team of developers sitting at a desk

Canary testing can play a pivotal role in the continuous delivery process. This is an effective way of releasing software updates in stages, enabling developers to quickly identify and fix potential issues before they reach the entire user base.

Rather than rolling everything out in one hit and rolling the dice, a canary deployment can test new features on a small subset of users. In this guide, we will break down everything you need to know about canary testing and explore how feature flagging can elevate the process.

ConfigCat is a feature flag service that takes 10 minutes to learn.
Sign up for free
No trial period. No credit card.
Request a demo

If you are curious about canary deployment and want to understand how it is used in practice to accelerate product development, we have got you covered. A canary release enables you to quickly receive feedback from specific user segments and iterate without delay.

Straight off the bat, here are a few key takeaways:

  • Canary releases limit the risk of disruption for the entire user base.
  • You can run canary tests with feature flagging tools.
  • Feature flags enable you to expose features to canary groups.
  • DevOps teams can control the risk of production bugs.

Once you begin to leverage a feature flagging tool as part of your continuous delivery process, you will inevitably come across a whole host of potential benefits. Let's take a brief step back and consider what canary testing is and how it works in practice.

What is canary testing?

You can think of canary testing as the practice of exposing a new feature to a small subset of users before eventually rolling it out to the entire user base.

Using feature flagging tools, developers can begin to test new features and address any production bugs without impacting the user experience for everyone.

Canary releases also provide better visibility into the impact of any changes and enable teams to quickly identify areas for improvement and nip potential issues in the bud.

It's like dipping your toes in the water before taking a full plunge, allowing developers to test new versions and remove the risk of disruption for all users.

What is canary deployment?

Canary deployment is just another word for canary testing. These terms are used interchangeably. This is a common misunderstanding and can easily be cleared up by taking a look at the definition of canary testing. Canary deployment (or testing) is about making staged releases and pushing small updates to the production environment. This allows developers to test changes on a subset of users and receive close to instantaneous feedback before rolling new features out to everyone.

With canary deployment, you can deploy a new release to one environment and prevent the wider user base from experiencing any changes. You are essentially fencing off the new feature from the rest of your code and only letting a few select people in on the secret.

You can segment users based on a variety of criteria, such as location or device type, and can also scale your deployments up or down accordingly. If you have a small subset of users on premium plans, for example, you can deploy a new version to them instead of the entire user base. This is an easy way to add value to their user experience.

The general concept of canary deployment has been around for some time. It is becoming increasingly popular among DevOps teams who want to guarantee rapid yet reliable deployments that come with very little risk attached.

Feature flagging tools provide developers with a powerful and intuitive way to facilitate canary releases and get the ball rolling on deployments. If you have been sitting on the fence over feature flagging and canary deployments, now is the perfect time to experiment with some useful tools.

Why run canary tests with feature flags?

Here are just some of the key benefits of running canary tests with feature flags:

  • Ship code more frequently to users
  • Reveal features at the right moment
  • Gain greater control and visibility over deployments
  • Reduce potential production bugs
  • Manage user access to features with ease

With all of these points in mind, it's easy to see why feature flagging tools have become so popular among DevOps teams. Feature flags are a highly effective way to ensure that new versions are thoroughly tested before reaching the people you want to impress: your users.

Feature flagging tools give developers the necessary peace of mind to move ahead with fresh features and break new ground. Knowing your deployments are safe and secure is a major relief and can make the whole process much smoother.

ConfigCat is a feature flag service that takes 10 minutes to learn.
Sign up for free
No trial period. No credit card.
Request a demo

Is canary testing always the right way forward?

Even though canary testing limits the risk of disruption, it doesn't guarantee that you will successfully root out and discover production bugs. It all depends on your testing environment and how thoroughly you are testing your code before release.

If you cannot find a way to logically segment your users, you may struggle to conduct canary tests. In reality, it's easy to break up your user base with different data points.

What is the best canary testing software?

ConfigCat is a feature flagging tool that takes just 10 minutes to learn. Our platform provides developers with a comprehensive dashboard that empowers them to firmly take control of their deployments.

With incredible support, unlimited team sizes, and a very reasonable price tag, you can hit the ground running with feature flagging and begin innovating. Are you ready to get started?

Sign up for ConfigCat today or try without signing up.

Cat with a chat cloud