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Using continuous delivery to maximize software efficiency for the military sector

April 25, 2022
Industrial software development can be complex. Continuous delivery can help streamline the process.

By Sean Boelman, freelance writer

The process of getting software from the development stage into production has traditionally

been time-consuming and costly. Still, many digital-transformation firms are transitioning to a model rooted in continuous delivery. While this system results in a much quicker timeline—allowing adopters to implement these updates faster and more efficiently—developers must employ specific measures to prevent the quality of their product from suffering. As long as these steps are followed, continuous delivery can result in happier consumers and a simpler process for developers.

Continuous delivery is a system by which automation is used to release new code. This method significantly speeds up the process of propelling software from development to release. When a development team makes changes to code, updates are automatically tested and uploaded to a repository. At this point, this code can then be deployed to production with minimal effort.

Nowhere is expeditious and accurate code implementation more important than in the military. Bryon Kroger, former intelligence officer, founder of the US Air Force's first software factory, and founder and CEO of Rise8, a full-stack digital-transformation firm, is a vocal proponent of continuous delivery. "Delay is a risk, and the cost is high," says Kroger. "This is especially true when you're working in a military software factory, where the thing being put at risk is human life."

Effectively implementing continuous delivery

Automated testing is a fundamental part of a continuous-delivery system. When you push out updates to a system via continuous deployment, the code cannot have bugs because the software is being deployed to production automatically. But the process of manually bug-checking code is both timely and costly, which counters the fundamental purpose of continuous delivery, namely, reducing the time it takes to get the software to production.

Clean code is another critical factor in the success of continuous delivery. When speed is the primary goal, the code you are working on must be manageable and easy to read. The more complicated your code is to understand, the more room there is for developers to make mistakes. "Mistakes add time to the process, and time costs money and lives in this business," says Kroger.

Loose coupling ensures that developers can make modifications to a system without affecting the consumers who use it. Components can be replaced or updated independently of one another. This is great in a continuous-delivery system because it means that developers can work on updating individual elements of the system and have them automatically pushed out to consumers. It is far more efficient than pushing out updates to systems that are dependent on one another.

Although military software development might seem intimidating, these processes can help make everything run more smoothly for developers and clients. You are effectively breaking down software into its simplest core components so that the code can be much easier to work with. When dealing with projects as large-scale as those in the defense sector, it's easier to work with these smaller elements,  and it results in substantially better products.

Trunk-based development and streamlining the process

Trunk-based development involves merging changes into the main branch, further streamlining the process. Using this method reduces the risk and complexity of the product, especially if you have multiple teams working at once. By breaking up the updates into a series of smaller units and integrating them into the main branch, they will be integrated much more seamlessly and efficiently than one merge that could cause substantial merge pain.

However, moving as quickly as this means there is a significant rate-of-change happening at any given time, which creates issues with traditional monitoring systems. Monitoring must also be automated to allow developers to proactively assess and improve their applications' performance. Often, quality can be sacrificed for the sake of speed, but having an excellent automatic-monitoring system can ensure that you are still delivering high-quality products—just at a faster rate.

Technology develops quickly in every field, but speed and timeliness are paramount in the military sector. Falling behind could have significant implications, both for a particular country and internationally. As such, developers who are working to build software for the military must be able to keep up with this rapid change efficiently and effectively or else face potentially catastrophic consequences.

Once the changes are made and delivered to a repository, it is then time for the software to be deployed. Automated deployment allows these updates to be delivered—seamlessly—to customers once all the automatic checks have been made to ensure that the product is functional and practical.

Industrial software development can be complex. Continuous delivery can help streamline the process for developers. By having their changes automatically tested, uploaded into a repository, and deployed for consumer use, the process can be completed much quicker than if these steps were being taken manually. This results in significantly less consumer disruption, as the automated deployment of these updates and automated testing ensures that the user experience is as bug-free as possible.