What is CI/CD? – Overview, Benefits, and Use Cases
Here’s a hypothetical scenario: Your team has spent hours working on a particular feature, and the code finally becomes perfect. But another developer has changed the same section of the code! And now you are forced to compare the changes, approve the edits, run all the tests once more, and then merge again. Not so hypothetical, right?
Merge conflicts are one of the worst nightmares a developer has to deal with, and the CI/CD was born to solve this issue and streamline the development process for teams.
What is CI/CD?
- Continuous Integration
Continuous Integration is an automation strategy to solve merge conflicts arising between individual developers’ code and separate code branches. CI enables teams to build workflows capable of compiling frequent code changes, building applications, and testing the newer versions for bugs and errors. After passing through the test suite, the updates are ready for the next stage of the development process.
By frequently merging changes in a shared branch, commonly known as a trunk branch, CI offers an effective solution against merge conflicts. Also, it eliminates the need to wait until the end of the coding stage to combine separate branches, reducing the complexity of issues that may occur and making them easier to resolve.
- Continuous Delivery
After the code is bug tested, it is directly sent to a shared repository, for instance, GitHub. Continuous Delivery aims to boost communication between the development and operations teams by increasing the velocity at which production-ready code is delivered. It allows operations teams to deploy applications with fewer complications.
However, without a functional CI, Continuous Delivery is less effective, and therefore, testing in CI is crucial for validating the code before release. This step prevents defective code from being pushed into production. A streamlined continuous integration/delivery process paves the way for effective continuous deployment.
Benefits of adopting CI/CD for your organization
In addition to automating merge, release, incremental changes, and software deployment and eliminating the traditional roadblocks in software development, CI/CD has a huge share in adopting agile methodology and DevOps for better coordination between development and operations teams. By implementing the CI/CD process in your organization, you can achieve:
- Efficient and quicker software releases.
- Cleaner code and increased productivity.
- Fewer risks in product delivery.
- Better fault isolation.
- Improved customer satisfaction.
- A standardized and efficient process.
Here’s a real-world example of how building a CI/CD model can be a game-changer –
“Sophisticated computer on wheels” is how Elon Musk refers to Tesla cars. These cars are connected to the company’s software, similar to how mobile phones are attached to iTunes. This functionality allows Tesla to continuously add new features and push fixes without any physical repairs. It is feasible only through a combination of CI/CD and DevOps. These changes go way beyond simply adding UI elements. But they also modify these cars’ major elements, including the suspension, acceleration, and handling features. Moreover, these cars are updated on the assembly line every quarter to ensure each car has the latest features.
This delivery mechanism set by Tesla helped the company overcome a major safety issue with the cars. Many cars experienced fires starting in the battery case. However, the feedback system proved to be the saving grace as it helped the engineers discover that punctures in the cars’ undercarriages were the root cause. The company successfully delivered a software update that automatically elevated the base frame of the cars, preventing any debris from entering the battery case.
Here’s another interesting example:
The year was 2016. The Telematics Container Cloud Platform team at Verizon Connect struggled to streamline its data center builds which took around 30 days. Moreover, the team had to deal with Java-based, monolithic applications and various tools, including BitBucket, Jira, and Jenkins. The company, therefore, decided to create a new infrastructure from scratch and aimed to rebuild its data centers in less than 12 hours rather than 30 days. The ultimate goal was 100 percent CI/CD and eliminating manual deployments.
With the help of GitLab, mainly for its project management features, the company replaced all of its tools and implemented use cases like code review, issue tracking, audit management, and more. So what did Verizon Connect achieve? Deployment flexibility, platform-agnostic approach, and more importantly, reduction of its complete data center deploy process to under eight hours with a streamlined CI/CD process.
When and where to use Continuous Integration/Continuous Delivery?
1. Facilitate cloud development and maintenance with CI/CD
As Cloud-native applications undergo constant changes and need frequent scaling up and down at any hour, DevOps teams rely on CI/CD pipelines to streamline cloud development and maintenance. Moreover, with the help of CI/CD, developers can meet increasing traffic demands and maintain an up-to-date application state without any security threats affecting its integrity.
Additionally, developers can update applications incrementally when CI/CD processes are integrated with microservices and containerization, rather than taking the entire application down. Similarly, as containers run independently, integrating code and releasing it in production can be automated.
2. Bring digital transformation to the telecom industry with CI/CD workflow
The introduction of cloud-native 5G Core has played a considerable role in making CI/CD the foundation of digital transformation in the telecom industry. With the additional complexity and options that the 5G network brought, with software release cycles cut to 3 to 4 weeks instead of 6 to 12 months, an agile approach like CI/CD was essential.
For instance, Ericsson did CI/CD trials with leading service providers with significant progress with network functions virtualization (NFV) transformation and had plans to launch cloud-native 5G Core. Under the same initiative, the company successfully collaborated with KDDI – a Japanese telecommunication company, to deploy cloud-native 5G Core standalone software.
3. Deliver higher quality healthcare solutions with DevOps
Combining CI/CD and microservices architecture makes it possible to promptly deliver solutions necessary for patients. These solutions can include the following –
- An effective check-in system to enable faster and more efficient processing of inpatients.
- Addition of a new feature on a mobile patient portal that informs them when their test reports are in.
- A feature that tracks appointment availability and automatically updates the status when cancellations occur.
DevOps implementation brings automated infrastructure management and testing that shorten the development cycle and make debugging and updates faster. Moreover, a microservices architecture adds the much-needed flexibility and accuracy to deliver services quickly. Infrastructure as a Code is one of the best practices of a DevOps model that automates configuration changes with repetition and standardization.
4. Maximum customer satisfaction in the retail and hospitality industry with DevOps
Many retailers have initiated building digital retail platforms for their businesses in the recent past. Still, they often fail to reach their expected potential due to traditional business practices or a lack of digital competency. On the other hand, customers expect new features, functionalities, and a unified experience that combines physical and digital channels. It requires adopting newer technologies at a higher rate without affecting the supply chain, which can be complicated in the retail industry. How can CI/CD help?
It significantly improves code quality and allows releasing code daily or weekly with DevOps. Moreover, the developers get a better SaaS experience, and accordingly, users can continue using the applications without downloading the updates. With Continuous Integration, debugging and fixing errors is at its best during product development, making continuous monitoring and testing less time-consuming.
5. Digital Service Providers can boost media rollouts with CI/CD model
With the ever-increasing popularity of OTT platforms, Digital Service Providers have to up their game to deliver fast, high quality and next-generation services to their customers. To achieve these goals, they must eliminate extremely lengthy development and release cycles and deal with vendor-specific hardware and software apps resistant to rapid changes. By setting up an effective CI/CD model, DSPs can leverage a one-click automated delivery pipeline to facilitate predictable rollouts, create an automated snapshot management system, and build a tool-agnostic and on-demand environment with open-source tools. How are these beneficial for service provision?
An automated delivery pipeline offers higher accuracy and predictability by minimizing human error. Similarly, automated snapshots or pre/post validation scripts help ensure consistency by enabling rollbacks to the previous version with zero downtime in case of failures. A tool-agnostic framework ensures easy replacement/plug-in of any tools in the DevOps chain and allows higher tool reusability across multiple environments. Such a framework also monitors resource utilization effectively.
Top 5 KPIs to make your CI/CD process a success!
- Build time
It refers to the time it takes for a feature to go from building to production. It can be achieved by measuring the different stages of the development process, for instance, coding, review, test, and release to production. You can calculate the average cycle time. By taking this metric into account, you can find the average speed/time to deployment and identify the pain points in your process.
- Deployment frequency
While frequent deployments give you a better insight into improvements required in your software, measuring the frequency allows you to analyze the bottlenecks that may be found during your automation journey. As a rule of thumb, frequent smaller releases help reduce the risk of defects and multiply the ability to fix them. It is a general metric to understand your team’s efficiency and coordination.
- Code coverage
Automated tests should form a major part of the CI/CD test coverage, allowing your QA engineers to concentrate on exploratory testing and constructing new tests. Because they are the fastest to run and provide instant feedback, unit tests should form the first stage of the automated tests. Most CI servers provide code coverage; it shows the portion of your code covered by unit tests. This metric will help you determine if your test coverage is sufficient as your team continues to write more code.
- Failed deployments
A deployment failure results in unintended downtime and requires rolling back a deployment or an urgent fix. These failed deployments can be used to calculate the change failure rate. It shows the number of changes deployed to production which are responsible for a failure, like an outage that needs to be fixed with either a rollback or hotfix. If the change failure rate is low, it proves that the primary stages of the pipeline are functioning normally and detecting defects before the code is pushed into production. It is unrealistic to expect zero failed deployments as teams usually prioritize longer lead times and larger deployments, which in reality causes failed deployments.
- MTTR and MTTF
The Mean Time to Recovery (MTTR) shows the time it takes for developers to recover from a failure, which can be a bug or a complete system failure. The Mean Time to Failure calculates the amount of time between fixes or outages. These metrics demonstrate the capabilities of your team to respond to and fix problems.
How can Simform help?
A CI/CD model is definitely the next big thing for any industry and organization. However, it’s easier said than done. It’s a long list, from building a robust toolchain to leveraging the right agile practices to understand what needs automation. With Simform, we take it all off your plate! Our CI/CD and DevOps engineers are experienced in strategizing implementation and management plans for organizations with different requirements. We are skilled in leveraging leading CI/CD tools such as Jenkins, CircleCI, TravisCI, CloudBuild, Gitlab, and others to make CI/CD implementations 100% successful!
Our services include:
- CI/CD consulting services
- CI/CD implementation services
- CI/CD pipeline auditing
- CI/CD managed services
To know more about our services, connect with us today and start your journey to adopting an effective CI/CD model with us!