Getting started with Continuous Delivery

More and more companies are requiring developers to understand Continuous Integration and Continuous Delivery but starting to implement it in your projects can be a bit overwhelming. Start with a simple website and soon enough you will feel more confident to do with more complex projects.

The right mindset

TDD/BDD, CI/CD, XP, Agile, Scrum …. Ahhhhh, leave me alone I just want to

Yes, all these methodologies can be a bit complicated at first, but simply because you are not used to them. Like a muscle you need to train them and the more you do so, the sooner you won’t feel like doing them is a total waste of time.

Once you have made up your mind that CD is for you, your team or your project then you will need to define a process and follow it. Don’t make it easy to break the process and before you know it you and your team will feel like fish in the water.

Automate a simple website deployment

There are many ways you can solve this problem. I will use a certain stack. If you don’t have experience with any of the tools, try to implement it with one you do have experience with.

Stack Tool/Service Alternatives
VPS DigitalOcean Linode or Vagrant
Configuration Management Ansible Chef or Puppet
Static site generator Middleman Jekyll or pure HTML
CI/CD Server Semaphore Codeship or Jenkins

The first thing is to create a new droplet in DO (you could also do this with Ansible but we won’t at this tutorial). Make sure there is a deploy user and to set up ssh keys for it (again something we could do with Ansible but we’ll leave that for another post) Setup your domain to point to the new server’s IP address, I will use ‘’.


Create a folder for your playbook and inside of it start with a file called ansible.cfg. There we will override the default configuration by pointing to a new inventory inside your playbook’s folder and specify the deploy user.


Now in our inventory file we specify a group called web and include our


Our tasks will be defined in simple-webserver.yml

- name: Simple Web Server
  sudo: True
- name: Install nginx
  apt: pkg=nginx state=installed update_cache=true
  notify: start nginx
- name: remove default nginx site
  file: path=/etc/nginx/sites-enabled/default state=absent
- name: Assures project root dir exists
  file: >
- name: copy nginx config file
  template: >
  notify: restart nginx
- name: enable configuration
  file: >
  notify: restart nginx
- name: start nginx
  service: name=nginx state=started
- name: restart nginx
  service: name=nginx state=restarted

In it we make reference to a template called templates/nginx.conf.j2 where we will specify a simple virtual host.

server {
listen *:80;

root /srv/www/;
index index.html index.htm;


  location / {
    try_files $uri $uri/ =404;

I’ll show you in another post how to do this same setup but with multiple virtual hosts in case you run multiple sites.

Run it by calling:

ansible-playbook simple-webserver.yml


Middleman has a very simple way to deploy over rsync. Just make sure you have the following gem in your Gemfile

gem 'middleman-deploy'

And then add something like this to your config.rb

activate :deploy do |deploy|
  deploy.method = :rsync = ''
  deploy.path = '/srv/www/'
  deploy.user = 'deploy'

Before you can deploy you need to remember to build your site. This is prone to errors so instead we will add a rake task in our Rakefile to do this for us.

desc 'Build site'
task :build do
  `middleman build`

desc 'Deploy site'
task :deploy do
  `middleman deploy`

desc 'Build and deploy site'
task :build_deploy => [:build, :deploy] do

Git Flow

Technically you don’t really need git flow for this process but I do believe having a proper branching model is key to a successful CD environment. Depending on your team’s process you might want to use something else but if you don’t have anything defined please take a look at git flow, it might be just what you need.

For this tutorial I will oversimplify the process and just use the develop, master and release branches by following these three steps:

  1. Commit all the desired changes into the develop branch
  2. Create a release and add the release’s information
  3. Merge the release into master

Let’s go through the steps in the command line. We start by adding the new features and committing them.

git add Rakefile
git commit -m 'Add rake task for easier deployment'

Now we create a release.

git flow release start '1.0.0'

This would be a good time to test everything out. Bump the version number of your software (in my case 1.0.0), update the change log and do any last minute fixes.

Commit the changes and let’s wrap up this step by finishing our release.

git flow release finish '1.0.0'

Try to write something significant for your message tag so you can easily refer to a version later on by its description.

git tag -n

Hold your horses and don’t push your changes just yet.


Add a new project from Github or Bitbucket.

For the build, you might want to have something along the lines of:

bundle install --path vendor/bundle
bundle exec rake spec

Now go into the project’s settings inside the Deployment tab and add a server.

Because we are using a generic option Semaphore will need access to our server. Generate an SSH key and paste the private in Semaphore and the public in your server.

For the deploy commands you need to have something like this:

ssh-keyscan -H -p 22 >> ~/.ssh/known_hosts
bundle exec rake build_deploy

Push your changes

Push your changes in the master branch and voilà, Semaphore will build and deploy your site.

Once you get into the habit of doing this with your website you will feel more confident of doing it with something like a Rails application.