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Category Direction - Continuous Delivery

Continuous Delivery

Many teams are reporting that development velocity is stuck; they've reached a plateau in moving to more and more releases per month, and now need help on how to improve. According to analyst research, 40% of software development team's top priorities relate to speed/automation, so our overriding vision for Continuous Delivery is to help these teams renew their ability to accelerate delivery.

Additionally, Continuous Delivery serves as the "Gateway to Operations" for GitLab, unlocking the downstream features such as the Configure and Monitor stages.

Continuous Delivery vs. Deployment

We follow the well-known definitions from Martin Fowler on the difference between continuous delivery and continuous deployment:

Source: https://martinfowler.com/bliki/ContinuousDelivery.html

Incremental Rollout

One of the key sub-areas within Continuous Delivery that we're tracking is, incremental rollout. This is important because it enables unprecedented control over how you deliver your software in a safe way. For these items we're also tagging the label "incremental rollout", and you can see an issue list of these items here. Incremental rollout also serves as a key pillar for our Progressive Delivery strategy.

Infrastructure Provisioning

Infrastructure Provisioning and Infrastructure as Code, using solutions like Terraform or other provider-specific methods, is an interesting topic that relates to deployments but is not part of the Continuous Delivery category here at GitLab. For details on solutions GitLab provides in this space, take a look at the category page for our Infrastructure as Code team.

In short, the Continuous Delivery category will help you deploy the code in your project to your infrastructure; our Infrastructure as Code category will help you create and modify your infrastructure as part of your deployments.

Deployment with Auto DevOps

For deployment to Kubernetes clusters, GitLab has a focused category called Auto DevOps which is oriented around providing solutions for deploying to k8s. Check out their category page for details on what they have planned.

We are working on a similar experience for non Kubernetes users, starting with Streamline AWS Deployments that will automatically detect when users are deploying to AWS and will connect the dots for them.

The Auto Deploy jobs within Auto DevOps are maintained by the Progressive Delivery group.

What's Next & Why

Progressive Delivery is a main pillar in Continuous Delivery, and one that we are investing lots of efforts in. We want to extend our support and discoverability of Advanced deployments, and are currently documenting how you can use Blue/Green deplyments with GitLab via gitlab#14763.

Another important theme that we are working on is Do Powerful Things Easily, which includes Natively supporting hypercloud deployments and specifically deploying to AWS.

We are now working on gitlab#26777 which will introduce predefined AWS variables to the environment variables which will make the integration easier and simpler.

Maturity Plan

This category is currently at the "Complete" maturity level, and our next maturity target is Lovable (see our definitions of maturity levels). Key deliverables to achieve this are:

Competitive Landscape

Because CI and CD are closely related, the competitive analysis for Continuous Integration is also relevant here. For how CD compares to other products in the market, especially as it relates to pipelines themselves, also take a look there.

As far as CD specifically, has always been strong in providing actionable metrics on development, and as they move forward to integrate GitHub and Azure DevOps they will be able to provide a wealth of new metrics to help teams using their solution. We can stay in front of this by improving our own actionable delivery metrics in the product via gitlab-ee#7838.

Spinnaker and Harness are also two modern, cloud-native CD platforms that provide excellent solutions for delivering to cloud environments using native approaches like Kubernetes. In order to remain competitive, we must provide more advanced deployment operator solutions via gitlab#1387. Additionally, these products manage the deployment all the way through to monitoring, which we will introduce via gitlab#8295.

We are planning to conduct research on Harness and invite you to chime in on the issues and provide your insights and feedback as well.

Spinnaker

Spinnaker is an open-source, multi-cloud continuous delivery platform that helps you release software changes. It combines a powerful and flexible pipeline management system with integrations to the major cloud providers. Netflix is a big name attached, and Chaos Monkey gets engineers excited. It takes time to integrate, but is not a single app, so it can integrate with other things and you don’t have to replace your whole toolchain. Overall Spinnaker is a great CD tool that treats deployments as a first class citizen by changing the mindset of its users. However, it also has a weakness that it does not support other stages of the DevOps lifecycle (such as Continuous Integration), while GitLab offers a single tool for your Development needs.

Our goal is to do make it so anything that Spinnaker can do can also be done via built-in features in GitLab CD.

One analysis of GitLab vs. Spinnaker can be found on our product comparison page. There is another high quality one from our VP of product strategy in gitlab#197709. Finally, our PM for this section completed one where which can be found at gitlab#35219. Our next step is to review these and combine in this section of this document as the single source of truth, exhaustively listing the issues we plan to deliver to reach functional parity (or better) with Spinnaker. Spinnaker's advantage points are:

We also respect our customers choice to use Spinnaker's CD solution together with GitLab and are working on making that integration easier with gitlab#120085.

If you are currently using Spinnaker as your CD solution, we would love to learn more. Please fill out our survey or register for a customer interview at gitlab#197709.

Analyst Landscape

In our conversations with industry analysts, there are a number of key trends we're seeing happening in the CD space:

Cloud Adoption

Cloud adoption of CI/CD is growing, with Docker adoption leading the way and serverless likely next. People need guidance solving CD because they are stepping out into the dark without mature solutions already available to them; for example, AWS' current solution for serverless (functions) CI is just "edit them live." Customers complained that their products were starting to feel legacy, but where they go next is unclear.

We invite you to follow our plans to natively support hypercloud deployments and to offer feedback or ask questions.

Customer Experience

Customer experience is becoming a key metric. Users are looking for the ability to not just measure platform stability and other performance KPIs post-deployment but also want to set targets for customer behavior, experience, and financial impact, as part of gitlab#37139. Tracking and measuring this indicators after deployment solves an important pain point. In a similar fashion, creating views which are managing products not projects or repos will provide users with a more relevant set of data.

Progressive Delivery

Progressive Delivery is an important step in Continuous Delivery. We all want to ship faster and in smaller increments and progressive Delivery achieves exactly that with the addition of quick feedback. Having the ability to control the audience that gets the new feature set, gives developers ultimate control of exposure and if needed, rollback. It even allows QA to safely test in production.

Other Topics

In addition to supporting the trends above, there are some key areas where we can focus that will improve our solution in areas that analysts are hearing customer demand:

Top Customer Success/Sales Issue(s)

The ability to monitor deployments and automatically halt/rollback deployment in case of exceeding a specific error rate is frequently mentioned by CS and in the sales cycle as a feature teams are looking for. This will be implemented via gitlab#8295.

Top Customer Issue(s)

Our most popular customer request is gitlab#30769, which allows Deploy Keys with write access to push commits to protected branches.

Top Internal Customer Issue(s)

Allowing forked pipelines to run in a parent project via gitlab#11934 is our most popular intrnal customer issue. It will especially help us verify that community contributions live peacefully with our tests before merging them.

Delivery Team

Our delivery team is responsible for deploying to GitLab.com, which is the largest installation of GitLab on the planet, read more to check out our CI/CD Blueprint and learn about how we dogfood CI/CD at GitLab.

Top Vision Item(s)

Our top vision item is to Natively support hypercloud deployments, we want to help make it easier and quicker to get started and deploy to any one of the big cloud providers using GitLab's CI/CD.