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How to Achieve True Continuous Delivery

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There’s a lot of pressure around just about any holiday. Is the turkey cooked perfectly on Thanksgiving, right in time for the whole family to sit down? Did Cousin Jeffrey get into the fireworks again when you looked away on the Fourth of July? And don’t even get us started on delivering presents to every boy and girl on Earth in one day. No thank you!

Wouldn’t it be easier to do those jobs simpler, speedier and worry-free?

That’s what developers are always saying and why they’re doing things differently through continuous delivery.

What Is Continuous Delivery?

Chances are you’ve been told to “work smarter, not harder.” But how about faster?

Continuous delivery (CD) allows for just that.

There are three ways to implement CD:

  1. Containerizing: Breaking a large development project into smaller pieces.
  2. Automatic Deployment Pipelines: Automating the delivery process and deploying features in small but frequent increments.
  3. Feature Flags: Choosing between different code paths in your system, toggling features on and off, and then pushing different iterations into release.

These methods aren’t mutually exclusive; you might already containerize or automate. Regardless of where you’re at, feature flags will help you take it up a notch. Why? Because feature flags deepen the benefits continuous delivery provides, helping you move even faster and take greater control over your releases.

Automate, Automate, Automate

Continuous delivery relies on having automation in place. The flip side? Developers who need to manually run tests and deployments to keep code fit for release won’t be able to deliver new code and features to users daily or more often.

Feature flags allow developers to speed up the process. By applying an “if/else” control to code, feature flags streamline deploying multiple software iterations without incident.

If any bugs or issues arise when you release new updates, feature flags give you the fastest and most effective solution to your release.

Deliver With Speed, Safety and Sureness

Like a guy or gal driving a big brown truck, all developers want to deliver faster, better, and safer.

Feature flags give developers a speed boost and a kill switch, but they also give teams the flexibility to test, deploy, and release at will by decoupling deploy from release.

Here’s how to do it:

  1. Deploy the feature to production, turning on access only for internal users.
  2. Perform a controlled test among beta and early access users to verify the feature’s performance.
  3. Conduct a canary release, deploying the feature for just 5—10% of your user base.
  4. Run an A/B test to understand better how your new feature affects user behavior.
  5. With this insight, release the feature more broadly or press the kill switch and refine it further.

By decoupling deployment from release and powering controlled rollouts, feature flags contribute three Big S’s to your software delivery process: Speed, Safety, and Sureness.

Read more about continuous delivery by downloading our O’Reilly eBook: Continuous Delivery in the Wild

Get a Major Return on Your Investment With Feature Flags

What a release: With feature flags, you reduce environment costs, lower costs per release, and you can release more features, more frequently.

Feature flags are certainly powerful on their own, but there is a way to make them more effective: layering in behavior and performance data. Ultimately, this contributes to an even more mature version of continuous delivery.

Heightened visibility goes a long way. These metrics let you make faster and better product decisions, clearing the path for successful experiments as you test new features and tweaks. And if a new feature ever causes performance degradation, metrics will improve your detection and recovery efforts by alerting you to the problem. This means engineers no longer have to spend time investigating and isolating the root cause of performance issues; just press the relevant kill switch and take care of it.

Use Split to Take Care of It All

This is what the future of continuous delivery looks like: using feature flags to run controlled experiments, measure the impact each change has on your users, refine your features further, and release the best versions faster. Split’s feature delivery platform has everything you need to get there, from testing to alerting, as well as analytics and integrations.

Here are a couple of stats to chew upon: Split’s customers have used feature flags to release 50x faster and reduce 95% of engineering time per release.

To recap: Operational costs DOWN, business risk DOWN, engineering efficiency UP.

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Switch It On With Split

Split gives product development teams the confidence to release features that matter faster. It’s the only feature management and experimentation platform that automatically attributes data-driven insight to every feature that’s released—all while enabling astoundingly easy deployment, profound risk reduction, and better visibility across teams. Split offers more than a platform: It offers partnership. By sticking with customers every step of the way, Split illuminates the path toward continuous improvement and timely innovation. Switch on a free account today, schedule a demo to learn more, or contact us for further questions and support.

Want to Dive Deeper?

We have a lot to explore that can help you understand feature flags. Learn more about benefits, use cases, and real world applications that you can try.

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