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Does Continuous Production Lead To Extreme Agility?

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Paul Duvall of Stelligent recently posted an article on a round up of the activities that are required to extend Continuous Integration to Continuous Production - the practice of constantly deploying software, instead of batching it up into releases.

The article goes on to describe common practices in continuous production that extend from the common tasks of continuous integration (build, integrate, test):

  • Continuous Database Integration/Migration
  • Automatically promoting the build artefacts through Development, QA, Staging and Production.
  • Remote deployments (using frameworks such as SmartFrog & Capistrano)

 So how can these help affect the product lifecycle and in turn give the organisation greater agility? Chris May blogs:

'Release early, Release often' doesn't become any less effective, for any value of often. The smaller and quicker the releases, the less chance of regression, the faster features get to users, and the sooner feedback comes back to the team. Basically, they [Flickr] release pretty much every feature and bug-fix as soon as it's complete – they don't really bother with 'batching' releases like we do.
Tim O'Rielly commented in his 2005 article "What is web 2.0":
[Following]...The open source dictum, "release early and release often" in fact has morphed into an even more radical position, "the perpetual beta," in which the product is developed in the open, with new features slipstreamed in on a monthly, weekly, or even daily basis. It's no accident that services such as Gmail, Google Maps, Flickr,, and the like may be expected to bear a "Beta" logo for years at a time.
Consequently this very notion looks to be a fundamental behaviour of a truly agile business. ZDNet published an article in 2005 "Why Microsoft Can't Best Google" in which they state:
Microsoft’s business model depends on everyone upgrading their computing environment every two to three years. Google’s depends on everyone exploring what’s new in their computing environment every day.
This demonstrates that the form in which the organisation releases its products can create constraints in the way the organisation responds to the changing needs of the customer.

What experience of Continuous Production do InfoQ readers have? Does it really afford the regular project team (and hence the host organisation) extra agility, or is the cost benefit difficult to justify except for the most affluent of these types of organisation?

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