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The Complete Suite of Continuous Delivery Tools

Dan Holloran March 03, 2020

DevOps Collaboration Release
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Continuous delivery and integration (CI/CD) workflows were just an approach to software engineering just a few years ago. But, the increased adoption of DevOps in engineering organizations is also showcasing the business value of continuous delivery and integration. Over the years, more and more tools have been developed, helping release managers, IT managers, security analysts, QA testers, and software engineers of all levels to maintain fast, resilient CI/CD pipelines.

With the right suite of continuous delivery tools at your disposal, you can plan, build, test, deploy and maintain applications and services faster and faster – all with reliability in mind. CI/CD is helping customers realize the value of software products and services faster than ever before and allowing developers to build out improvements rapidly. Advancements in machine learning and automation are shortening the software delivery lifecycle (SDLC), tightening feedback loops between developers and operations teams, and

Tools and software are only part of the CI/CD equation. So, it’s important to understand how these tools impact an engineering’s team productivity and the costs and benefits associated with each tool. So, we’re serving up the DevOps-first suite for continuous delivery tools right here:

Tools for continuous software delivery and deployment automation

An efficient system of software delivery, testing and deployment will rely heavily on transparent, collaborative human workflows working closely with automation and machine learning tools. While most engineers in DevOps and IT think about CI/CD in terms of release and deployment, the process of managing production systems are often forgotten. But, in DevOps, you can’t just talk about CI/CD in terms of development. You can’t simply allow software engineers to throw code over the proverbial wall where IT operations teams have to handle the developer’s code in production.

Continuous delivery in the eyes of customers includes the reliable delivery of value through your service’s functionality. If a certain important part of your service doesn’t work once it’s in the hands of customers, then you haven’t completed the full CI/CD lifecycle. So, in our list of continuous delivery tools, we’ll look at everything you need from version control and configuration management to on-call alerting and monitoring solutions for reliable DevOps and IT operations.

Git version control and source code control

Teams are commonly using Git alongside source code control tools like GitHub, GitLab or Bitbucket to manage the team’s deployment pipelines and ensure constant code delivery. Git and all of these associated source code control tools provide an avenue for transparency and collaboration throughout the entire software development and testing process. At this point, Git is used by not only efficient DevOps and IT teams, but it’s used by pretty much every development and operations team. Git is a standard tool across engineering and IT teams for version control and source control – helping drive the continuous delivery of reliable applications and services.

Creating a Culture of Reliability

Open-source CI/CD tools

On top of Git, you need a number of configuration management, IT orchestration and automation tools to facilitate a constant flow of work through your software delivery lifecycle. Continuous delivery relies heavily on workflow orchestration and automation tools to give developers and IT professionals more time focusing on future developments. The following tools are highly effective at eliminating manual work and reducing the opportunity cost associated with developers and sysadmins spending time on this manual work. And, the best news is, all of these tools are open-sourced:

Jenkins serves as an extensible automation server and allows DevOps and IT teams with a way to build out a CI/CD process as simple or complex as desired. The software is easy to install and configure, helping teams quickly find value from the tool. With Jenkins, teams can build, deploy and automate nearly any project and configure nearly any system to their whim.

Ansible’s IT automation drives repeatable processes and allows for faster configurations and deployments. Developers and sysadmins alike can use Ansible to set up, provision and deploy applications and services, on top of nearly any infrastructure or network configuration, faster and more reliably than ever before. With improved automation and configuration management with Ansible, you can break down silos between developers and operations teams to encourage a more powerful DevOps culture as well.

Spinnaker’s slogan says it all, “Fast, safe, repeatable deployments for every Enterprise.” The key word being, repeatable. This application and infrastructure automation allows for higher velocity software delivery while reducing the risk of failed releases and deployments. Spinnaker offers up a lot of flexibility by working across multi-cloud environments and servicing a large number of integrations across all major cloud providers.

Through robust infrastructure automation, Puppet allows for rapid configuration management and faster delivery of nearly any service. Puppet works for nearly any type of architecture – monolithic, microservices, multi-cloud, etc. Puppet helps automate continuous delivery, configuration management, compliance and incident management – leading to optimized processes across all aspects of the CI/CD pipeline.

Like the other tools above, Chef is open-source and automates CI/CD workflows for application delivery, compliance and infrastructure configuration. In nearly any environment, Chef allows you to automate tedious manual processes and give developers more time to do what they love – write code.

Release management, monitoring and observability software

All of the above tools lead to an improved release management process. Faster planning, building, testing and deployment is leading to more reliable releases without as much manual work. But, what happens once these applications and services reach production? Now, DevOps and IT engineers need to build out a robust monitoring and observability stack on top of their IT automation, release management and deployment tools and workflows.

Application performance monitoring (APM), synthetic monitoring, real-user monitoring, server monitoring, error monitoring, network monitoring, log monitoring, distributed tracing, and so much more will contribute to a service’s overall observability. Depending on the type of application or product you support, the mix of monitoring tools and observability features will differ. But, at a high-level, every team should think about collecting, analyzing and acting upon some combination of the main three pillars of monitoring – metrics, traces and logs.

Tools like New Relic, AppDynamics, Splunk, SignalFx, Pingdom, Catchpoint, Raygun, etc. will drive to real-time insights about what’s going on in your system and how you should respond. Once you know there’s something wrong and you’ve identified a way to act upon the information, you need a dedicated tool for mobilizing responders and remediating incidents.

On-call alerting and incident response lifecycle workflow orchestration

In 2020, disparate on-call scheduling, alert automation and incident collaboration tools just won’t do. VictorOps, and software like it, is a single source of truth for humans looking to interact with their systems. By managing on-call schedules and automated alert rules in one place, incident responders can be notified of major incidents faster, with context and remediation tools at their disposal, leading to more collaborative workflows and faster incident resolution. It’s unfair to look at CI/CD as just the software development and deployment process – you need to include incident management and real-time response in that equation. Because, if you don’t deliver services to production with uptime in mind, no matter how quickly you push features, customers won’t see the value and will just be frustrated. So, it’s important to look at CI/CD with not just speed in mind but also reliability – all the way through to production.

Optimizing DevOps processes for collaboration and transparency

One of the most important tools in continuous delivery isn’t software at all – it’s your approach to software development and IT operations. By adopting a culture of DevOps focused on collaboration and transparency, you’ll enhance continuous delivery processes exponentially. The better you are at bringing together developers and operations teams, the more efficient you’ll be at shipping reliable code. Tools aren’t an end-all-be-all solution to continuous delivery problems – but they can certainly help when you already have the proper DevOps workflows in place.

The complete landscape and toolbox for continuous delivery

Continuous delivery is so much more than a toolkit for programming, testing, QA, monitoring and alerting, etc. Continuous delivery relies on the adoption of a DevOps mindset and the implementation of collaborative workflows for developers and IT practitioners. The full suite of continuous delivery tools doesn’t contain software alone – the suite relies on a general approach to software development and IT operations. There isn’t one set of continuous delivery tools that works for everyone. Just ensure you outfit your team with a toolbox that enhances the collaborative nature of your team and encourages optimized DevOps practices.


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