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Deployment Failures

By Steve Jones,

Years ago the company I worked for would patch the majority of our servers one Friday night each month. The Microsoft patches for the month, and other software patches, would be bundled up into SMS (Systems Management Server) packages and deployed to thousands of servers. We had an amazing administrator who built these packages, and it was quite an experience to walk into the data center and hear thousands of servers shut down and fans spin down for a moment before rebooting.

That was the smoothest deployment system for vendor patches, but I worked in another place that deployed changes to a web application (the system that generated all our revenue and paid our salaries) every Wednesday night. We did this for over 18 months, over 70 deployments, pushing out changes on a consistent basis. We only rolled back three times, but we did roll back three times.

Other jobs have had various levels of success at deploying changes. Many of the companies worked with the ad hoc, patch one machine at a time manually, process. Not very efficient, and probably not even possible at the numbers of systems many companies have today. I wanted to ask you this week how successful your company is.

How often do you have problems during the deployment of some software change?

Do you think that you have issues more often than not? Do you roll back when you have issues? I doubt that. In my experience, even broken deployments are often pushed forward, with the expectation that developers, vendors, or admins will fix things over the next few days. I've never thought that was a good plan, since we often fine broken features limping along for months or years, but organizational momentum can be hard to slow down.

Let us know if you think you work inside of a smooth, strong deployment process, or one that's more fragile and brittle.

Steve Jones


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