Progressive Delivery

Gradually rollout changes and canary releases

It’s likely you have heard of “blue green deployment” or “canary deployment”. The idea is to carefully roll out new versions of your application, if problems happen (gasp!) in production, then the system will automatically roll them back, and the majority of users will not be impacted.

This has become a popular CD technique over the years.

As Jenkins X runs on top of Kubernetes, there are some additional built in protections about starting new versions: if a new application fails to start, it is likely that it will never really make it to production, this is a good thing! And you get it for free!

Progressive Delivery takes this a bit further: changes can be rolled out to a small percentage of users or traffic (say 1%) and then progressively released to more users (say 5%) before the delivery is considered complete.

Progressive Delivery makes it easier to adopt Continuous Delivery, by deploying new versions to a subset of users and evaluating their correctness and performance before rolling them to the totality of the users, and rolled back if not matching some key metrics.

Progressive Delivery is used by Netflix, Facebook and others to reduce the risk of deployments. But you can now adopt it when using Jenkins X.

In particular we focused on Canary releases and made it really easy to adopt them in your Jenkins X applications. Canary releases consist on sending a small percentage of traffic to the new version of your application and validate there are no errors before rolling it out to the rest of the users. Facebook does it this way, delivering new versions first to internal employees, then a small percentage of the users, then everybody else, but you don’t need to be Facebook to take advantage of it!

You can read more on Canaries at Martin Fowler’s website.

Jenkins X Promotion with Canaries

If you already have an application in Jenkins X you know that you can promote it to the production environment with jx promote myapp --version 1.0 --env production. But it can also be automatically and gradually rolled it out to a percentage of users while checking that the new version is not failing. If that happens the application will be automatically rolled back. No human intervention at all during the process.

As the first step three Jenkins X addons need to be installed:

  • Istio: a service mesh that allows us to manage traffic to our services.
  • Flagger: a project that uses Istio to automate canarying and rollbacks using metrics from Prometheus.

The addons can be installed with

jx create addon istio --version 1.1.7
jx create addon flagger

This will enable Istio in the jx-production namespace for metrics gathering.

Now get the ip of the Istio ingress and point a wildcard domain to it (e.g. *, so we can use it to route multiple services based on host names. The Istio ingress provides the routing capabilities needed for Canary releases (traffic shifting) that the traditional Kubernetes ingress objects do not support.

kubectl -n istio-system get service istio-ingressgateway \
-o jsonpath='{.status.loadBalancer.ingress[0].ip}'

The cluster is configured, and it’s time to configure our application. Add a canary.yaml to your helm chart, under charts/myapp/templates.

{{- if eq .Release.Namespace "jx-production" }}
{{- if .Values.canary.enable }}
kind: Canary
  name: {{ template "fullname" . }}
    apiVersion: apps/v1
    kind: Deployment
    name: {{ template "fullname" . }}
  progressDeadlineSeconds: 60
    port: {{.Values.service.internalPort}}
{{- if .Values.canary.service.gateways }}
{{ toYaml .Values.canary.service.gateways | indent 4 }}
{{- end }}
{{- if .Values.canary.service.hosts }}
{{ toYaml .Values.canary.service.hosts | indent 4 }}
{{- end }}
    interval: {{ .Values.canary.canaryAnalysis.interval }}
    threshold: {{ .Values.canary.canaryAnalysis.threshold }}
    maxWeight: {{ .Values.canary.canaryAnalysis.maxWeight }}
    stepWeight: {{ .Values.canary.canaryAnalysis.stepWeight }}
{{- if .Values.canary.canaryAnalysis.metrics }}
{{ toYaml .Values.canary.canaryAnalysis.metrics | indent 4 }}
{{- end }}
{{- end }}
{{- end }}

Then append to the charts/myapp/values.yaml the following, changing to your host name or names:

  enable: true
    # Istio virtual service host names
    - jx-gateway.istio-system.svc.cluster.local
    # schedule interval (default 60s)
    interval: 60s
    # max number of failed metric checks before rollback
    threshold: 5
    # max traffic percentage routed to canary
    # percentage (0-100)
    maxWeight: 50
    # canary increment step
    # percentage (0-100)
    stepWeight: 10
    - name: request-success-rate
      # minimum req success rate (non 5xx responses)
      # percentage (0-100)
      threshold: 99
      interval: 60s
    - name: request-duration
      # maximum req duration P99
      # milliseconds
      threshold: 500
      interval: 60s

That’s it! Now when the app is promoted to the production environment with jx promote myapp --version 1.0 --env production it will do a Canary rollout. Note that the first time it is promoted it will not do a Canary as it needs a previous version data to compare to, but it will work from the second promotion on.

With the configuration in the values.yaml file above it would look like:

  • minute 1: send 10% of the traffic to the new version
  • minute 2: send 20% of the traffic to the new version
  • minute 3: send 30% of the traffic to the new version
  • minute 4: send 40% of the traffic to the new version
  • minute 5: send 100% of the traffic to the new version

If the metrics we have configured (request duration over 500 milliseconds or more than 1% responses returning 500 errors) fail, Flagger then will note that failure, and if it is repeated 5 times it will rollback the release, sending 100% of the traffic to the old version.

To get the Canary events run

$ kubectl -n jx-production get events --watch \
  --field-selector involvedObject.kind=Canary
LAST SEEN   FIRST SEEN   COUNT   NAME                                                  KIND     SUBOBJECT   TYPE     REASON   SOURCE    MESSAGE
23m         10d          7       jx-production-myapp.1584d8fbf5c306ee   Canary               Normal   Synced   flagger   New revision detected! Scaling up jx-production-myapp.jx-production
22m         10d          8       jx-production-myapp.1584d89a36d2e2f2   Canary               Normal   Synced   flagger   Starting canary analysis for jx-production-myapp.jx-production
22m         10d          8       jx-production-myapp.1584d89a38592636   Canary               Normal   Synced   flagger   Advance jx-production-myapp.jx-production canary weight 10
21m         10d          7       jx-production-myapp.1584d917ed63f6ec   Canary               Normal   Synced   flagger   Advance jx-production-myapp.jx-production canary weight 20
20m         10d          7       jx-production-myapp.1584d925d801faa0   Canary               Normal   Synced   flagger   Advance jx-production-myapp.jx-production canary weight 30
19m         10d          7       jx-production-myapp.1584d933da5f218e   Canary               Normal   Synced   flagger   Advance jx-production-myapp.jx-production canary weight 40
18m         10d          6       jx-production-myapp.1584d941d4cb21e8   Canary               Normal   Synced   flagger   Advance jx-production-myapp.jx-production canary weight 50
18m         10d          6       jx-production-myapp.1584d941d4cbc55b   Canary               Normal   Synced   flagger   Copying jx-production-myapp.jx-production template spec to jx-production-myapp-primary.jx-production
17m         10d          6       jx-production-myapp.1584d94fd1218ebc   Canary               Normal   Synced   flagger   Promotion completed! Scaling down jx-production-myapp.jx-production


Flagger includes a Grafana dashboard for visualization purposes as it is not needed for the Canary releases. It can be accessed locally using Kubernetes port forwarding

kubectl --namespace istio-system port-forward deploy/flagger-grafana 3000

Then accessing http://localhost:3000 using admin/admin, selecting the canary-analysis dashboard and

  • namespace: jx-production
  • primary: jx-production-myapp-primary
  • canary: jx-production-myapp

would provide us with a view of different metrics (cpu, memory, request duration, response errors,…) of the incumbent and new versions side by side.


Note that Istio 1.0.x by default will prevent access from your pods to the outside of the cluster, a behavior that has changed in Istio 1.1. Learn how to control the Istio egress traffic.

If a rollback happens automatically because the metrics fail, the Jenkins X GitOps repository for the production environment becomes out of date, still using the new version instead of the old one. This is something planned to be fixed in next releases.