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Demystifying Application Deployment: A Comprehensive Guide

Nov 6, 2023

Application deployment transforms complex lines of code into a live application that is accessible to users. This blog will explain the intricacies of the application deployment process, examine deployment best practices and common pitfalls, and describe how companies have mastered the deployment process to continuously deliver high-quality, reliable applications.  

What Is the Application Deployment Process?

Software application development involves the design, development, testing, and deployment of applications. After deployment, developers, quality assurance professionals, and deployment teams gather and analyze performance data and user feedback. They use this information to create and deploy updates, continuously improving the quality and efficiency of the applications. The application deployment process refers to the specific stage during which applications and updates are made available to end users. 

Many different individuals and teams collaborate during the application deployment process. Developers design and write the code that powers the application, then deployment professionals execute the software release. DevOps professionals, meanwhile, oversee the entire software development process from design to deployment. However, the specific responsibilities expected of these individuals can vary, and roles are sometimes combined.  

Types of Application Deployment

Deployment professionals have several strategies at their disposal. During manual application deployment, team members oversee each stage of the deployment process, review any changes, and ensure that the applications are secure and function correctly. Manual deployment is often used in production environments where a high level of control and precision is required or when deploying small, simple projects in which automation is unnecessary. 

Automated deployment using scripts and other automation tools is preferred for most large-scale deployment projects. Automating the deployment process reduces the risk of human error and makes deployment much faster. Continuous deployment further automates the process of deploying and improving applications. This deployment method relies on a series of predefined tests that validate patches and updates and then push them directly to users. Continuous deployment is most often used when applications must be frequently and quickly updated.  

Deployment Process Workflows

The deployment workflow can vary, but the process typically involves the following steps:

  • Preparation. The deployment team gathers and packages the code, configuration files, and other resources needed for the application to function correctly. They set up physical or virtual servers to host the application. 
  • Testing. Developers must test applications for bugs and errors before deployment. They run tests to validate components, check overall functionality, and ensure that the application meets quality expectations. 
  • Deployment. During deployment, the application’s code and configurations are transferred from the staging environment to the live production environment, where the application is accessible by end users.  
  • Monitoring. The deployment process doesn’t stop once the application is made available to end users. Developers, deployment professionals, quality assurance personnel, and other stakeholders continue to analyze the application’s performance. If they discover errors, they create, test, and deploy updates to fix the problems. 

Deployment Tools and Technologies

Deployment teams use a variety of deployment tools and technologies to release applications efficiently. Some of the most popular deployment technologies include:

  • Jenkins. This free, open-source, continuous integration/continuous delivery and deployment software supports most environments and major cloud platforms. It is easy to set up and is compatible with thousands of plugins, making it a popular choice for a wide range of deployment projects. 
  • Capistrano. This deployment tool is written in Ruby but can deploy applications written in other programming languages as well. Capistrano is an open-source tool that allows developers to build automated deployment scripts and simultaneously deploy applications on multiple servers. 
  • Juju. This open-source application deployment tool prioritizes simplification and scalability. It uses prepackaged code and configurations called “charms” to efficiently deploy applications across many different cloud providers. 
  • Travis CI. This continuous integration platform facilitates automated deployment pipelines and integrates seamlessly with many popular version control systems. It also supports parallelization, meaning multiple tasks can run concurrently. 
  • Amazon Web Services (AWS) CodeDeploy and CodePipeline. AWS CodeDeploy automates code deployments to multiple servers simultaneously. AWS CodePipeline is a highly scalable continuous delivery service. Both deployment tools increase efficiency and reliability during the application deployment process. 

Testing and Quality Assurance

Testing is crucial to ensuring the quality of an application. During the testing phase of the deployment process, team members identify and rectify bugs and errors. Functional testing involves testing the application’s utility and overall performance. Integration testing is the process of ensuring that various components of the application work together seamlessly. During performance testing, developers test how the application performs under various stressors such as high-traffic or high-load conditions. 

Best Practices for Successful Deployment

Efficient application deployment is essential to delivering optimized applications and websites to users. It’s a delicate process during which many issues can arise. Deployment best practices reduce errors and delays and facilitate smooth deployment. The following best practices are listed sequentially, offering a systematic approach to application deployment:

  • Create a deployment plan. When it comes to application deployment, failing to plan is planning to fail. Deployment teams should collaborate with developers, quality assurance teams, and other stakeholders to make sure that they are on the same page regarding the deployment process, projected timeline, and key performance indicators before beginning deployment.
  • Thoroughly test the application. In-depth testing, including performance tests, integration tests, and load tests, is one of the most important parts of the deployment process. The testing phase is where bugs and errors are identified and fixed.
  • Leverage automation. Manual deployment can be time-consuming and may introduce bugs caused by human error. Deployment teams have numerous continuous integration and deployment tools available to automate deployment operations. 
  • Use rollback plans. If problems arise during deployment, a rollback plan allows developers to easily revert the application to a previous version in the repository. 
  • Implement strong security measures. Developers can minimize security risks by identifying and addressing vulnerabilities, storing information securely, and encrypting sensitive data. 
  • Regularly monitor application performance. Developers can use monitoring tools to collect information about application performance, identify unusual behavior, and detect bugs. 
  • Collect feedback. Feedback from users, deployment team members, and other stakeholders can help developers identify opportunities for improvements and updates. 

Deployment in Different Environments

An “environment” refers to the specific setting in which a software application runs. Application deployment involves the transfer of applications from the development and testing environments to production environments where they can be accessed by end users. 

When applications are deployed to on-premises servers, deployment teams must ensure that the application is compatible with the existing hardware and capacity. They’ll also need to implement security measures to protect the application and associated data. Deploying to an on-premises server gives an organization full control over network configurations, software, hardware, and security protocols. However, establishing an on-premises infrastructure can be expensive and time-consuming.  

Applications are often deployed to cloud environments. Some of the advantages associated with cloud environments include increased flexibility and scalability and reduced upfront expenses. However, organizations have less control over the infrastructure and network configurations in a cloud environment and may face increased security risks. 

Edge computing devices allow data to be processed locally. They are crucial for Internet of Things devices, autonomous vehicles, and many other modern technologies. Deploying applications to edge devices can be challenging due to the devices’ limited processing power and storage capacity. There are also increased security challenges associated with edge devices, so robust security measures are essential.  

Scaling and Maintenance

Scalability ensures that applications can handle increased traffic without service disruptions or performance issues. Vertical scaling refers to an increase or decrease in central processing units (CPS), memory, or storage. Horizontal scaling increases or decreases the number of servers or other resources. Both methodologies can ensure that applications continue to function normally even if there is an unexpected traffic spike. 

Regular maintenance is fundamental to application functionality and security. Developers regularly release updates and patches to fix bugs, optimize performance, adapt to changing user expectations, and protect applications from security breaches.  

Case Studies

Software application deployment is an ever-evolving process. The following companies serve as inspiring case studies in the power of effective application deployment.

  • Amazon. Few companies have mastered application deployment more efficiently than Amazon. The Amazon Web Services (AWS) cloud computing platform powers some of the largest and most demanding applications and services ever created. The platform is constantly taxed by huge traffic spikes, especially around holidays and promotional events, yet offers reliable service and frequent updates without disruption to users.  
  • Netflix. Millions of people use Netflix to stream movies and television shows across the globe, and it's widely considered to be one of the most successful streaming services. Much of the company’s success can be attributed to its continuous deployment model, which allows seamless automatic code changes without sacrificing performance. 
  • Walmart. Walmart has expanded its online presence dramatically in the last few decades. The company’s application deployment process is designed to serve customers across the globe with minimal disruption, effectively protect sensitive customer data, and facilitate the continual release of new features. According to Reuters, Walmart’s hybrid cloud platform enables an astounding 170,000 website adjustments every month. 
  • Facebook. Facebook serves billions of customers using a sophisticated continuous deployment process that adapts to challenges and implements updates without disrupting the user experience. In 2011, Facebook introduced the Facebook Auto Remediation (FBAR) service, a “self-healing” system that identifies and removes servers with software or hardware failures. The system has since been expanded to further automate maintenance processes by automatically disabling and enabling servers in bulk.
  • Spotify. Spotify boasts a repository of over 100 million songs, impressive cross-platform compatibility, and a highly personalized listening experience. The company uses continuous integration and continuous deployment practices that allow for automated testing and deployment of updates. Spotify’s application deployment process is praised for its operational efficiency, speed, and positive contribution to the customer

Common Pitfalls and How to Avoid Them

Application deployment is a complex process loaded with potential pitfalls. Deployment teams should take proactive measures to identify and avoid mistakes such as: 

  • Substandard security measures. Inadequate security increases the chances of data breaches, unauthorized access, theft, and cyberattacks. Developers should regularly test applications and systems for vulnerabilities and implement security protocols. Strong authentication mechanisms, secure coding practices, data encryption, and regular updates are essential. 
  • Poor documentation. Incomplete and inconsistent documentation during software deployment can create confusion and inconsistency, increasing delays and bugs. 
  • Insufficient automation. Modern automation tools dramatically improve deployment efficiency, reduce errors, and increase application scalability and reliability. Deployment teams should automate application development, testing, and deployment processes whenever possible. 
  • Not having a backup plan. Development teams should have backup copies of the application’s codes, configuration files, and data stored separately from the primary system. They should also create a rollback plan that allows them to revert to a previous version of the application in the event of a catastrophe. 
  • Poor configuration management. Configuration management systems (CMS) track and document configurations so that software and systems are accurately configured throughout the development process. Misconfigured settings can cause downtime, deployment failures, data loss, and other serious consequences.

Application Deployment: Transforming Code into Software

Application deployment is a fundamental step in the software development process during which applications are transformed into an operational format and distributed to end users. The process involves preparing, testing, packaging, delivering, and continually monitoring applications to ensure maximum functionality and reliability. 

Development teams rigorously test applications, identify bugs and errors, and deploy patches to ensure seamless functionality. They follow best practices such as implementing rollback plans, effectively utilizing automation, and prioritizing security to deliver the highest quality applications possible.  

Earn a Web Application Deployment and Support Certificate

If you’re interested in application development professionally, consider obtaining an industry certification. WGU offers a Web Application Deployment And Support certificate (WADS) that can teach you about real-world problems and solutions in cloud computing, project management, design concepts, software quality, open-source concepts, and more. 

The WGU Web Application Deployment and Support certificate includes industry certifications in Linux Essentials and AWS Cloud Practitioner. Our WADS certificate can enhance your résumé and give you a competitive edge as a web developer, cloud administrator, DevOps administrator, QA/QC engineer, cloud architect, or other IT professional.  

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