Distribution software is an automation tool that helps developers and DevOps teams get software from a developer to end-users consistently, reliably, and quickly. The tool makes developers more efficient by offloading software distribution. Distribution software comes in many varieties, each with a specific purpose. Here we’ll discuss distribution software, its benefits, and a few common tools used.
Distribution Software: Purpose and Function
Distributing code involves a series of steps that were traditionally a largely manual process. However, given the size and complexities of modern software, an automated approach was necessary. Distribution software automates releasing code to each environment. There are various distribution software tools and methods. The most common distribution software comes in the form of a set of tools found in a Continuous Integration/Continuous Delivery (CI/CD) pipeline.
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Common Distribution Software Tools in CI/CD
A CI/CD pipeline automates each stage required to release software. High-level stages include:
Pushing code from a developer’s machine to a code repository
Pulling code from the code repository and running tests (integration testing or security scans to check for security issues in the code)
Pushing the code to the next environment for functional testing
Pushing code from the testing environment to a staging environment
Pushing code to the production environment
Each stage uses specific software to accomplish the tasks required.
The continuous integration distribution software manages the entire distribution process. It pulls code from the code repository and pushes it through to deployment to the production environment. One of the most common continuous integration tools is Jenkins.
A code repository stores code the developers write. There are often many developers on a project. Each needs access to the repository to publish new code and update existing code. A code repository keeps track of each file and manages versions of the files as developers make their updates.
Automated testing tools can run several hundred test cases quicker than a human. It always performs the same steps to ensure consistent results. Testing tools also record each test case’s status and can point out when and where issues may have occurred. Common automated test tools include Selenium and Katalon Studio.
Package Manager Distribution Software
A package manager is a tool that enables developers to manage dependencies in the form of packages for their software. A dependency is a piece of software or tools their software relies on. The dependency usually solves a specific problem that the developer can reuse in their code. For example, they may need something that solves a complex math equation. Rather than write the code themselves, they use it as a “dependency” in their project. Meaning their project requires that piece of code to work properly.
To use a particular package, the developer needs to find it and include it in their code. Doing this manually is time-consuming. A package manager helps developers by storing and keeping track of their packages in a package registry. Package registries are a central location where developers can find their packages. Developers can “push” new packages to the repository for storage. To use a package, they “pull” it from the repository.
Packagecloud can hold all of your packages in one place, allowing you to control exactly which packages you are using and easily integrate them into your CI/CD workflow. Check out our free trial to get your packages set up quickly.
Distribution Software Benefits
Distribution software automates delivering software from a central location with minimal human intervention. It provides a safe and consistent method for packaging and deploying software in the organization. A few additional benefits include:
Faster Release Cycles: A CI/CD pipeline is a series of complex steps. A pipeline moves software through all stages (integration, testing, delivery, and deployment) quickly. It usually only takes a few minutes for the integration phase and, at most, a few hours for testing. This means developers can distribute software multiple times throughout the day.
Consistency: Distribution software ensures the process is performed exactly each time. Developers can be confident that whatever they write will work no matter how many times it gets run. They’ll also be confident in knowing that it will also work no matter which environment it runs.
Better Code Quality: Code gets tested at multiple stages in distributing software. This helps catch issues so developers can fix them before they make it to the end-user.
Tight Version Control: Version control allows for quick rollback to prior versions. Rollbacks help the team deal with issues in production quickly rather than taking the system offline.
Integrated Feedback Loops: Distribution software tracks status at each stage. It tracks things such as success, failures, and the source of issues that may arise.
Security: Each stage includes a security and vulnerability check. This is to help ensure no malicious code makes it to the end-users.
Measurable Process: Each distribution software tool in the process provides valuable metrics to help the team improve. The tools track things such as build time, defect rates, and test fix times.
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This enables users to efficiently, reliably, and securely set up and update machines without owning any of the infrastructure typically required to do that. Check out the Packagecloud free trial to see how easy it is to distribute packages throughout your entire organization. Never worry about the scaling, consistency, or security of your packages again.