Feature Flags in Numbers: Why, Who and the Surprising Challenge
February 04, 2019

Ronit Belson
Rollout

When you talk to enough customers, you get a good feel for a trend. What you can't do is put hard numbers around it. One of the latest such trends is the movement towards continuous development and the need for feature flags to enable that.

We knew that feature flags enable developers to move fast while breaking nothing. But we also wanted to know:

■ What does "move fast" mean?

■ How often do developers release new versions and new features?

■ How prevalent are feature flags?

■ What are the main drivers to adopting feature flags?

■ What are the limitations and challenges?

■ What other solution fits into modern software development?

To find the answers, Rollout, with Atlassian, turned to Vanson Bourne to field a survey with 500 software development decision makers in North America, England, France and Germany.

The results surprised us. We knew there was a shift towards agile development and increased use of feature flags. We just didn't know how prevalent it was. In fact, the survey revealed that nearly all (95%) respondents' organizations have implemented, have begun implementing, or plan to implement feature flags in the future.

The benefits of implementing feature flags also became clear. Almost all (99%) of respondents experienced or expect to experience benefits from the implementation of feature flags, including reduced risk (46%), increased speed of development (46%) and increased speed of deployment (45%). In fact, 97% of respondents told us that it's important for their organization to implement new features quickly.

When it comes to the benefits, organizations that already implemented features flags find it less difficult to develop new features quickly:

■ Only 56% of those who implemented feature flags say its difficult (compared with 80% who haven't implemented feature flags yet).

■ On average, they tend to have built more applications (22) compared to 16 for those who started to implement feature flags, and 14 for those who plan to implement.

■ Another interesting statistic is the direct correlation between having feature flags implemented and the velocity of releasing new version updates.

However, 65% of respondents told us that implementing feature flags had difficulties. Challenges associated with using feature flags included increased complexity (47%), time consuming (41%) and managing large numbers of flags (33%).

88% said that they would at least consider moving to a 3rd party solution, with the reasons being:

■ The cost of in-house development is higher (37%)

■ The system needs to have more capabilities than previously planned (32%)

■ It is more complex than previously anticipated (29%)

We knew that feature flags were becoming a "must have" for modern software development organizations. When executed correctly, feature flags play an important role in helping software organizations move faster without introducing new risks. At the same time, feature flags could also introduce new challenges — manageability and scale. To mitigate these challenges, organizations should consider using third party solutions designed to help manage feature development and deployment.

Finally, treat feature flags as an integral part of the software release process, making sure they do not circumvent any of the organization's current software development and release processes or checks and balances.

Ronit Belson is COO of Rollout.io
Share this

Industry News

December 10, 2019

Redgate Software launched its fourth annual State of Database DevOps Survey.

December 10, 2019

Compuware has signed a definitive agreement to acquire the assets of INNOVATION Data Processing, a provider of enterprise data protection, business continuance and storage resource management solutions serving the mainframe market.

December 10, 2019

Dynatrace announced its Autonomous Cloud Enablement (ACE) Practice to accelerate DevOps’ movement to autonomous cloud operations.

December 09, 2019

NS1, announced the expansion of its suite of integrations to include Kubernetes, Consul, Avi Networks (VMWare NSX), NGINX, and HAProxy.

December 09, 2019

CloudBees announced an extension of its partnership with Google. As a Google Cloud Run launch partner, CloudBees will offer developers more flexibility in their deployment of containerized applications.

December 09, 2019

EPAM Systems has expanded its crowdtesting software solutions to enable user story testing.

December 05, 2019

Parasoft announced the newest release of Parasoft C/C++test, the unified C and C++ development testing solution for enterprise and embedded applications.

December 05, 2019

Datadog announced Security Monitoring, a new product that enables real-time threat detection across the entire stack and deeper collaboration between security, developers, and operations teams.

December 05, 2019

Pulumi announced the availability of Pulumi Crosswalk for Kubernetes, an open source collection of frameworks, tools and user guides that help developers and operators work better together delivering production workloads using Kubernetes.

December 04, 2019

CloudBees announced a Preview Program for CloudBees CI/CD powered by Jenkins X, a Software as a Service (SaaS) continuous integration and continuous delivery solution running on Google Cloud Platform.

December 04, 2019

Rancher Labs announced the general availability of K3s, their lightweight, certified Kubernetes distribution purpose built for small footprint workloads, along with the beta release of Rio, their new application deployment engine for Kubernetes that delivers a fully integrated deployment experience from operations to pipeline.

December 04, 2019

WhiteSource announced a new integration with Codefresh, the Kubernetes-native CI/CD solution.

December 03, 2019

Styra is addressing one of the most significant enterprise blockers of Kubernetes: compliance. With Styra, enterprises can move Kubernetes clusters into production en masse while complying with traditional governance, audit, and compliance rules and regulations.

December 03, 2019

Nureva added 13 agile-themed templates to Span Workspace, Nureva’s expansive cloud-based digital canvas for visual planning and team collaboration.

December 03, 2019

Threat Stack announced support for AWS Fargate in the Threat Stack Cloud Security Platform.