Everything you need to know about Canary Deployment Strategy.

TL;DR: Canary strategy is a gradual rollout of new software version to a small subset of users for real-user traffic testing before rolling out to a broader audience.

4 months ago   •   5 min read

By Prakarsh, Jyoti Sahoo,


Inspired by the use of canaries in British mines to detect toxic gases, canary Deployment has become a crucial technique in software deployment. Just as canaries serve as early warning systems, canary Deployment allows DevOps engineers to assess the impact of new software releases before introducing them to the entire user base. This comprehensive blog will explore the intricacies of canary Deployment, including its process, benefits, considerations, and role in mitigating risks during the software release cycle.

What is Canary Deployment?

Canary Deployment is a release strategy designed to minimize the risks of introducing new software updates into production environments. It involves gradually rolling out changes to a small subset of users or infrastructure before making them available to a broader audience. By doing so, canary Deployment enables early detection of any issues or performance degradation, allowing for prompt remediation and minimizing user impact.

When to Implement Canary Deployment?

Canary Deployment is particularly beneficial when releasing new versions of software that include significant updates or when there is a high risk of encountering issues in the production environment. Its primary objective is to catch and rectify problems before they affect the entire user base. Organizations can confidently enhance their software and services by adopting canary Deployment, improving customer experience while mitigating potential risks.

Typical Canary Deployment Process:

The canary deployment process typically involves the following stages:

1.     Plan and Create:

The initial step revolves around creating a dedicated canary infrastructure where the latest update is deployed. A small portion of the overall traffic is directed to this canary instance, while most users continue to use the baseline version.

2.     Analyze:

Once the canary instance receives traffic, the team collects various data points, including metrics, logs, network traffic information, and results from synthetic transaction monitors. This data is then analyzed to determine whether the canary instance is operating as expected. A comparison with the baseline version helps identify any discrepancies or performance issues.

3.     Rollout:

After completing the canary analysis, the team decides whether to proceed with the release and roll it out to the rest of the users or back to the previous baseline state. The decision is based on the analysis results, ensuring the new release meets the required standards and doesn't adversely impact the user experience.

Canary Deployment Process

Benefits of Canary Deployment:

Canary Deployment offers several benefits that contribute to smoother software releases and reduced risks:

1.     Zero Production Downtime with Faster Rollback:

Canary deployment allows for quick rollbacks in case of issues or errors. By simply re-routing traffic back to the baseline instance, any problems are immediately eliminated from the customer's perspective. Engineers can then identify and resolve the root cause before introducing a new update, ensuring minimal disruption.

2.     Cost-Efficiency with Small Infrastructure:

Since canary Deployment operates on a small subset of users or infrastructure, it requires only minimal additional resources. Unlike other deployment strategies like blue-green deployments, which necessitate provisioning entirely new infrastructure, canary Deployment allows for changes to be tested on a smaller scale, reducing costs.

3.     Flexibility for Innovation:

By testing the canary instance with minimal impact on the overall user experience and infrastructure, developers gain the confidence to experiment and innovate. Canary Deployment fosters a culture of continuous improvement, enabling organizations to introduce new features and enhancements while maintaining stability.

4.     A/B Testing Capabilities:

Canary deployment facilitates A/B testing, allowing organizations to compare the canary instance with the previous version on various metrics and assess its stability. Organizations can test their production stability and gather valuable insights by progressively increasing the load on the canary instance.

Does Canary Deployment Work for All Deployment Sizes?

Canary Deployment is well-suited for organizations of various sizes and deployment scenarios. Its inherent characteristics, such as short deployment cycles and the ability to target specific user subsets or infrastructure, make it conducive to fast and frequent updates. This agility benefits organizations by reducing time to market and providing customers with more value in less time. Additionally, canary Deployment is particularly effective for large and distributed systems, offering flexibility to defer updates based on regional risk assessments in organizations with a global presence.

Considerations and Limitations:

While canary Deployment provides significant advantages, it's essential to be mindful of specific considerations and limitations:

1.     Automation for Efficiency:

Conducting canary analysis manually can be time-consuming and error-prone, especially in complex deployment pipelines. To overcome this, organizations can leverage automation tools and platforms that streamline the analysis phase and improve the speed and reliability of the CI/CD process.

2.     Challenges with On-Premises or Thick Client Applications:

Implementing canary Deployment can be challenging when applications are installed on personal devices. However, establishing an auto-update environment for end-users can help overcome this limitation and enable a smoother canary deployment process.

3.     Complexities in Managing Databases:

While managing different versions of the application with canary Deployment is relatively smooth, handling database modifications can introduce complexity. Adapting the application to interact with multiple database instances and coordinating schema changes can require specialized skills and careful planning.

How is Canary Different from Blue Green?

Canary Deployment and Blue-Green Deployment are two distinct approaches to releasing new software versions. Canary Deployment takes a gradual and controlled approach, exposing a small subset of users or traffic to the latest release while most continue using the stable version. It's like a safety net that allows organizations to collect real-time feedback and closely monitor the new version's performance in a production-like environment. This way, any issues or unexpected behavior can be quickly identified and addressed before affecting a more extensive user base. Canary Deployment adds an extra layer of validation, mitigating risks and ensuring a smooth transition to the new release.

On the other hand, Blue-Green Deployment focuses on maintaining two identical environments: the blue environment, representing the stable and currently active version, and the green environment, where the new version is deployed. The magic happens when the green environment is thoroughly tested and ready. Traffic is instantly redirected from the blue to the green environment, effectively switching user access to the new version. This approach ensures minimal downtime and provides a straightforward rollback mechanism by quickly redirecting traffic to the blue environment if any issues arise. With a strong emphasis on stability, reliability, and complete separation of environments, Blue-Green Deployment is preferred for organizations prioritizing uninterrupted service and a consistent user experience throughout the deployment process.

In summary, while Canary Deployment gradually exposes the new version to a subset of users for thorough testing, Blue-Green Deployment maintains two separate environments to enable seamless user traffic switching between the stable and new versions. Both strategies offer unique benefits and cater to different deployment needs, allowing organizations to release software updates with minimal risks and disruptions to the end-user experience.

Influence of Kubernetes on Canary

The rise in the adoption of Kubernetes has sparked a surge in the popularity of the Canary strategy. Let us understand why.

Containers are now a standard infrastructure for hosting modern microservices architecture. They are lightweight and offer isolated environments, making it effortless to replicate application instances and manage different versions easily. Containers enabled rapid creation and deletion of infrastructure, allowing organizations to deploy new versions faster. While load balancers did a fine job of switching traffic seamlessly, it became difficult to manage at scale as the process was mostly manual. With Kubernetes in the picture, things changed.

With its ingress automation capabilities, Kubernetes automated the entire process, from deploying new versions to monitoring performance, collecting metrics, and intelligently routing traffic based on predefined rules. This automation streamlines the deployment process, making it more efficient and less error-prone.

Get Started with Canary Deployments using NGINX Ingress: How to Execute Canary Deployments Using NGINX Ingress (devtron.ai)


Canary Deployment has emerged as a valuable strategy for minimizing risks and ensuring smooth software releases. By gradually rolling out updates and monitoring the performance of a canary instance, organizations can proactively address any issues before they impact the entire user base. With benefits such as zero production downtime, cost-efficiency, flexibility for innovation, and A/B testing capabilities, canary Deployment empowers organizations to balance continuous improvement and user satisfaction.

To fully leverage Canary Deployment, organizations can adopt Platforms such as Devtron that provide such strategies out of the box.

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