Beyond Continuous Integration … Continuous Deployment at IMVU and a tale from Pirum

I’ve just finished reading an excellent article on Continuous Deployment. This is the way of the future. Now that Continuous Integration has become (almost) mainstream and as expectations for services to be “always on” becomes the norm, the interest and demand for practices such as Continuous Deployment (CD) will increase. With CD, the cost of rolling out an update is very nearly zero* because deployment and releasing is fully automated.

I first had a discussion about Continuous Deployment with Rupert Perry the CEO of Pirum Systems. Rupert is a first rate developer and wrote the first version of their systems with the CTO. While we were discussing some of the advantages of Continuous Deployment, Rupert told me a story. He was in a clients office trying to make a sale and was demonstrating the live system to the potential clients. The client wanted to sort by a particular column. Not having worked directly on that particular function, Rupert said “Let’s try it.”

The function failed … but here is where the story becomes interesting. The developers who were monitoring the system noticed the failed function. It wasn’t a lot of work on fix the problem, so they coded, tested and deployed a solution. Knowing that Rupert was seeing a client they gave him a call and asked him to demonstrate the function again, which he did successfully. The elapsed time for all this was in the order of 15 minutes to 20 minutes.

Oh, and Rupert made the sale!!

* It’s not quite zero because there’s a cost involved in initially building and configuring the CD system.

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8 thoughts on “Beyond Continuous Integration … Continuous Deployment at IMVU and a tale from Pirum

  1. Great story! And I think this is a great insight: “as expectations for services to be “always on” becomes the norm, the interest and demand for practices such as Continuous Deployment (CD) will increase.”

    (And chance you’ll make it to CITCON? It is a good place for this kind of story.)

  2. @Harald, In theory, Yes. In practice, No.

    There are many intermediate steps that need to happen before Continuous Deployment makes sense: there needs to be robust CI, a solid set of unit and functional test, and a test environment that substantially close to the production environment. All this takes a lot of discipline and hard work.

    At the moment there are probably 5* companies world wide that can do this.

    Don’t get me wrong, I think it’s definitely a goal that companies should aim for. There is, however, much work than needs to be done before most companies can even get to stage 1 (ie. robust Continuous Integration).

    *This is a total guess … and it’s probably on the high side. =)

  3. @timothyfitz, funny you should mention that. I’ve been reading that blog without realizing that there was a connection!

    Thanks for mentioning it.

  4. In practice that’s where I see the shortcomings of Scrum. Where it starts and where it ends it doesn’t really flow. Scrum focuses mostly on the software development process but without an organization which adapts and supports the idea of lean manufacturing, it is just an agile island in the wild sea. Including what is usually knows as operations and the process of deployment is an important next step. We are working on it.

  5. @Harald, I would agree with you … but within some limits which I’ve noted below.

    >Scrum focuses mostly on the software development process …

    There is nothing within Scrum that limits you to software development. Certainly that is it’s historical roots, so a large part of the current literature talks about Scrum in this context. However, Scrum can (and is), being applied to whole organizations*.

    The whole organization approach does indeed provide a much better sense of flow (as you’ve mentioned).

    >without an organization which adapts and supports the idea of lean manufacturing, it is just an agile island in the wild sea.

    I would agree that organizational support for Scrum is absolutely very important. Whether it’s a Lean Organization or a Scrum Organization is, from my point of view, just a variation on a theme. Both approaches have benefits and both bring something valuable.

    [* Probably the most high-profile set of companies that are using Scrum at the organizational level, are those funded by OpenView Partners:

    http://www.openviewpartners.com/portfolio/index.html

    This is a VC which is advised by Jeff Sutherland.]

  6. James Shore said that short iterations are the dessert, the reward, of the xp practices.

    Continuous Deployment is clearly the dessert of making a serious and consistent effort in your testing and automation infrastructure.

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