CI/CD pipeline

Whether you’re new to the idea of a CI/CD pipeline or have tried this development practice before and are simply looking for ways to optimize the process, this article is for you.

The idea behind CI/DC

Before diving in, let’s quickly discuss what exactly a CI/CD pipeline is, including the benefits and different solutions available in the marketplace.

Continuous Integration (CI) is a development practice that merges all developer copies to a shared mainline (trunk) at least daily (oftentimes several times per day). Its purpose is to make programmers’ lives easier when merging their locally developed code to the mainline by providing immediate feedback via internal tests and linting rules that your team set-up.

The overarching goal of Continuous Integration is to keep team members in-synch through automated testing, validation, and immediate feedback. Done correctly, it will instill confidence in the programmer (and team) knowing that their code adheres to the standards required to be production ready.

Continuous Deployment (CD) is the second piece of the puzzle and finishes what Continuous Integration started. Think of Continuous Deployment as a mail carrier of sorts, in which it takes the CI package and sends it to a given environment (staging, testing, acceptance, production).

The major benefit of utilizing a CI/CD pipeline is increased workflow efficiency and productivity in a team by reducing human errors from manual deployment. The end result is faster and higher quality software releases that can get in the hands of your customers faster.
The major benefit of utilizing a CI/CD pipeline

Depending on your team’s needs, you can choose either hosted or self-hosted solutions. Some of the more popular hosted solutions include Travis, Codeship, and Snap. On the other hand, if your team requires self-hosting, then Jenkins, Drone, and TeamCity are all viable options.

Now, let’s move on and discuss…

Five tips that you can use to optimize your CI/CD pipeline

1. Have a consistent deployment process

Piggybacking off tip number one: It’s incredibly important that your team deploys the same way from beginning to end. This will ensure an equal amount of consistency across different environments. Inconsistency with your processes only leads to wasted time and effort (and not to mention major headaches) which will hamper your goal for rapid releases.

2. Make CI/CD the ONLY way to deploy

It’s tempting to want to mix and match different development approaches for building your software. It’s critical that before choosing a tool you assess your project needs and goals. CI/CD is optimal for software-defined life cycles with an emphasis on automation. Agile, on the other hand, is all about processes and accelerating delivery while DevOps hangs its hand on culture and responsiveness. Don’t make things harder on your team by trying to incorporate a mixture of different development practices – instead focus on maximizing your CI/CD pipeline. Taking a haphazard approach will be immediately noticeable and will put a grinding halt to your productivity.

3. Tailor your CI/CD pipeline to your needs

Don’t expect to have a cookie-cutter CI/CD pipeline automation process for every project. Knowing your project branches is the first step in defining your development process. As an example, ask yourself, “Will our project have multi-branches?” If so, how many features per branch will there be and will you allow a CI/CD pipeline pull request if a feature failed?

4. Have programmers run tests locally first

The mere act of slowing down and not rushing to send code to the build server will lead to greater speed and quality. While the objective of CI/CD is to provide immediate feedback once the code is sent to the build server, it’s still an excellent habit to run locally the same test that’s done on the build server. Although at first it may seem cumbersome and unnecessary – in the end, you will catch errors even faster, thus helping the project move along more smoothly.

5. Delegate team leads

As developers, we are inherently lazy and often skimping on testing processes and best practices in order to crank out more lines of code and merge our contributions to the master branch. Given our nature, don’t expect every individual in a team to be as enthused about CI/CD as you are. It’s wise to assign responsibility to a lead developer(s) to not only enforce proper CI/CD usage but to also act as the spokesperson and subject-matter expert.

5. Delegate team leads

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Conclusion

Utilizing continuous integration and continuous deployment is an excellent development approach for your team. Following the tips mentioned above, CI/CD doesn’t have to be some scary esoteric practice implemented only by industry giants. Keep the process simple by ensuring that your CI/CD process is the only development practice being used, tailoring the process to the needs of your project/organization, being consistent in deployment processes, catching problems early by having developers run tests locally first, and delegating a team leader(s) to oversee the process. When CI/CD is done correctly, you will notice a dramatic uptick in efficiency and productivity, leading to faster and higher quality deployments.

CI/CD process

 

 

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Gil Artmoore
Gil Artmoore
Gil spent the past decades working various roles in IT departments for many businesses, small and large. Recently, Gil started writing out the things he has learned, experienced and witnessed in the small business/tech world during his career to share insights with the rest of the world.

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