Software product delivery is now faster with the CI/CD pipeline. This systematic method introduces innovations within development processes. But how exactly do we describe what it is? Let’s find out more about it today.
Developing software products is a complex process. It involves significant steps along the software development lifecycle that need to be handled carefully. That is why it takes a competent software development team to deploy a quality product out the door.
Moreover, the team should also employ best practices and relevant software tools to yield efficiency. But despite these measures, software teams may still encounter problems along the way.
Let’s have communication as an example. Software teams composed of multiple members often overlook communicating task updates promptly. This often leads to misalignment of deliverables and expectations. As a result, tickets that haven’t been tested may be prematurely deployed causing faults and errors in the product.
One way to avoid common issues is by automating intricate activities that greatly impact the development process. With such a need, automated workflows such as the CI/CD pipeline became popular. In this article, we’ll discuss the following points:
- What is CI/CD?
- The CI/CD Pipeline
- Benefits of Using the CICD Pipeline
Let’s get started.
What is CI/CD?
Before we delve further into the CI/CD pipeline, it’s important to understand the concept itself first. CI/CD is a compound of two processes namely continuous integration and continuous delivery.
The first prerequisite in this pairing is Continuous Integration. This process involves producing artifacts or resources that are deployable. In CI, programs undergo automated tests to ensure that they’re functional and error-free.
There are fundamental requirements for software teams to practice continuous integration. Take note of the following:
- Developers need to merge their code to the main branch as many times as needed.
- The team needs to employ automated code building and test sequence activities upon merging.
- Finally, the developers wait for the automated build and test results.
Based on the above requirements, software development teams ensure that the code is working. Simultaneously, they’ll receive feedback on whether there are errors or not.
On the other hand, Continuous Delivery receives the decisions made after CI. Although the CI/CD workflow allows continuous release of changes, deployments are triggered manually.
If the process automatically deploys the project to production after testing without human intervention, that is called continuous deployment. Based on this information, we can now answer the question, “What is a CI/CD Pipeline?”
The CI/CD Pipeline Explained
It’s important to understand the principles that bind CI/CD processes together. The following principles describe how continuous delivery empowers CI so teams can successfully release software projects.
- Develop software in short iterations
- Implement system architecture that’s compatible with iterative releases
- Promptly perform tests for builds to keep code stable and deployable
- Developers can deploy code builds to any environment on demand
- Practice pushing code builds to staging environments
- Automate software delivery processes as much as possible
We can simplify the CI/CD pipeline as a series of steps that lead to seamless software delivery. This method focuses on software development using a DevOps or SRE (site reliability engineering) approach. Just like any software development process, the pipeline involves these major steps:
- Building code. Developers compile their applications and code changes.
- Performing tests. In this stage, the code build runs through various tests. This includes integration tests, unit tests, UI tests, stability tests, security tests, etc.
- Releasing code version. Developers release artifacts such as builds and container images to the repository.
- Deployment. The team or developer has an option to deploy the artifacts to different environments. Most of the time, software teams practice deploying to staging to verify functionalities before merging all code resources. If functionalities are not met, developers need to do bug fixing or apply necessary changes.
With these factors in mind, we can see that these are manually achievable. In fact, this looks like a conventional workflow of software development. However, CI/CD provides a premise for development efficiency and optimization. This is why the essence of CI/CD lies in automating processes as much as possible.
Here are automatable use cases for the CI/CD pipeline:
1. Application performance monitoring
One way to ensure software quality and stability is through application performance monitoring. In essence, developers will use APM tools to monitor key metrics within an application.
This helps developers assess if the application experiences pain points while still under development. That way, issues are addressed early, leading to a safe and stable deployment.
2. Component integrations
Software development undergoes an integration stage along its lifecycle. This ensures that all components of the developed system meet the defined requirements. Additionally, this verifies if all integrations of subsystems successfully align.
3. Testing and delivery
In relation to integration, a system undergoes testing activities to trace issues and bugs. This phase also determines if the system is ready to go or needs bug fixing from the developers.
Once ready, the team triggers the release of the developed systems to their intended environment. Automating these use cases provides efficiency within the pipeline.
Benefits of CI/CD Pipeline
We can get hints into the benefits of the CI/CD pipeline from the previous sections. But besides the apparent efficiency it provides, the CI/CD pipeline is popular for its other impacts in development. Here are more reasons why software teams adopt this workflow.
One of the most impactful CI/CD activities is its continuous automated testing. This empowers developers to instantly check their code as they create a build.
As a result, developers find issues and bugs almost immediately. Through the continuous automated tests within the CI/CD pipeline, software development teams can save time and resources.
Through continuous integration, developers are able to release shorter code blocks instead of having them in huge bulks. This makes it easier for the developers to test their code quickly. Moreover, shorter code integration allows for better version management since it’s easier to trace code versions.
More frequent releases
With CI/CD, developers can release application updates faster. The frequency of integration and deployment accounts for faster code testing and building, therefore, keeping the product up to date.
Because of the automated test and integration, system feedback arrives in real-time. There will be more prompt decisions when the system can provide its own status. By knowing if the current build is stable or not, the team can properly assign action items and manage expectations.
We talked about more benefits of the CI/CD pipeline in a separate article. Many companies find value in these benefits, thus employing the workflow in their own development processes. However, one of the challenges is finding the right resources to sustain innovative practices.
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