How does a CI/CD Pipeline work and why should you implement it in Software Development Projects?

By 22 November 2021Blog

If you are a tech expert, CI/CD is probably not new to you! For any software company that aspires to create a better product in less time, CI/CD is an indispensable aspect of modern software projects. 

Setting up CI/CD pipelines are a great way to get your application code from the source into production. They ensure that your software is methodically tested and deployed.

Continuous integration (CI) and Continuous Delivery (CD) have allowed businesses to create innovative processes to release up-to-date product versions more rapidly and have them fixed according to customer requirements. For any serious project that needs frequent revisions, it has been essential to set up an effective CI/CD pipeline that allows quicker product release.

In this article, we will discuss:

What is CI/CD?

Continuous Integration (CI) is the process of pushing codes to code repositories like GitHub or Bitbucket. It is known as a continuous process as codes are tested and feedback is sent to developers within a few minutes about the checks run. Thanks to the automated testing of the codes, developers and testers can work faster. While manual testing is still in need, it is not as agile as automated testing, which makes it simpler for teams to run a wide range of tests easily. 

CI/CD pipelines typically focus on the automation and monitoring of processes at the following four stages in any project:

⦁    Integration Phase 

⦁    Testing Phase 

⦁    Delivery 

⦁    Deployment 

According to David Farley, a thought leader in Continuous Delivery, “Getting software released to users is often a painful, risky, and time-consuming process. The practice of continuous delivery sets out the principles and technical practices that enable rapid, low-risk delivery of high quality, valuable new functionality to user”.

Continuous Delivery (CD) makes product release more reliable and rapid. Product deployment often occurs in the testing phase when releases are frequently needed. Another benefit of CD is that automated deployments make it easier for remote teams to keep up with customer requirements. 

CI/CD should be embraced as a means to enable better collaboration and communication between developers and operation teams. Therefore, organizations need to set up a solid pipeline to identify issues and fix them at the earliest of the development cycle. 

Typical Steps of a CI/CD Pipeline

Like any other pipeline, a CI/CD pipeline makes it easier to shift your application code from source to production. For up-to-date versions of software to be delivered, a series of steps need to be followed in the CI/CD pipeline. So what does a well-performing CI/CD pipeline look like?

  • Build: This is the stage when the application is gathered. 
  • Test: Coding is checked and ultimately automated, which allows programmers and testers to save time. 
  • Release: The application is sent to the repository.
  • Deploy: The code is pushed into the production phase.
  • Validation and compliance: All the steps involved in the build are determined by the requirements of your organization. 

The above is a simplified list of a typical CI/CD pipeline. A well-planned pipeline is unique and structured according to the needs of the organization and customer requirements. 

Frequent Product Releases and Updates 

 Continuous integration and continuous delivery enhance product development processes thus, allowing business to market their product before their competitors and perfect them before the ultimate release. By integrating CI/CD into their software development cycle, organizations can have the upper hand over their competitors. 

Furthermore, CI/CD pipelines make collaboration easier through frequent product releases and updates. Through automated tests and the compilation of code changes into a single repository, teams are in accord and are aware of which codes work and which do not. Such pipelines allow developers to cut corners as they no longer have to do extensive manual coding anymore. 

CI refines integration and makes it part of everyday tasks that help reduce build cost and identify conflicts at the beginning of the cycle. CD is an extension of CI that focuses on the automation of testing and deployment.

 Here are some advantages of integrating CI/CD in your production environment:

  • Detect problems early and quickly.
  • Quick and frequent integrations.
  • Enhance collaboration and communication among teams.
  • Continuous integration cycle results in faster delivery of software.
  • Less time wasted in debugging.
  • Constant availability of build for testing and release.
  • Avoid last-minute complex integration.

Integration & Testing

CI integration means developers can easily integrate their code and contribute to the software development process through the repository several times, as and when needed. This step makes it easier to reduce integration costs as developers will identify boundary conflicts and tackle them at the earliest, thus, allowing conflict resolutions to take place easily and in less time. 

Every change submitted to the application is continuously and automatically built and tested. These processes ensure that every new change implemented has passed all the tests and compliance standards established.

How to make your CI/CD pipeline a success?

Like in any other pipeline, it is easy to be disheartened by push-backs. Hence, it is essential to minimize the risks of failure when setting up a CI/CD pipeline.

Here are the elements that can help make your CI/CD pipeline a success:

  • Invest in testing.

One of the main issues with CI/CD is the risk of sending your software into production with bugs. Through well-written unit tests and acceptance tests, there is a lower chance of ending up with bugs at the deployment stage.

  • Use automation for every commit.

By setting up a trigger to ensure that the pipelines run automatically, the team can work faster on changes. 

  • Make sure that your credentials are safe.

 Many IT experts are sceptical about the safety of CI/CD pipelines as it means giving away server credentials. However, one of the advantages of CI/CD tools is that someone can securely hold credentials. Admin users can usually store credentials and make sure that other users cannot retrieve them. 

BMC blogs provide further insight into the best practices for building security in a CD pipeline.

The CI/CD pipeline requires development, test, and operations teams to work together to create a cohesive release process. The key to a successful process is automation. With integrating CI/CD, teams receive feedback within minutes and can speed up both the build and deploy cycles.

Conclusion 

In this rapidly growing tech landscape, CI/CD processes are a must-have for DevOps teams who wish to stay ahead of competitors. CI/CD is undoubtedly the backbone of the modern DevOps environment. 

By implementing a well-structured CI/CD pipeline that is aligned with organizational needs, product development life cycles can be streamlined. Consequently, higher quality software delivery is achieved, while cutting down production costs. 

 Here is a quick recap of what CI/CD can do for your organization:

  • Simplify integrations
  • Increase the visibility of actions and enable better communication.
  • Identify bugs and fix them. 
  • Allow more time for adding features.
  • Build a stronger software foundation.
  • Reduce testing time and integration issues.
  • Improve customer satisfaction. 
  • Enhance team collaboration. 

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