From the evolution of successful software-powered companies, the following five building characteristics have emerged: Speed, Agility, Automation, Security, and Quality. All five of these can be developed with DevOps Principles and new technologies. But with so many DevOps technologies on the market, software development has become more complicated than ever. CI/CD approach help reduce complexity while helping you deploy your software smoothly. CI/CD is about continually packaging, testing, and efficiently deploying code into a production environment. This approach has the advantage of eliminating integration issues and mitigating risk in deployments by making them frequent.
Breakdown of CI/CD
- Continuous Integration is a technique where developers connect and share their work as they progress on tasks. In the process, they continuously make changes to the entire system instead of making them one by one. The result is a reduction in bugs and a higher quality product. One of the main benefits of using Continuous Integration is sharing code across teams. When teams can see what other teams are doing, they can collaborate more efficiently. Again, this leads to higher quality products and fewer or no bugs. Lastly, Continuous Integration increases the speed at which developers push code changes by reducing the chance for conflict or error. It’s like an assembly line, where all members of the team pitch in and assemble a car in parallel, rather than one person working on one part of the car at a time.
- Continuous Delivery is a similar technique and includes delivering software after every successful build. Teams that practice Continuous Delivery will usually automate their release process. This eliminates errors that can occur when human intervention is required. In addition, by practicing Continuous Delivery, teams can update their software more often without worrying about any errors getting through. You can also use this technique for events or seasons when customers are less active to lower your risk for downtime in production environments.
- Continuous Deployment is the final step where the teams, if they want to, should be able to deploy to production at any given moment. This process can be completely automated, and DevOps aims at zero-touch automation of deployment. Still, sometimes that may not be practically easy, and hence we rarely see companies employing Continuous Deployment.
While Continuous Deployment may not be practical across all departments or products, it has helped some companies improve their development process significantly by decreasing the time spent on bug fixes and speeding up the release cycle by deploying software frequently.
Every company is viewed as a software company today, and enterprises are going through a massive digital transformation, with automation being an integral part. Well, automation is supercritical these days to tackle ever-growing technology trends. CI/CD enhances the developer experience. It aims to empower developers to deploy software at any point to any environment on demand with the push of a button.
CI/CD is much more than just automation.
It lets the stakeholders and end-users get new solutions and features quickly and efficiently with quality.
CI/CD is a competitive advantage for enterprises embracing it thoroughly. If you think of software as a set of Lego pieces, CI/CD lets these pieces integrate and sync well with each other and deploy with ease.
CI/CD reduces the MTTR [Mean Time to Resolution] because code changes are smaller, iterative, and fault isolations are easier to detect.
CI/CD improves the release rate: continuous code merges and Continuous Deployment to production after precise testing keeps the code in a release-ready condition.
Easy feedback, transparency, and collaboration are made simple with CI/CD practices.
The Business Impact of CI/CD
The cost, effort, and resources required to fix a bug increase exponentially if we find them in the later stages of the SDLC, and this also increases risk. With Continuous Integration, we are able to find bugs as soon as they are introduced. This leads to shipping releases faster and with better quality. In addition, Continuous Integration eliminates manual handoffs and ensures that releases are frequent. This way, developers can focus on writing code for new features rather than fixing bugs manually all day long. It saves time, effort, and increases developer morale towards the work.
In most organizations, the friction in software delivery is because most of the tasks are manual and error-prone. For example, someone provisions/updates the environment as needed, a team deploys a specific version of the software, and another team keeps track of what’s running where. This creates a dependency hell and lack of visibility. Ultimately, these inefficiencies lead to slower software releases and lost revenue and opportunities.
The best approach to achieve velocity is to automate all steps in the deployment pipeline. This leads to more frequent and rapid release cycles that are predictable and error-free and will lead to happy and productive engineering teams. In addition, Continuous Deployment helps you create and promote manifests across environments and flexible deployments to any cloud.
CI/CD forms the building blocks of your software development and delivery process. Therefore, it is essential to understand and apply it thoughtfully to streamline your software delivery.
Notable CI/CD Solutions Available in the Market
Jenkins is one of the first tools in the CI/CD game. It is an open-source automation server where the central build and Continuous Integration processes take place. It is a Java-based program with packages available for operating systems like Windows, macOS, and other Unix-like operating systems. With numerous plugins available, Jenkins supports building and helps in deploying and automating software development projects.
With its recent acquisition of Drone CI, Harness is a modern and complete CI/CD solution – a unique tool that incorporates the power of AI and inbuilt vulnerability scanning. Harness enables developers to build complex deployments like canary or blue/green. With Harness, you can have a single integrated Pipeline for both CI/CD. Feature Flags and Cloud Cost Management are added advantages. Developers can observe what’s happening to their pipelines with strong debugging capabilities. Harness provides powerful GitOps capabilities natively and eliminates scripting toil to achieve highly automated and true CI/CD.
CircleCI is yet another CI/CD solution. It is a highly sophisticated platform with powerful caching capabilities and customizable workflows. It supports many languages including Java, Ruby/Rails, Python, JS, PHP, Haskell, Scala, etc. This tool is easy to set up and run. CircleCI helps companies run extremely complicated pipelines efficiently. CircleCI builds, tests, does security scans, approvals, and deployments.
Travis is considered one of the oldest CI solutions that exist. Travis has a large community, and there are many tutorials available. Travis can not only be used as SaaS, but it also has an on-prem version. Travis automatically detects new commits made by developers and pushes them to a GitHub repository. After every new code commit, Travis CI will build the project and then run tests accordingly with high efficiency.
GitLab is a widely known DevOps tool, and GitLab CI/CD is an inbuilt tool/feature that every GitLab user will get. It helps companies test, build, and publish their software applications seamlessly. In addition, it allows users to host many GitLab runners on servers and also allocate labels to them. This gives users a farm of build servers where builds can be assigned to any server as required.
Codeship is a hosted CI/CD platform that supports early and automatic software releases. It helps companies develop more reliable products faster by optimizing testing and release processes. It runs your automated tests and configured deployment when you push to your repository. It also takes care of managing and scaling infrastructure as required so that you can test and release more frequently.
GoCD is an open-source CI/CD tool that helps developers to build and release software that supports modern and advanced infrastructure. GoCD comes from the renowned company Thoughtworks. GoCD’s major product differentiator is the Value Stream Map feature that helps companies visualize their CD pipelines, but every CD tool provides this these days. GoCD is available for Windows, Linux, and Mac and runs on a system of pipelines that help keep the workflow moving.
TeamCity is another modern CI/CD server from JetBrains. It is known for its straightforward setup and magnificent user interface. It includes a robust set of features and a growing plugin ecosystem. TeamCity permits users to integrate code and configure it with simple steps. In addition, TeamCity makes it possible for parallel builds to run on different platforms and environments with more efficiency.
Bamboo is one more traditional CI/CD server from Atlassian. Like any other CI/CD server, Bamboo lets developers automatically build, integrate, and test source code and prepare the application for the deployment-ready state. In addition, Bamboo operates and integrates seamlessly with Atlassian’s other tools like Jira and Hipchat.
Semaphore is a cloud-based CI/CD solution for testing and deploying software applications. In other words, this tool helps developers with setting up the build, running tests, and deploying applications. Semaphore sets CI/CD norms with a pull request-based development process. Semaphore has some great features, such as native Docker support, secrets and dependency management, parallel execution, customizable stages, and control flow switches.
Codefresh is a powerful CI/CD platform, especially for Docker and Kubernetes. It boasts many critically valuable features, such as allowing developers to get faster builds, native testing for microservices, and smooth deployments with Kubernetes and GitOps. In Codefresh, each pipeline step runs efficiently in its own container, having a shared volume and variables between steps.
There are many tools in the cloud-native space for CI/CD. Some firms claim they help people do CI/CD, but they only do the CI part well and use scripting for CD. As CI/CD approaches become an integral part of the DevOps process, it is highly recommended to invest your time and effort in selecting the tool that fits your needs and has a future vision. In addition, something that is well equipped with all the modern technologies like AI, ML, security, etc.
Ultimately, developers should take charge and pick the right tool. But in this highly scattered market, choosing the right tool can be daunting. We have plenty of resources at Harness to help. Familiarizing yourself with CI/CD Best Practices should make the process easier.
Join us live on the 20th of January at 11 am IST as we discuss modern continuous delivery.