ITIL 4 Foundation Edition states that “The purpose of the release management practice is to make new and changed services and features available for use.
All leading cloud service providers understand the importance of release management to business – that getting products and features into the hands of customers, being able to iterate and evolve products, is literally the “getting stuff done” practice. Therefore, all cloud service providers offer – to varying degrees of quality – free practice guidance and tools to be the best at release management in the cloud.
The release management practice is where ITIL 4 (and ITSM) meets DevOps. In the book Accelerate, half of the four key lead metrics (out of thirty-six) of high-performing organizations are related to release management:
- Lead time for changes
- Deployment frequency
Although not cloud-specific, it’s important to first understand the application architecture and workload composition because different layers of these have different release management approaches. For example, changes to the “layer of innovation” might be happing multiple times a day and be small changes like colors on a user interface. Other layers such as systems of record (for instance, a Customer Relationship Management database) might change very infrequently and be larger change bundles that impact other dependent services. And often releases are bundled across layers meaning that careful implementation and backout procedures are needed. As the ITIL 4 guidance says:
“Releases can range in size from the very small, involving just one minor changed feature, to the very large, involving many components that deliver a completely new service.”