5 CI/CD Best Practices to Solve Key Business Challenges

CI/CD implementation is only challenging if you don't know the best practice to employ! So, here are five CI/CD best practices you can use for your projects.

July 15, 2022
6 mins read
Last Updated August 09, 2022
CI CD best practices for higher ROI

5 CI/CD Best Practices to Solve Key Business Challenges

CI/CD implementation has specific challenges depending on your project requirements. Overcoming these challenges can mean better time-to-market, flexibility, and streamlined processes. We will discuss significant challenges and CI/CD best practices to overcome them. But, first, let’s understand why there is a need for CI/CD best practices.

Every great discovery begins with a problem! The need for better communication led to Graham Bell’s discovery of the Telephone! Understanding the problem at hand is half the battle won.

So, what’s the most significant challenge in CI/CD implementation?

It’s prioritization!

Prioritization of the right features, tests, and resources is essential to reduce the time to market. However, if you prioritize the wrong features, tests, and resources, it can cascade into a chain of events that ends in an undesired result.

This relates to the Diderot effect! It’s a philosophy based on the human nature of spending time, effort, and money on something they don’t need. So, if you don’t prioritize the right features and tests, there will be wasted resources, workflow complexities, multi-environment issues, and security integration problems.

Fortunately, each of these challenges has solutions. So, here we are with the CI/CD best practices to solve prioritizations, workflows, security problems, etc.

Leverage chaos engineering to handle prioritization problems

Organizations with well-established CI/CD setups have priorities set.

So, why is prioritization a challenge?

CI/CD implementation without prioritization is like an unplanned trip! You never know when your ride will run out of fuel in the wrong direction. So, if you are still in the process of setting up a new CI/CD process, prioritization is key.

Imagine your team is still stuck on the manual tests when your project runs out of time. On top of the deadline, you don’t have a test prioritization plan. It’s like running on a road with no pitstops!

Test automation need

A nudge by the most intelligent person in the room, and you are wondering what is wrong here.
Once you are enlightened on prioritizing critical tests, the next step will be creating a reliable CI/CD pipeline. Again, having your process and test prioritization plan ready is vital before you go for CI/CD implementations.

A significant CI/CD best practice is creating a requirement-based testing plan. In addition, you can use Amland’s risk model, which helps define risk-based tests. While, in theory, risk-based models work, you need to consider different aspects like test type, resources required, sample size, etc.

So you need a CI/CD solution, which is resilient, reduces wastage of resources, and is linear in approach. Chaos engineering is an approach to testing for failure first. In other words, it is one of the CI/CD best practices where tests are designed to fail for improvement in app resilience

testing for failure

Netflix created chaos monkey for improved prioritization

Netflix wanted to rewrite the entire application on the cloud to leverage the cloud-native capabilities. Unfortunately, it meant massive prioritization issues. Which process or test is required first was a challenging decision to make. Apart from that, it could not afford downtime as a streaming service.

So, Netflix used the chaos engineering approach. It helped them test for failure first and then gradually prioritize workloads. Further, Netflix created a tool for test automation called “chaos monkey,” which enabled,

  • Identification of system weaknesses
  • Recovery mechanisms to handle vulnerabilities
  • Testing extensively for failure
  • A fault-tolerant system

Now that you have planned which test to prioritize or process to automate, you need to consider the resource requirements.

Check out this DevOps case study of Netflix

IaC as CI/CD best practice to manage resources

Technology stack as a significant aspect of software development includes storage, network, hypervisor, and frameworks. Such a stack naturally has several resources, and managing them can be a significant challenge for organizations.

For example, data center management is one of the eight key areas that can cause massive costs for organizations. From electricity costs due to power consumption by data centers to bandwidth requirements, a lack of management can lead to higher costs.

CI/CD implementation allows you to manage resources through automation and leaner iterations. Continuous integration involves testing each iteration and integrating the feedback. So, the tests are minimal, and results are improved with each iteration.

However, the challenge lies in managing resources for different tests.

For example, if you want to conduct regression testing, grading test cases and analyzing the impact on software is essential. Then, based on the effects on different platforms, you can set the priority of test cases to high, low, or medium. Regression tests are resource-intensive, and a grading system adds to the need for resources.

Infrastructure as code is a CI/CD best practice for resource management as it provides speed of prioritization, prevents ad-hoc configuration drifts, and reduces security vulnerabilities.

Resource management is a process of provisioning, managing, and configuring resources. Such resource management processes form the crux of the infrastructure resource lifecycle(IRL).

IRL has several stages like,

  • Resource provisioning
  • Configuration management
  • Monitoring and performance
  • Compliance and governance
Resource Lifecycle

Understanding and optimizing the stages of IRL is key to resource management. IaC enables you to optimize IRL and manage resources. It is a best practice that allows you to support CI/CD implementation through resource management.

Tata Communications used Terraform to leverage IaC for resource management

Tata Communications needed resource management solutions for their applications deployed in Amazon Web Series(AWS). Furthermore, resource provisioning became vital due to increased operational costs of managing data centers and high lead time for IT capacity augmentation.

So, they decided to use IaC through the Terraform tool. Tata Communications used Terraform to code different components of their infrastructure. It helped them build apps, make quick changes and manage infrastructure versioning.

Tata Communication Case Study

Tata Communications team leveraged IaC to improve infrastructure components’ performance, including computing instances, storage, and high-level features. They also used AWS CodeCommit, CodeBuild, CodeDeploy, and CodePipeline for enhanced CI/CD pipeline implementations across environments.

IaC and AWS services helped Tata Communications manage resources to enhance automation in customer’s developer activities like,

  • Higher code quality
  • Release management
  • Better configurations
  • Low deployment time

Managing resources can help optimize costs, but resource management may not be enough if your security integrations are not working properly!

Improve security integrations through DevSecOps

Security of your software is essential, and at the same time, it can cause problems like slow integrations and higher time-to-market. For example, according to a report, running a static application security test (SAST) scans for vulnerabilities in an app with 500,000 lines of code takes 30 to 45 minutes.

Similarly, the dynamic application security testing (DAST) scan will take around 3 to 4 hours. Now, if you are scanning the application for each change in the CI/CD pipeline, the amount of time it takes for the app deployment will increase.

In other words, security tests can slow down the deployment process.

Besides that, CI/CD pipeline integrations security tools also suffer from different issues. For example, if you are running a SAST scan and find a vulnerability, you need to break the build and fix the problem before moving on to the next set of tests. So it means more time and effort with each increment.

DevSecOps is a CI/CD best practice that helps with parallelism. So, development, security, and operational teams can work simultaneously, reducing the time needed for integrations.

DevOps is an approach to breaking down the siloed development and operations team. But, DevSecOps takes it a notch higher! It helps implement the DevOps culture across development, operations, and security teams.

It allows you to create pipelines with coherent and synchronized operations with higher security. Every organization has specific development, operation, and security challenges.

HSBC used the DevSecOps approach to improve security integrations

HSBC struggled with slow project deliveries, upfront hardware costs, legacy apps, higher failure rates, etc. With the fintech industry growing rapidly, lower time-to-market and higher security become critical.

However, they observed siloed security development and operations teams by the 16th week into their digital transformation journey. Some of the key issues were,

  • Security design review’s impact on architecture
  • Severe vulnerabilities found in app penetration tests
  • Reviews, error fixes, and verification of builds take weeks

HSBC integrated the DevSecOps approach for enhancing collaborations between security and development teams. It helped them with threat modeling, automatic vulnerabilities scan, rapid build releases, and shorter verification times. Likewise, you can also leverage DevSecOps to have rapid security integrations and secure processes.

Security integration is not the only aspect that can affect your workflows. Every iteration or change requires workflow adjustments which is a challenge for many organizations.

Embrace workflow automation for enhanced CI/CD pipelines

Enhanced workflows ensure that all the pipeline stages are streamlined. Adjusting the workflow according to the stage of software development and streamlining the processes needs an efficient CI/CD. However, changes in CI/CD workflow due to continuous integration and adding features become challenging.

So, how to create a streamlined CI/CD workflow?

Workflow automation is one of the CI/CD best practices you can leverage to streamline CI/CD workflows. It allows you to adjust the workflow automatically each time there is a change or addition of features.

Airbnb streamlined its workflows through automation

With more than 1,000 engineers executing 100,000 CI jobs daily, Airbnb supports millions of users and property owners to connect. This giant marketplace used GitHub enterprise for source control and CI/CD process management.

Over time, source control infrastructure became a challenge for Airbnb as they needed to scale the system’s capabilities to handle massive CI tasks daily.

Airbnb systems struggled to scale with increased Git traffic, affecting the speed of new feature releases. So, Airbnb teams decided to leverage automation for their workflows and improve CI/CD efficiencies.

Accordingly, Airbnb teams began re-architecting the source code infrastructure with a simple storage layer. However, it was more than just adjusting the workflow. Airbnb wanted to keep the GitHub enterprise repository’s file system in sync with the mirrored files.

They used Amazon Simple Queue Service (Amazon SQS) as a queueing mechanism and buffered events from the GitHub code repository to Airbnb’s syncing service. It helped them automatically sync repositories and ensure the redelivery of messages for successful synchronizations.

Airbnb teams can now focus on feature development while SQS enables automatic synchronizations for enhanced CI/CD workflows. Likewise, you can use workflow automation to cope with sudden changes. However, implementing workflow automation can be challenging due to multi-environment complexities.

Leverage containerization to reduce multi-environment complexity

Software development and deployment involve several environments, like production environments, testing environments, and development environments. While implementing your CI/CD pipelines, managing workloads across environments becomes complex.

And, why is there complexity of multiple environments?

Each environment has specific requirements, and adjusting your deployments accordingly can be challenging. So, you need to isolate processes to reduce the complexity of environments. In other words, you can have an ephemeral system providing the flexibility of changing configurations according to the environment.

Containerization is an approach that allows you to isolate processes and deal with the complexities of multi-environment deployments. You can easily spin up a container based on the environment-specific requirements.

Weever used containerization for localized development

Weever apps provide analytics software and needed solutions to cope with multiple environments. The Weever team migrated to Amazon Web Services to improve reliability but needed a solution to deploy locally developed software into multiple environments.

So, developers can develop applications on their laptops and yet deploy them across platforms. Weever leveraged containerization to replicate functionalities between development and production environments.

Further, the Weever team used Amazon ElastiCache in production environments and Redis for local caching. Redis provided extended local development sessions in containers.

With Amazon Virtual Private Cloud (Amazon VPC), Weever isolated environments logically for development and testing purposes. It helped them ensure that developer’s productivity was higher, reducing the need to manage the production database.

Using AWS and Docker containers, Weeveer enabled higher productivity and reduced deployment complexity in multiple environments.

Simform’s CI/CD best practices implementation!

Complexities of environments or the need for isolation of modules, the solution always lies in how you understand the problem. Each best practice is different from another, depending on the type of problem you have. For example, Auction House is a platform that helps millions of auction houses worldwide to digitize their offerings.

However, the auctioning platform providers needed a solution to modernize the core platform architecture. Simform helped the Auction House through containerization. An engineering team from Simform isolated the processes for infrastructure management. It allowed Auction House to manage 100s of white-labeled deployments.

Further containerization also allowed faster scalability of modules like APIs, real-time engines, and background jobs. In the end! Finding the right solution for your CI/CD challenges needs analysis of systems, architecture, and approaches that fit right in!

Fortunately, all you need to cope with CI/CD challenges is a 30-minute free consultation with our experts. Signup now!

Hiren is VP of Technology at Simform with an extensive experience in helping enterprises and startups streamline their business performance through data-driven innovation.

Your email address will not be published.