Next-Gen Managed Services: Continuous Delivery and Integration
August 15, 2019
Managed services enable continuous monitoring, improvements and overall functionality to commerce environments. As customer expectations morph and more brands deploy disruptive technologies – think artificial intelligence, for one – managed services are more important than ever. Here’s why managed services and, specifically, continuous integration and delivery are essential to a well-oiled commerce engine.
Brands should be busy running their businesses – not managing commerce technology, which is evolving at an accelerating pace. It’s been 25 years since the first online transaction and look how far we’ve come. Today, eMarketer predicts global ecommerce will rise 20.7% in 2019 to $3.535 trillion. By next year, B2B total online revenue is expected to hit $1 trillion.
This growth is due to a variety of factors, not the least of which is technological progress. Commerce systems — platforms, software, application programming interfaces (APIs), and more — are making it easier, quicker, better and more secure to shop online. But the mark is moving faster than ever and “setting it and forgetting it” when it comes to commerce systems is the surest way to see customers stampede away.
The invisible hands of a managed services provider will keep commerce environments running smoothly and expertly. Managed services providers like LiveArea monitor systems continuously, correct code issues, launch updates and fixes quickly to avoid disrupting the customer experience, and integrate features and APIs that bring new functionality.
This is the use case continuous integration and continuous delivery, a next-gen approach to managed services. Essentially, it is an agile approach to software delivery that smart IT teams are adopting to accelerate digital transformation.
“Continuous” characterizes the ability to deploy code “at will.” Amazon, Etsy, Walmart, and Target are some of the big brands that have embraced continuous integration and continuous delivery (CI/CD) – and for good reason. This approach to software deployment enables IT teams to release software code into production at a higher velocity. New features are delivered faster. Code quality is higher. Risk is mitigated. Costs are lower.
What is Continuous Integration?
Continuous integration is a software development methodology whereby code modifications are combined in a shared code repository. Small changes are submitted to the pipeline, often multiple times throughout the day. Each “commit” is tested for potential defects. After testing, commits are added to the next build and tested again, ensuring the combined “commits” work together. To be successful, continuous integration requires these elements:
- Maintaining a single code repository.
- Each build is self-tested by the developer.
- Broken builds are fixed immediately.
- Developers submit “commits” daily to the scheduled build.
- Every build is tested in a clone of production.
- Developers and testers have access to the latest production code base.
Continuous delivery is the series of processes associated with gathering code from developers’ toolkits, testing it, packaging it for the next build or adoption, and testing the build and associated operational tasks in an automated fashion. The benefits are numerous: Efficiency, reliability, and validation of quality in a predictable, routine manner. Understanding the value proposition for continuous delivery helps to qualify the change needed to implement.
A Living Entity
Adopting a CI/CD culture requires constant communication; internally to IT teams and externally to business units. Expectations must be set and agreed upon by all stakeholders. The reality is that the entire CI/CD solution is a “living” entity that must be nurtured by the entire team. As the solution matures, modifications may be necessary to address revised requirements and updated technologies.
Benefits of Continuous Integration and Continuous Delivery
- Faster time to market with added features and functionality.
- Higher quality of code going into production.
- Business users are empowered with reliable, high-quality software.
- Lower application development and support costs.
- Production releases include smaller units of change that minimize disruption to the production code base.
- Increased transparency and visibility in builds and testing.
- Smaller code changes are easier to deliver and minimize unintended results.
- When an issue arises, the time to isolate the issue is shorter.
- Time to restore is reduced due to smaller code changes and shortened fault isolation times.
- Overall testing improves because the scope of change is limited. Smaller changes provide more definitive test results.
In today’s commerce world, enterprises that seek to innovate continuously and improve user experience at a fast pace will likely stay ahead of competition. And the benefits of CI/CD are clear – not only to development teams, but to the business users and stakeholders managing change on the front line and in the boardroom.
New customer demands never cease. Innovation is a significant differentiator. A flexible commerce platform can be a significant investment – so, why not get the most out of your investment through managed services?
Want to learn more about managed services and how to select a partner? Download our white paper, The Practical Magic of Managed Services
David is LiveArea’s area vice president of Managed Services.