Tuesday, 6 September 2011

Book Review - Continuous Delivery

Just before MPUG last night, I dropped into the RMIT bookstore to have a browse. I found a copy of Continuous Delivery that I'd read about on Martin Fowler's blog (bliki?). I've probably read about two thirds of it going in and out on the train today.

I'm been pretty wary of buying process style software engineering books, they tend to be either vague or too focused (typically on technology stacks I don't care about). This was interesting, mainly because of the difficulties I've seen in testing, managing third party dependencies and deployment. I'd also seen some of the blog posts on the books website and been fairly impressed with the writing style.

The table of contents looks fantastic: configuration management, continuous integration, unit/integration testing, acceptance testing, non-functional requirements, deployment pipelines. Sadly, the actual book hasn't quite lived up to my expectations. My biggest issue is that the material is presented in a fairly cumbersome way. After a chapter explaining whats coming, you get a couple of chapters that expand (a bit) on those ideas, and then you get a summary of whats been presented. Perfect if you can get your manager to read a chapter with the intention of selling them on new process, less ideal if you're a practitioner trying to learn something new

My second concern is that the book has a fairly simple message that the way to achieve continuous delivery is to script everything. While process, business constraints and education are discussed, they're very much secondary, which I think is a mistake in a technology agnostic book.

The message of the book seems very relevant for very large desktop applications and web applications but less so for projects developed by small teams, library developers and research coders. This is disappointing, because I consider myself to fall into these later categories.

Regardless, the book has been a bit of fun, it has been a while since I've read that much of a single tech book in one day. The anecdotes throughout the text show that the authors are both knowledgeable and experienced in using a range of tools, and I've found myself eagerly reading every sidebar.

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