In the world of software development, having a tried and true approach to rolling out new iterations of your program is crucial. At the same time, speed is something that all developers are considering, thanks to the precedent set by tech giants like Facebook whose motto is to “move fast and break things.” While that slogan makes sense from an ideological perspective, in practice, breaking things can have a major effect on how consumers view your software, website, or web platform.
Tellingly, an article written by a developer at Facebook recommends implementing “preventative measures that mitigate widespread failure.” A solid system and strategy will help you reduce downtime, improve productivity, and ensure that you’re meeting your deliverables each and every week. One strategy that’s rapidly gaining popularity in a wide variety of industries and verticals is the concept of blue green deployment. This approach allows you to always be rolling out updates while mitigating the risk that comes from having only one test environment. It can also be used to ensure that a small percentage of your actual users are involved in testing beyond your software team.
Simply put, the colors “blue” and “green” serve to clearly distinguish which version of your program or website is live and which version is idle. You may also have heard of blue green deployment being referred to as A/B testing. Generally speaking, you will make the blue version of your program the version that is active, whereas the green environment is for testing new additions or features before rolling them out. This allows developers to be continuously iterating and testing changes to your platform without ever requiring that your website be taken down for site maintenance or that your users download and run an update. Instead, you can roll out features and pages as they are solidified, moving them from the green environment to the blue environment. This approach has considerable benefits, from both a user and developer standpoint.
Having two cloned environments makes things far less fraught for developers. Rather than needing to rush beta testing and bug tracking immediately after a new release, your developers have the opportunity to thoroughly test a new feature in production safely. Just because something works properly in staging doesn’t mean that it will necessarily run the same in a true deployment environment, so having the ability to test in production can be incredibly beneficial for avoiding confirmation bias in testing just because something works when staged.
In addition to eliminating downtime for each deployment, blue green development offers a host of other benefits to companies that adopt it. For example, since you increase the amount of time between each deployment and allow for more testing, your risk factor decreases substantially when you’ve first worked in a blue green environment. These technical advantages also translate to a less stressful workplace, which in turn has positive effects when it comes to employee productivity and satisfaction. Less “all hands on deck” situations surrounding a new configuration of your software or website means that your company can function with more stability and less stress.
While it can be costly to run two identical environments at the same time, most businesses find that the benefits far outway the drawbacks. Especially for enterprise-level companies or organizations who value being able to agilely move from one version to another without interrupting their user experience, a blue green deployment strategy can pay major dividends. If you have a service that is counted on day after day, such as a payroll processing platform, it’s a great idea to consider how a blue green deployment method can help you improve your processes and productivity.