If your business has adopted DevOps, then you understand the importance of continuous delivery as part of the software development feedback loop. Continuous Delivery works in tandem with Continuous Implementation to ensure prompt, error-free code release to keep end users happy with your software or website.
Read more: Key DevOps Principles and Practices for Success
There is a lot to consider when selecting a continuous delivery tool. Here are some of the top performers.
Best continuous delivery tools
Trusted by well-known companies, such as Stitch Fix and Spotify, CircleCI is a continuous delivery tool that integrates seamlessly with existing applications and services, such as Azure and Slack (full list of integrations here). It also integrates with your continuous integration process, creating a pipeline as soon as you commit code to your repository. Speaking of which, CircleCI easily integrates with GitHub and other repositories.
CircleCI is the most popular among small and medium businesses. To that end, its capabilities are customizable and scalable to suit your industry and size. For example, customers have the option of hosting in CircleCI’s cloud or on their own infrastructure. In any case, CircleCI users can also be assured that their code is secured.
To save time, CircleCI offers reusable and shareable configurations as code and a dashboard, CircleCI Perspectives. With this tool, users can monitor pipeline optimization and project releases in terms of status, duration, and test results. Note, however, that the Insights dashboard is not real-time; it may take up to 24 hours to see the changes.
CloudBees CD is a continuous delivery tool that offers an impressive suite of Dashboards, so you can view the data from different angles. Popular among midsize and large enterprises, CloudBees CD provides real-time data on deployment status, frequency, throughput, and duration. If something goes wrong, its monitoring capabilities through the Workload Insights dashboard allow for easy recovery.
For testing purposes, CloudBeesCD allows you to test in production-grade environments to preview changes and view test results in its Release Command Center.
Fully integrated with the Salesforce platform, Flosum is an all-in-one native DevOps solution that supports version control, security, continuous deployment, and more. Although based on Salesforce, it integrates with other external tools that you use on a daily basis, such as Git and JIRA. However, since its CI / CD tool is part of the larger platform, check that your current tools do not overlap too much with what is already included in Flosum.
A unique feature of Flosum is that it supports 15 different languages. So if you are running a multinational company, Flosum is linguistically accessible to users all over the world. In addition, it is user-friendly; developers as well as administrators will find Flosum quite easy to use.
GitHub is a cloud-based repository where developers can store, manage, track, and control changes to their code in open source or private code spaces. It promotes collaborative coding and version control, so developers can be assigned code reviews and work on the same version at the same time. GitHub’s API integrations provide flexibility for users in terms of customizing workflows and logging into GitHub on mobile or desktop devices.
It proactively checks the code for errors and vulnerabilities before committing it to the repository. For added security, you can manage the code in a private repository. While GitHub offers deployment, API, and security audit logs, it lacks analytical dashboards and isn’t as user-friendly as the other options. However, GitHub is popular across the board, from SMBs to businesses, which is a testament to its ability to scale and adapt to your business needs.
GitLab is an open source based DevOps platform in a single application for a more streamlined toolchain and centralized control over the SDLC. Its centralized, streamlined approach and focus on core DevOps functions, namely CD / CI, make GitLab a great choice for SMBs. GitLab does the heavy lifting after developers commit the code to the repository by automatically testing, securing, and monitoring the code.
This unique and user-friendly hub optimizes workflows and is conducive to collaborative builds where not only developers but also administrators and designers can contribute. Given the many features GitLab has on its platform, your business can easily slip into the functionality slide, but its users appreciate its ease of use.
Harness is a Continuous Delivery as a Service (CDaaS) module that uses machine learning to simplify SDLC in a safe, predictable and sustainable manner. It includes user-friendly logs and dashboards, with pipeline visualization, to oversee the entire CI / CD process. Users can estimate turnaround time, change failure rate, etc.
Harness also has a monitoring tool that allows easy rollback if needed. Used primarily in mid-size businesses and enterprises, Harness users appreciate that it gives engineers more control over their own versions.
Used primarily in mid-size businesses and enterprises, Jenkins is available as a CI server, or can be extended to support and automate your CD process as well. In fact, users love how it automates and simplifies the CI / CD process. Jenkins integrates with a wide variety of external tools, but beware of tool creep and compatibility.
Integrating Jenkins with too many external tools can cause upgrade issues. Additionally, make sure Jenkins supports the version of external tools you are using. A main drawback of Jenkins is that its user experience is not as pleasant or intuitive as some other tools on the market.
Semaphore is a high performing niche tool in the SMB landscape that automatically tests code with Docker, Kubernetes, or one of its other preinstalled tools, after validating the code on GitHub or whatever repository you choose. Semaphore offers workflow visualization and allows you to create custom dashboards to track metrics important to your DevOps.
However, the dashboards that can be created on Semaphore may be developer-centric and not as intuitive to other DevOps stakeholders, such as management, who want the big picture of the pipeline. That said, users love Semaphore’s interface and pipeline visualization, as well as its easy-to-read logs.
Factors to Consider When Choosing a Continuous Delivery Tool
UI / UX
Think about who is actually using the continuous delivery tool and consider their user experience. Adopting good DevOps practices means that a variety of stakeholders are involved at every step of your SDLC value chain. You would want an easy-to-use CD tool, whether that user is a developer, engineer, administrator, or high-level executive. In this regard, take a look at the dashboards, if available, and browse the reviews to see if frequent UI / UX mentions appear.
API / Integrations
If you’re only looking for a CD tool, rather than a full DevOps platform, make sure that the CD tool you choose will integrate seamlessly with other apps you use. Also check that you will not have any overlapping tools.
Test-driven development models are important because the code must be error-free to satisfy end users. Developers should be able to submit code changes to a repository which, in turn, triggers basic unit testing or complex end-to-end testing in any environment. The tests don’t necessarily need to be automated either. It can be carried out as needed.
Easy monitoring and recovery
The more your continuous delivery tool can do for your DevOps team, the better. This includes monitoring for bugs in deployments, alerting you to any bugs that occur, and maybe even fixing the bug on its own without human intervention.
If remediation without human intervention is not possible in your environment, some tools automatically revert to a previous version while providing end users with a seamless UX.
Version control is directly related to rollback, not only to revert to a previous artifact, but also to promote collaborative coding without confusion.
Read more: Continuous delivery vs deployment: what are the main differences?
Benefits of using continuous delivery tools
When you use a continuous delivery tool, you reduce or eliminate bottlenecks in SDLC by automating what were previously manual tasks. Developers don’t have to wait for their code or changes to be reviewed and approved, creating a smoother pipeline from development to deployment.
With continuous delivery tools, you can deliver better applications to end users and meet their evolving needs with small, frequent updates that improve application performance, functionality, and overall user experience.
Reduce the risks
With built-in automated testing, continuous delivery tools reduce the risks associated with coding errors and passing bugs to the end user, which could result in lost revenue, potential fines, or litigation.
Choosing the right continuous delivery tool
There are several different options and features to consider when choosing a continuous delivery tool, and it will all depend on what type (s) of software you are developing and for which industry. There is no one-size-fits-all solution to choosing the perfect continuous delivery tool to meet your business needs, but it should definitely make your SLCD transparent and drama-free. Be sure to explore features like automation, integration, and user-friendly interfaces, to name a few.
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