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How DevOps Quality Gates Improve Deployments

Quality gates improve the speed and reliability of DevOps deployments.

DevOps quality gates are used to ensure quality, speed, and reliability throughout the development lifecycle. They help organizations enforce their quality and security standards so each iteration of their codebase meets basic requirements before moving forward. 

However, any essential process can also become a potential bottleneck. Failing to implement quality gates correctly can introduce roadblocks into a system that needs to be fast and efficient. To implement them correctly, organizations need to understand what quality gates are, what purposes they serve, and how to get the most out of them.

In this blog, we’re going to take a look at how quality gates can improve deployments and how to effectively introduce them into the CI/CD pipeline.

Quality Gates: From Checklists to Code Reviews

In DevOps, a quality gate refers to any set of requirements necessary to move a project from one stage to another. There are many kinds of quality gates, both human and automated. A gate could be as simple as a checklist or as complex as a full code review. Quality gates are an essential part of DevOps — they are what verify completion and consistency. But each organization must also craft them to reflect their individual priorities.

By enforcing quality gates, developers can ensure that their codebase never advances without meeting baseline standards. Quality gates reduce the chances of releasing substandard or vulnerable code without hindering the development pipeline. 

It’s often recommended to break quality gates between four stages: planning, design, development, and deployment. But every organization is different. You’ll need to think about when and how to implement quality gates. Can a gate be automated, or does it require human insight? How often should you space the gates? Quality gates should occur frequently enough that they are interspersed between all major changesets but not so frequently that they become disruptive.

3 quality gates placed between 4 steps: Plan, Design, Develop, Deploy

Preserve Agility through Quality Gates

Quality gates form a proactive rather than reactive method of assessing a product’s potential shortcomings. By using quality gates, developers can maintain product standards by locating  resolving issues swiftly.

The swift resolution of product issues preserves organizational agility. DevOps relies upon speed and responsiveness. Without quality gates, organizations would need to spend more time troubleshooting and resolving systems.

Remove Technical Debt

Organizations run into trouble when they kick the can down the road — when they push quality standards and bug fixes to the next stage. Under intense pressure and deadlines, it’s easy to build technical debt. 

Quality gates set a credit limit on technical debt. Deployments must be clean and up to standard to pass through the gate. While this can mean some short-term delays, it also preserves quality over the entire development lifecycle. DevOps deployments are fast, small, and agile — but they aren’t reckless.

Preserve Security

With organizations facing persistent and emergent threats every day, it becomes even more important to rigorously enforce security standards. Although quality gates have traditionally been used to preserve quality, they can also improve security. 

The quality of code and its security are inextricably linked. Quality gates’ pass/fail criteria can stop anything that does not completely pass security standards from reaching deployment.

Major Challenges to DevOps Quality Gates

Traditionally, the biggest roadblock to quality gate implementation has been cost — both in terms of speed and resources. Every quality gate takes time. Developers and QA personnel can become frustrated if they feel that they are being held up by quality standards, especially if they feel they can resolve the issues at a later date.

But these are short-term concerns. Long-term, DevOps quality gates save time and effort by ensuring that everything is completed correctly the first time.

Organizations can streamline their quality gates by:

  • Setting attainable and reasonable standards for each gate. 
  • Automating testing and deployment wherever possible.
  • Keeping channels of communication open for fixes and reworks.

Quality gates ensure that what can be done today is not put off until tomorrow. They provide a baseline level of quality that developers can rely upon. Organizations must build a firm foundation at every stage before they progress — especially during an iterative process.

Implement DevOps Quality Gates in Your CI/CD Pipeline

Unit testing, unit integration testing, static code analysis, and more — quality gates are many and varied. But implementing quality gates into your CI/CD pipeline is about more than just developing a process; it’s about using the right technology. The more automated your testing processes are, the easier enforcing your DevOps quality gates will be.