The Deployment maturity model

A long time ago I came across the Personal Threading Maturity Model and I still keep referring back to it as a measure of how much further I have to go. Today however, it struck me that I probably could do with some other yardsticks to show how far off nirvana some of things I’m doing really are. With that in mind I present the Deployment Maturity Model, my take on how things often work, how I can see them working if I really push, and how things work in organisations that get it.

Unaware

Uses manual deployment strategy such as xcopy/ad-hoc SQL to change what they want where they want. Usually the production deployment is a bespoke process that is never practiced in advance in other environments. This unfortunately makes them time consuming and error prone.

Authorisation/Sign off and security are totally incidental. Sometimes they are considered, but only the personal high standards of good developer practices prevents them from being abused.

Post-release testing is achieved by manually using the production system and confirming the new functionality. Rollback is achieved by taking a backup copy at the start of the release, and/or providing SQL rollback scripts.

Casual

Introduction of packages, such as MSIs, that ensures that some components of a deployment can be upgraded as a single unit, such as application + shared dlls. However for multi-tier applications the other tiers are commonly tightly coupled with these changes, e.g. database updates, so they require downtime and synchronization between tiers. Packages can be deployed in Dev, test and production, but often require additional manual interaction such as switching back end tier or service connections and changes to database.

Authorisation to release is always considered at this level with external RFC/Change management systems being the norm, but security/the ability to release to production is still often in the hands of the developer. Post-release testing is still manual. Rollback can now be achieved in part by redeploying the previous version packages, although a common problem is that ad-hoc changes have been made to configuration files, which need to be re-applied or manually backed up before the release occurs.

Rigid

Begin use of deployment management software. Software ensures that all components of a release are released at the same time. Releases happen much faster and more reliably as process is automated and consistent process is used across development, test and production environments. Configuration should be a product of the deployment process, so values are injected during release to associate tiers/services together. All ad-hoc production changes should be banned.

Security is now locked down, with no write-access to production for developers being the norm. Tools however are still not joined up between tracking the changes included e.g. Jira, gathering authorisation e.g. Remedy and performing the release e.g. OctopusDeploy. Down time is reduced as releases can be staggered within tiers. Strategies such as load balancing used to keep application constantly available while individual services are rotated out of service for upgrade.

Rollback is by re-releasing the previous version. Testing should also change to use automated test packs that can be run as soon as new environments are available primarily in test environments, but also with shakedown packs that can be run in production post release.

Flexible

Additional opportunities to utilise infrastructure are employed due to the ease at which deployments can now be achieved. Opportunities to create multiple instances of a tier or service are used, so that current and previous versions are always available, e.g. direct certain clients to new front end, or point certain servers to new back end services.

Applications and services are written to support switch on/off new features for subsets of usage e.g. per client, or redirect to alternate service instances, i.e. switch on of new version is runtime application setting change, not a deployment.

Deployment tools now starts to link up, and orchestration of how/when to perform the release becoming an additional feature. Some systems may even allow you to define the future state of your environment, and let the software work out which pieces need releasing.

Release testing can now be performed in production with pilot subsets in advance of migrating true production processing on to it, and releases then staggered by moving subsets over at a time. Rollback is now trivial by using instance of service that is still on previous version and which remains live until later decommissioning.

Optimising

Support for change of services and tiers embraced across entire architecture. Infrastructure fully utilised to support multiple versions of service instances and ensure balanced load. Since release process is proven and trivial, continuous deployment should be used to automatically deploy every candidate release that meets quality gates to production so that change is incremental. Load-balancing used heavily so that release downtime is zero, and impact from release, e.g. load performance, is negligible.

Deployment tools need to be completely joined up or face irrelevance, e.g Authorisation to release simply becomes one of the quality gates leading to automated release, and with a good testing framework, could be automatically given if the criteria for acceptance can be defined and verified electronically.

Rollback happens automatically should issues be detected. Roll forwards is as trivial as it can be.

Some links

If you read only one link, start with this one http://timothyfitz.com/2009/02/10/continuous-deployment-at-imvu-doing-the-impossible-fifty-times-a-day/

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