CI/CD practices, when properly implemented, bridge the gap between development teams and create the perfect DevOps environment for efficient and reliable software products.
In the modern business environment, where information moves at magnificent speeds, agility, and process optimization are paramount to delivering adequate IT services. Long and clumsy coding processes have stepped down to welcome groundbreaking methodologies such as CI/CD, that connect development and operations teams and bridges the gap between them, which paves the way for shorter and more efficient processes that allow quicker building and deploying of software.
DevOps is the queen of said software development methodologies and was born from the need to optimize and improve software development workflows. As a matter of fact, according to the IDC, the DevOps software market will reach $6.6 billion by 2022, and over 50% of companies embracing DevOps by early 2019, with Foonkie Monkey proudly included in those numbers.
For modern DevOps teams, like ours, the successful implementation of a CI/CD pipeline is the backbone of an efficient software development process. But what is a CI/CD pipeline? Why use it? Here’s why and how to milk all the potential CI/CD has to offer.
What is a CI/CD Pipeline?
- CI, or Continuous Integration, is a set of practices and principles that help development teams to integrate new codes and code changes into a shared repository several times a day. Each integration is verified by automated tests that detect errors and make them easier to pinpoint and remove. Furthermore, CI creates a constant flux of information between teams of developers and improves software quality by reducing the time it takes to test and release software. According to a study by Statista, by the beginning of the year 2019, 88% of developers worldwide had adopted CI practices.
- CD, or Continuous Delivery, is a software development practice that picks up where CI ends and automates the delivery process of the integrated code into the production stage without any errors or delays. Code changes are deployed to a production environment after the building stage and reviewed manually to be deployable at any time. CD helps developers build better software by giving constant feedback from users and implementing the necessary fixes.
- A CI/CD pipeline merges both processes above and automates the entire software delivery process. It provides continuous automation and permanent control throughout the lifecycle of the software, from integration and testing to the distribution and implementation stages. According to Developer Economics, by the end of 2019, the adoption rates of CI/CD in DevOps teams had reached 34% for both web and mobile developers. The number of custom software companies like Foonkie Monkey that have adopted automation approaches keeps growing, and CI/CD keeps gaining popularity among developers.
CI/CD Best Practices
1. Measure and Monitor
The implementation of any CI/CD strategy isn’t just about delivering code fast. When DevOps practices are scaled, the orchestration between teams and processes can become harder to control, and the entire workflow can fail without proper process visibility. Speed and effectiveness are worthless if the core of the automation process isn’t being monitored and tracked to check for errors, quality, and stability. An efficient monitoring technique, known as software value stream mapping, provides a big picture view of the entire pipeline workflow, documents the duration of processes, and highlights interruptions so that issues get identified and addressed.
2. Protect and Secure your CI/CD Processes
Considering the CI/CD system has full access to codebases and credentials to deploy in various scenarios, it is critical to ensure efficient protection of all the internal data; this is crucial to guarantee the integrity of the deployed product and resources. It is paramount to isolate and lock down the CI/CD system as much as possible. Systems must always deploy within secure internal networks that shield external access and monitor internal access. VPNs, two-factor authentication, DevSecOps, and access management systems are some smart security practices that will ensure that only authorized parties will access the data.
3. Ensure Speed is Maintained
Speed and instant feedback are at the core of Continuous Integration. Any CI/CD process needs to ensure a quick-moving workflow from start to end of the pipeline. It is essential to always be on top of the time it takes for builds to get verified in the QA environment. If times are too long, it will limit the number of times developers deploy codes in one day and create disruptions in the workflow.
4. Build Only Once
By now, it’s clear that speed and efficiency are the pillars of any CI/CD and DevOps approach to developing software products. A successful CI/CD system includes the build process as the first step of the cycle to ensure that source code building only happens once. By doing so, the software is built and packaged in a clean environment, the output used throughout the entire pipeline, and errors are detected early and avoided at later stages. An aide, such as Git, can be used to upload the resulting data to be pulled at later stages without any changes.
5. Add a deployment stage
A deployment stage ensures the continuity of the pipeline. In the deployment stage, the software and code changes are always in a ready-for-release state. When developers make changes, the end-user gets them immediately, which makes reactions to customer feedback a real-time thing. New ideas, bug fixes, and modifications are released as soon as the code gets pushed. Nevertheless, since the release happens so fast, it is advised to follow some methodologies to guide the deployment process. Here are some relevant approaches to deployment:
- Canary deployment: Release to a set of users first, test it, then release it to the rest if successful.
- Blue-green deployment: Create two identical production environments, one live, one idle. Deployment and testing take place in the “fake” environment. The software is only released to the live environment when tested and successful.
- A/B testing: Show different segments of users two variants of the same site and compare which variant drives more traffic.
Tools for CI/CD
There are many tools available to help in the proper development of a CI/CD pipeline. Each one focuses on specific needs, so developers should evaluate which tool can provide the best solution to their needs. Here are some of the most popular ones:
In conclusion, the relevancy of adopting project methodologies that accelerate the software delivery process is undeniable. When properly implemented, CI/CD pipeline can significantly improve the deployment time of any software or IT product.
The effective collaboration between cross-functional development teams is the crux of the successful implementation of all DevOps endeavors, CI/CD included. Here at Foonkie Monkey, we have implemented a DevOps approach to ensure that all our IT products are top-quality and exceed all expectations.