Software deployment

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Software deployment is all of the activities that make a software system available for use. [1]

A software system is a system on intercommunicating components based on software forming part of a computer system. It "consists of a number of separate programs, configuration files, which are used to set up these programs, system documentation, which describes the structure of the system, and user documentation, which explains how to use the system".


The general deployment process consists of several interrelated activities with possible transitions between them. These activities can occur at the producer side or at the consumer side or both. Because every software system is unique, the precise processes or procedures within each activity can hardly be defined. Therefore, "deployment" should be interpreted as a general process that has to be customized according to specific requirements or characteristics.

A software developer is a person concerned with facets of the software development process, including the research, design, programming, and testing of computer software. Other job titles which are often used with similar meanings are programmer, software analyst, and software engineer.

User (computing) person who uses a computer or network service

A user is a person who utilizes a computer or network service. Users of computer systems and software products generally lack the technical expertise required to fully understand how they work. Power users use advanced features of programs, though they are not necessarily capable of computer programming and system administration.

Process (computing) particular execution of a computer program

In computing, a process is the instance of a computer program that is being executed. It contains the program code and its activity. Depending on the operating system (OS), a process may be made up of multiple threads of execution that execute instructions concurrently.


When computers were extremely large, expensive and bulky (mainframes and minicomputers), software was often bundled together with the hardware by manufacturers. If business software needed to be installed on an existing computer, this might require an expensive, time-consuming visit by a systems architect or a consultant. For complex, on-premises installation of enterprise software today, this can still sometimes be the case.

Mainframe computer computers used primarily by corporate and governmental organizations

Mainframe computers or mainframes are computers used primarily by large organizations for critical applications; bulk data processing, such as census, industry and consumer statistics, enterprise resource planning; and transaction processing. They are larger and have more processing power than some other classes of computers: minicomputers, servers, workstations, and personal computers.

Minicomputer class of smaller computers

A minicomputer, or colloquially mini, is a class of smaller computers that was developed in the mid-1960s and sold for much less than mainframe and mid-size computers from IBM and its direct competitors. In a 1970 survey, The New York Times suggested a consensus definition of a minicomputer as a machine costing less than US$25,000, with an input-output device such as a teleprinter and at least four thousand words of memory, that is capable of running programs in a higher level language, such as Fortran or BASIC. The class formed a distinct group with its own software architectures and operating systems. Minis were designed for control, instrumentation, human interaction, and communication switching as distinct from calculation and record keeping. Many were sold indirectly to original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) for final end use application. During the two decade lifetime of the minicomputer class (1965–1985), almost 100 companies formed and only a half dozen remained.

Business software or a business application is any software or set of computer programs used by business users to perform various business functions. These business applications are used to increase productivity, to measure productivity and to perform other business functions accurately.

However, with the development of mass market software for the new age of microcomputers in the 1980s came new forms of software distribution  first cartridges, then cassette tapes, then floppy disks, then (in the 1990s and later) optical media, the internet and flash drives. This meant that software deployment could be left to the customer. However, it was also increasingly recognised over time that configurability of the software by the customer was important, and that this should ideally have a user-friendly interface (rather than, for example, requiring the customer to edit registry entries on Windows).

The term "mass market" refers to a market for goods produced on a large scale for a significant number of end consumers. The mass market differs from the niche market in that the former focuses on consumers with a wide variety of backgrounds with no identifiable preferences and expectations in a large market segment. Traditionally, businesses reach out to the mass market with advertising messages through a variety of media including radio, TV, newspapers and the Web.

ROM cartridge removable enclosure containing read-only memory devices

A ROM cartridge, usually referred to simply as a cartridge or cart, is a removable memory card containing ROM designed to be connected to a consumer electronics device such as a home computer, video game console and to a lesser extent, electronic musical instruments. ROM cartridges can be used to load software such as video games or other application programs.

Cassette tape magnetic tape recording format for audio recording and playback

The Compact Audio Cassette (CAC) or Musicassette (MC), also commonly called the cassette tape or simply tape or cassette, is an analog magnetic tape recording format for audio recording and playback. It was developed by Philips in Hasselt, Belgium, and released in 1962. Compact cassettes come in two forms, either already containing content as a prerecorded cassette, or as a fully recordable "blank" cassette. Both forms are reversible by the user.

In pre-internet software deployments, deployments (and their closely related cousin, new software releases) were of necessity expensive, infrequent, bulky affairs. It is arguable therefore that the spread of the internet made end-to-end agile software development possible. Indeed, the advent of cloud computing and software as a service meant that software could be deployed to a large number of customers in minutes, over the internet. This also meant that typically, deployment schedules were now determined by the software supplier, not by the customers. Such flexibility led to the rise of continuous delivery as a viable option, especially for less risky web applications.

Agile software development is an approach to software development under which requirements and solutions evolve through the collaborative effort of self-organizing and cross-functional teams and their customer(s)/end user(s). It advocates adaptive planning, evolutionary development, empirical knowledge, and continual improvement, and it encourages rapid and flexible response to change.

Cloud computing form of Internet-based computing that provides shared computer processing resources and data to computers and other devices on demand

Cloud computing makes computer system resources, especially storage and computing power, available on demand without direct active management by the user. The term is generally used to describe data centers available to many users over the Internet. Large clouds, predominant today, often have functions distributed over multiple locations from central servers. If the connection to the user is relatively close, it may be designated an Edge server.

Software as a service is a software licensing and delivery model in which software is licensed on a subscription basis and is centrally hosted. It is sometimes referred to as "on-demand software", and was formerly referred to as "software plus services" by Microsoft. SaaS is typically accessed by users using a thin client, e.g. via a web browser. SaaS has become a common delivery model for many business applications, including office software, messaging software, payroll processing software, DBMS software, management software, CAD software, development software, gamification, virtualization, accounting, collaboration, customer relationship management (CRM), Management Information Systems (MIS), enterprise resource planning (ERP), invoicing, human resource management (HRM), talent acquisition, learning management systems, content management (CM), Geographic Information Systems (GIS), and service desk management. SaaS has been incorporated into the strategy of nearly all leading enterprise software companies.

Deployment activities

The release activity follows from the completed development process, and is sometimes classified as part of the development process rather than deployment process. It includes all the operations to prepare a system for assembly and transfer to the computer system(s) on which it will be run in production. Therefore, it sometimes involves determining the resources required for the system to operate with tolerable performance and planning and/or documenting subsequent activities of the deployment process.
Installation and activation
For simple systems, installation involves establishing some form of command, shortcut, script or service for executing the software (manually or automatically). For complex systems it may involve configuration of the system  possibly by asking the end-user questions about its intended use, or directly asking them how they would like it to be configured  and/or making all the required subsystems ready to use. Activation is the activity of starting up the executable component of software for the first time (not to be confused with the common use of the term activation concerning a software license, which is a function of Digital Rights Management systems.)
In larger software deployments on servers, the main copy of the software to be used by users - "production" - might be installed on a production server in a production environment. Other versions of the deployed software may be installed in a test environment, development environment and disaster recovery environment.
In complex continuous delivery environments and/or software as a service systems, differently-configured versions of the system might even exist simultaneously in the production environment for different internal or external customers (this is known as a multi-tenant architecture), or even be gradually rolled out in parallel to different groups of customers, with the possibility of cancelling one or more of the parallel deployments. For example, Twitter is known to use the latter approach for A/B testing of new features and user interface changes. A "hidden live" group can also be created within a production environment, consisting of servers that are not yet connected to the production load balancer, for the purposes of blue-green deployment.
Deactivation is the inverse of activation, and refers to shutting down any already-executing components of a system. Deactivation is often required to perform other deployment activities, e.g., a software system may need to be deactivated before an update can be performed. The practice of removing infrequently used or obsolete systems from service is often referred to as application retirement or application decommissioning.
Uninstallation is the inverse of installation. It is the removal of a system that is no longer required. It may also involve some reconfiguration of other software systems in order to remove the uninstalled system’s dependencies.
The update process replaces an earlier version of all or part of a software system with a newer release. It commonly consists of deactivation followed by installation. On some systems, such as on Linux when using the system's package manager, the old version of a software application is typically also uninstalled as an automatic part of the process. (This is because Linux package managers do not typically support installing multiple versions of a software application at the same time, unless the software package has been specifically designed to work around this limitation.)
Built-in update
Mechanisms for installing updates are built into some software systems (or, in the case of some operating systems such as Linux, Android and iOS, into the operating system itself). Automation of these update processes ranges from fully automatic to user initiated and controlled. Norton Internet Security is an example of a system with a semi-automatic method for retrieving and installing updates to both the antivirus definitions and other components of the system. Other software products provide query mechanisms for determining when updates are available.
Version tracking
Version tracking systems help the user find and install updates to software systems. For example: Software Catalog stores version and other information for each software package installed on a local system. One click of a button launches a browser window to the upgrade web page for the application, including auto-filling of the user name and password for sites that require a login. On Linux, Android and iOS this process is even easier because a standardised process for version tracking (for software packages installed in the officially supported way) is built into the operating system, so no separate login, download and execute steps are required  so the process can be configured to be fully automated. Some third-party software also supports automated version tracking and upgrading for certain Windows software packages.
The adaptation activity is also a process to modify a software system that has been previously installed. It differs from updating in that adaptations are initiated by local events such as changing the environment of customer site, while updating is a consequence of a new release being made available. Adaptation may require specialist technical skills such as computer programming, in certain complex cases.

Deployment roles

The complexity and variability of software products has fostered the emergence of specialized roles for coordinating and engineering the deployment process. For desktop systems, end-users frequently also become the "software deployers" when they install a software package on their machine. The deployment of enterprise software involves many more roles, and those roles typically change as the application progresses from test (pre-production) to production environments. Typical roles involved in software deployments for enterprise applications may include:

Enterprise software, also known as enterprise application software (EAS), is computer software used to satisfy the needs of an organization rather than individual users. Such organizations include businesses, schools, interest-based user groups, clubs, charities, and governments. Enterprise software is an integral part of a (computer-based) information system.

See also

Deployment tools

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  1. Roger S. Pressman Software engineering: a practitioner's approach (eighth edition)