Guest post originally published on Ozone’s blog by Amina Reshma

Welcome to a comprehensive guide to mastering deployment strategies! Deploying software across multiple infrastructures and regions can be complicated, with a risk of downtime, performance issues, and data loss. However, the proper deployment plan may reduce risk and guarantee a seamless changeover from development to production. We’ll delve deeply into the world of deployment strategies in this thorough guide, highlight the differences between them, and help you understand which strategy best suits your requirements. 

We’ll start by explaining the need for such deployment strategies and proceed to examine blue-green and canary deployments, two of the most widely used tactics, along with a few others. You’ll discover how these strategies function, their advantages, and how to use them successfully. 

Deployment Strategies and Their Importance in Software Development

Software development is a multi-step, multi-phase process from planning and design to testing and deployment. Since it involves the actual distribution of the product to the end users, deployment, in particular, is a significant stage in the software development life cycle. Yet, software deployment can be complex because of many unknowns and hazards.

What are Some of The Most Popular Deployment Strategies?

  1. Canary Deployment

The name is derived from the practice of releasing flocks of canaries into unknown tunnels of a coal mine and following their sounds. Should they suddenly cease, it would be due to poisonous gasses, indicating they are inhospitable. Similarly, in canary deployments, the changes are released to a small section of the user group rather than the whole user base just to shield them from any failures from the changes. 

The small user base serves as a “canary” to identify potential issues before fully deploying the new code changes. This strategy lowers the chance that the system will fail and enables you to get user feedback and make any necessary alterations before rolling it out to a larger audience.

The beauty of Canary Deployment lies in its ability to minimize risk while allowing for a smoother and more efficient deployment process. You can guarantee a smooth transition without interfering with user experience by starting small and gradually increasing the number of users who receive the new code changes. A game-changer in the industry, this method has been widely embraced by software development teams worldwide. 

  1. Blue/Green Deployment

This method involves setting up two identical production environments, Blue and Green, with one acting as the active environment with all the current users while the other is dormant. When it’s time to deploy a new application version, testing ensures everything functions as it should in the idle environment (Green). Once testing is successful, traffic is switched from the active environment (Blue) to the newly deployed version in the idle environment (Green).

This strategy protects users from any potential problems that might occur during the deployment process. Additionally, returning to the first environment (Blue) is simple and quick if something goes wrong with the deployment. The ability for businesses to seamlessly and frequently deploy new software updates is one of the exciting aspects of Blue/Green deployment. 

  1. A/B Testing

A/B testing is similar to canary deployments, which divide traffic among various versions of an application based on specific criteria. In contrast to typical canary deployments, which route users based on traffic weights, A/B testing allows targeting particular users based on cookies, user agents, or other factors.

A/B testing can unlock valuable insights for businesses looking to optimize their digital presence. It entails randomly distributing users to two or more distinct versions of a page or feature and analyzing the results to determine which version performs better. Businesses can use this method of experimentation to make data-driven decisions about how to improve their application which can result in notable increases in user engagement, conversion rates, and general customer satisfaction.

However, careful preparation, definite objectives, and readiness to refine and modify based on the findings are necessary for a successful A/B test. It takes a scientific approach and a profound understanding of user behavior and psychology; it is not just a matter of making random changes and hoping for the best.

  1. Rolling Deployment 

Rolling Deployment or Incremental Rollouts enable new features or updates to be released to a subset of servers gradually rather than all at once. Rolling deployments are similar to an orchestra, where each instrument is introduced progressively and tuned to perfection before the entire symphony(system) is played. This guarantees that each system component operates correctly and maximizes the user experience.

Although Rolling Deployment, Canary Deployment, and Blue/Green Deployment are all deployment techniques used in software development, their strategies for rolling out updates and new features vary. While canary deployment targets based on users, rolling deployment targets servers. 

Lesser Known Deployment Strategies

  1. Recreate 

Recreate is a software deployment strategy in which the current version of a program is dropped, and a new one is installed. The upgraded version creates a new set of resources, and the old ones are shut off. The key is that it offers a blank canvas on which to distribute the latest version, preventing potential problems while updating an existing collection of resources. While the new resources are being created and the old ones are being terminated, this strategy may cause some application downtime.

  1. Shadow Deployment

Shadow deployment adds new code or application upgrades while keeping the current production environment operational without harming end customers. This is accomplished by generating a shadow environment—also referred to as a duplicate of the production environment—and redirecting a tiny portion of live traffic there. Although the shadow environment is hidden from end users, it records and handles the exact requests as the production environment, enabling developers to test and keep track of new code in a live environment. 

  1. Big Bang Deployment

Big Bang Deployment replaces a complete system or application all at once instead of gradually. This strategy entails simultaneously demolishing the old system and installing the new one. This is potentially a high-risk deployment technique because problems with the new system could cause lengthy outages or data loss. Nevertheless, this method is frequently employed when the new system necessitates a thorough redesign of the old one, rendering incremental deployment impractical. Also, it is used when there is a short window of time or when both systems require expensive maintenance. Big Bang Deployment must be carefully planned and tested to be successful.

  1. Best-Effort Controlled Rollout 

When the latest version of an application is rolled out to a group of users, it’s done so with the knowledge that there might still be problems or defects that need to be fixed. With this strategy, the new version is made available to a select number of people who have consented to take part in a beta test so they may offer feedback and report any problems they run across. The new version is made available to this group with the understanding that there may be bugs and that it may not be reliable or entirely functioning. With this strategy, developers may obtain user feedback and test the new version in a real-world setting without exposing the entire user base to potential problems. 

Deployment Strategies With Ozone

Typical CI/CD platforms come with Canary or blue/green plugins that need to be manually added into the pipeline code, requiring knowledge and context in debugging. 
Ozone modernizes everything by including Tekton task templates for all your deployment strategies. All you need to do is select, drag, and drop the task while configuring your pipelines making them reusable and helping standardize deployments.

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