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CI/CD Pipeline: A Quick Guide
July 6, 2021
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CI/CD Pipeline: A Quick Guide
July 6, 2021
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Fast and reliable build pipelines are crucial to the success of modern day engineering teams. Check out this quick guide that can help DevOps/SRE teams to streamline the integration of development and testing processes through CI/CD tools.

All software companies are committed to providing services that are useful, appreciated, and shared. Therefore, it all boils down to delivering reliable software to users and consumers.

Continuous Integration(CI) and Continuous Delivery(CD) processes allow developers to easily commit code to a shared repository while ensuring development of the highest quality.

Gitlab reported in its 2020 survey that 83% of developers are releasing code faster using CI/CD tools. In fact, 60% are deploying code multiple times a day! The good news is, CI/CD reduces operational complexity, improves developer productivity, and allows them to focus on value-adding tasks.

So in this blog, let’s explore what exactly is CI/CD and how engineering teams can leverage it for better output.

What is CI/CD?

Continuous Integration (CI) is a software development practice where members of a team (individual developers) integrate their code frequently, at least daily – leading to multiple integrations per day. In addition, each integration is validated by an automated build (including tests) so that integration errors can be detected quickly.

This process of automating the build, test, and source code validation is called Continuous Integration.

Continuous Delivery (CD) is a software development process in which teams develop and deploy software in short cycles, ensuring that the software can be reliably released at any time. It automates the entire delivery process, including the deployment stages. By using automated testing and automated deployment, you can release code to production with just a click of a button.

Now, why do organizations need CI/CD?

The following reasons justify the need for CI/CD:

  1. It detects system errors/ failures quickly and assists developers in resolving them. For example, whenever a test fails, the error information is recorded and stored as an artifact. Developers can use this artifact to gather actionable information about the issue and can work towards resolving it. As a result, the overall MTTR (Mean Time To Resolve) of an incident can be reduced.
  2. It helps teams to work closely together and encourages team ownership. In a scenario such as a zero-day vulnerability (a vulnerability in a system or device that has been disclosed but is not yet patched), the CI/CD systems would notify the DevOps team with a quick fix, so before even the security researchers are notified, the major security risk can be avoided. As a result, everyone on the team takes total responsibility for the software.
  3. It maintains a continuous feedback loop across the workflow, where developers and test engineers can team up to explore options for fixing the bug. To cite an instance, in a test-driven development (TDD), the initial tests would always fail. Here, developers would engage with the testing team to develop test cases that actually support the TDD environment.
  4. It encourages end-to-end transparency within an organization. In general, CI/CD is more focused on getting the product released quickly to the users. Here it receives feedback from the customers as well as internal team members thus establishing end-to-end communication and transparency among the users and developers.
  5. It reduces the backlog for software releases, improves test reliability, and speeds up the time to market (TTM). In particular, short release cycles and short iterations of CI/CD help the development team to execute multiple deployments with quality code. Which in turn amplifies the release cycles and ensures reliability over the product.

Now, let's take a look at the CI/CD process

The below diagram is that of the DevOps lifecycle. This demonstrates the various stages a software product passes through during the development process.

Jez Humble and David Farley in their book on “Continuous Delivery: Reliable Software Releases through Build, Test, and Deployment Automation” summarized the CI/CD process as,

"The deployment pipeline is a model of this process, and its incarnation in a continuous integration and release management tool is what allows you to see and control the progress of each change as it moves from version control through various sets of tests and deployments to release to users."

Continuous Delivery (CD) and Continuous Integration (CI) are two of the most important elements in today's software development. They reduce risks, create a more stable framework for building and delivering solutions, but what makes both so useful? They allow fast turnaround times, enable collaboration between team members, and provide easy rollback capabilities.

For instance, it includes setting up a complete development environment using Docker Compose, building images using Dockerfile, deploying the images to different environments (dev, staging, and production), and running automated tests against the deployed application.

Have you ever set up a CI/CD process for your application and wondered how customers could possibly keep their applications up-to-date? Actually, it isn't too difficult.

As your infrastructure and deployment processes evolve, so too does the way you alert customers of updates. Application release automation solutions help customers to automatically upgrade versions of code to reduce the amount of time that they are running outdated software. These solutions are also useful for reducing security risks that can come with known vulnerabilities if you can reduce the window during which no update exists.

Furthermore, continuous testing helps to automate the testing activities from the development phase to the release phase. It also enables testing across different environments using the same test scripts. Continuous testing is the foundation of build and delivery pipelines that many teams are adopting, which has now become an integral part of the DevOps culture.

Top Tools for Executing CI/CD Pipeline

CI/CD pipelines have been streamlined with new automation tools since companies turned to DevOps. In addition, these tools are compatible with leading project management and development tools, such as Jira and Git. These automation tools are easy to integrate with other SaaS tools as well. Here is the list of popular CI/CD Tools.

Sl No. CI/CD Tool Overview Salient Features Open Source?
1 Jenkins The most popular open-source tool that automates the build, test, and deployment processes.
  • Extensible automation server that can be converted into a continuous delivery hub for any project at scale
  • Supports a rich set of Plugins
  • Easy to distribute across multiple platforms
Yes
2 GitLab CI With its personalized feature set and real-time security, it enhances modern DevOps practices and protects your infrastructure from vulnerabilities.
  • Repository management and version control across Git
  • Issue management and bug tracking boards
  • Code review tool with ChatOps functionality
Yes
3 TeamCity The tool ensures flexibility in the development practices and workflows of development and operations.
  • Provides build history, test history with statistics
  • VCS (Version Control System) interoperability
  • Code quality tracking
No
4 Bamboo It binds all the automated builds, tests, and releases into a single workflow. It is an integrated solution that gives full traceability once the product feature is rolled out.
  • Language neutral; supports all programming languages
  • Parallel builds that support multiple builds at a time
  • Ease of importing data from other CI tools
No
5 Travis CI This is a free, open-source tool intended to help you test and deploy your software more easily.
  • Automatic integration with Github
  • Supports 21 programming languages
  • Deployment to multiple cloud services
Yes
6 CircleCI A proprietary cloud-based or infrastructure-based CI/CD pipeline that helps teams build, test, and deploy software products at scale using simplified features.
  • SSH into builds
  • Can run tests in parallel
  • Easy to configure resource classes for each job of CPU and RAM usage
Yes

Conclusion

One of the most important qualities of any deployment pipeline is how consistent and reliable it is, especially when considering that any bugs found late in the process can cost anywhere from hundreds to thousands of dollars.

The CI/CD framework today, however, offers a lot of benefits by allowing seamless integration between development, test and deployment. With the increasing number of changes and bugs that arise, it is essential to have smooth integration. This will increase productivity and ultimately give an edge over competitors.

Squadcast is an incident management tool that’s purpose-built for SRE. Your team can get rid of unwanted alerts, receive relevant notifications, work in collaboration using the virtual incident war rooms, and use automated tools like runbooks to eliminate toil.

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