, including deploying to production. By automatically pushing new releases into production, the team will no longer have to worry about “big releases” and receiving feedback directly from the users’ end on the product.

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Continuous Deployment vs Continuous Delivery vs Continuous Integration

Continuous Delivery vs Continuous Deployment

Another related concept is Continuous Integration, which involves merging code changes from multiple developers into a shared repository frequently and automatically, followed by running automated tests to detect integration issues and ensure the codebase remains in a consistent and functional state.

A typical CI/CD pipeline begins with this continuous integration process, ensuring that the code can be continuously tested and developers are not duplicating efforts from other developers and that the integration into the codebase happens more smoothly. 

After the continuous integration phase, the production moves on to continuous delivery and finally deployment. The code changes will go through multiple fixes and feedback before being pushed into a production-like environment., whereas in continuous delivery, the team decides what and when to deploy new updates to the customers. 

The deployment process can take a step further with continuous deployment — completely free of human interference. These two concepts do not share the same definition, yet they have a mutual goal of automating and streamlining the development process. Sometimes, continuous delivery is combined with continuous deployment to exploit the benefits from both practices to the fullest. 

See why Continuous Integration & Continuous Delivery is also as important here.

Continuous Delivery vs Deployment – CI/CD done right with Katalon Studio

Whether your team integrates continuous delivery or continuous deployment into the CI/CD pipeline, both are great practices to ensure your team always stays up to date on releases and keeps the customers happy. 

From planning to building out the code implementation, the most important part is to test the pipeline continuously and thoroughly. Then the workflow moves on to release the code to production, deploy the changes to the live environment, operating and monitoring the release to note any elements that should be fixed or upgraded. 

Built on top of Selenium and Appium, Katalon Studio is a comprehensive continuous testing solution that addresses the sharp demand test automation in CI/CD and DevOps.
Katalon Studio supports web, API, mobile, and desktop applications testing across Windows, macOS, and Linux operating systems. It is a unified set of features from recording test steps, executing test cases to providing infrastructure, analytics report and CI/CD integration.

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