Saturday, August 5, 2017

Don't ignore the 'Core' in Continuous Delivery

You see, I'm a person who loves to write code, travel around the world, take nice pictures and eat!!! But nothing less than that, I also enjoy running (especially in the morning!!!, ). It's amazing to have that feeling of the fresh air, smell of the grass and sense the muscles working while observing the surroundings. My running helps me to do my job better because it helps clear my mind, relieves stress and builds a lot of confidence. Its provides me with those moments with great ideas and solutions to most of the problems you have at work or life. By the time you finish running, you have already set up the goal for the day with a certain amount of clarity about the activities that you have to do.

The more I started running, the more I loved challenging myself with those extra miles and pace. But with my overgrowing excitement, I was making the obvious mistake.. I was running too much, too soon, too fast. While doing so, I forgot about the "little things" that help stay healthy and flexible. I started getting injuries, my hips and hamstrings were always tight. I was breaking down with back pain and injuries. I knew I was doing something wrong and it was time to get an expert advice. Having heard the back pain story many times, the physio explained me about the importance of 'Core' muscles and the exercises to do that would strengthen my muscles and improve my core stability. He suggested doing squats, swimming, pull ups, crunches etc. So I decided to give my running a break and focus on core building. It felt a bit off in the gym doing all those non equipment exercises while everyone else was lifting those 20/30 kg dumbbells, but a month after training, I started noticing the difference. I felt more stronger with increased muscle mass, my posture was better, lost some body fat and I was more agile!!! I started running again and this time I noticed the difference immediately. My core helped me to maintain an efficient running form  helping with better stability, balance, posture and overall control.

In short, lesson learnt from my running experience. "Ignoring core strength in your training program may look like working for a short term, but is a recipe for long-term disaster. Lack of core-strength and flexibility causes your body to find a path of resistance towards running or cause the body to adapt in a negative fashion that will most likely lead to complex injuries!!!"

Well how does this relate to continuous delivery and DevOps? The answer is , before immediately adopting a CD tool and start working on the pipeline, you should prepare the teams and the organization with the core of continuous delivery. The core practices like version control, build automation, test automation and continuous integration increases software process agility and helps create an organizational culture and structure to fully embrace CD.

In this post, I’ll describe some of the core practices of continuous delivery  that helps delivering software feature more frequently and reliably. 

Version control everything

Putting everything in version control (source code, build scripts, test scripts and data setup, monitoring scripts etc.) This helps in keeping track and control everything. Keeping track of the changes gives the flexibility of undo or replay any changes easily in all environments including production. You can also understand who made a change and why. Version controlling also creates the first level of built-in safety net, preventing any out of process, locally made changes or manual overrides from entering the production environment. Every change a developer makes must in the source control, any failure to do so will be overridden in the next deployment if not present in the source control.

Practice TDD

TDD is a software development approach where the development of code is driven by first writing an automated test case, followed by writing the code to fulfill the test and then refactoring. With continuous delivery, it’s very important to have the tests pushed into source control along with the implementation code. This helps in ensuring that every new code pushed will be tested in the same build process. This eliminates the risk of delivering to production the code that does not meet quality requirements.

These automated tests helps identify errors in a really short period of time. These tests give developers very fast feedback when something breaks. These tests are also called change detectors. When you make a change, the tests will detect very soon if there are any problems or mistakes. With continuous delivery organizations need the have the ability to make frequent releases of their software without the risk of breaking existing features or adding new bugs. The success of the business depends on how fast it can react to changing environments and address the new improvement suggestions with assurance. Test-driven development is the methodology that makes such flexibility, maintainability, and extensibility possible.

Continuous integration

"Continuous Integration is a software development practice where members of a team integrate their work frequently, usually each person integrates at least daily - leading to multiple integrations per day. Each integration is verified by an automated build (including test) to detect integration errors as quickly as possible. Many teams find that this approach leads to significantly reduced integration problems and allows a team to develop cohesive software more rapidly." - Martin Fowler

Continuous integration process runs ensures that the tests are executed every time a change is pushed into source control and ensures that the new changes didn’t break any other parts of the software. Every push automatically triggers multiple tests. Then if one fails it’s much easier to identify where the error is and start working to fix it.

Automate everything

Automation is the heart of every successful continuous delivery transformation process and the single biggest enabler for CD. The success of continuous delivery lies in stable environments, consistent build and test process and happy releases. Automation can be used to make the release process more deterministic and to bridge the gap between development and production. Development teams can learn from operations the value of automation and how to create automation scripts to improve the overall process. Together the team is responsible for defining the desired state of the infrastructure and convert this to code. The degree to which your organization can achieve successful one click deployment process that can be initiated by anyone whenever needed depends on the level of automation at every stage. At the processes like code analysis, testing, environment provisioning, defect detection and prevention at all stages should be automated. Any manual tasks should be treated as technical debt and later picked up as part of the sprint and addressed.

Test automation

The key to building quality into our software is making sure we can get fast feedback on the impact of changes. Test automation can automate some repetitive but necessary tasks in a formalized testing process already in place, or perform additional testing that would be difficult to do manually. Companies adopting continuous delivery should ensure that when issues are identified they can be managed and resolved quickly and definitively. The easiest and effective way to achieve this is by having an automated test suite incorporated in the release pipeline and CI process. This kind of a process where automated regression, performance and security tests are constantly executed as part of the deployment strategy helps identify issues early and deal with them before they reach the later stages of the deployment cycle/pipeline.

Monitor and measure everything

Proper and effective monitoring of the entire process and environments is important to provide crucial information that ensure service uptime and optimal performance. It's important to measure the progress of the approach to know whether teams are improving or making progress. With the support of proper data and metrics, it’s easy for teams to inspect the current way of working and come up with ideas or processes to improve the overall CD/ DevOps movement. Measuring the current capabilities and process helps teams determine the problem areas and defined focus points for making a change.

An important DevOps practice is to work with application monitoring and insights to enable full end-to-end traceability in a product to provide both operational insights and  usage understanding

Keep focus on these core practices and move forward with your continuous delivery journey!!!
….to satisfy the customer through early and continuous delivery of valuable software” - #1 of the twelve principles behind the agile manifesto.