How Do CI and CD Work Together?
Continuous Delivery extends the concept of Continuous Integration, and together they can vastly improve the speed, productivity, accuracy, and quality of the software development process. While continuous integration (CI) refers to the build and test processes, continuous delivery (CD) refers to the release and deployment of the product. For a refresher on CI/CD basics, check out our previous blog posts that focus on software testing in Continuous Delivery and the steps for Continuous Integration.
The Benefits of CI and CD
Using the CI approach, developers frequently integrate code into a shared repository. Automated tests and builds are run for the code, checking for accuracy. This process is able to catch bugs early, allowing developers to make small code changes when necessary.
The software is ready for release if it passes through the testing process. Using CD, developers can release reliable software anytime, sending new software features and bug fixes out quickly. Since CD automates the tasks necessary for releasing product updates, the process becomes much more efficient. The quality of the code is also improved using CD since the code is tested each time it is integrated with the repository.
Although the benefits of CI and CD are obvious and appealing to nearly any development team, the actual implementation of the processes might be intimidating for some development teams. After all, it does require a new skill set. We aim to ease some of the concerns and help development teams increase their productivity, efficiency, and reliability through the use of an effective CD pipeline.
What is a CD Pipeline?
A modern development or DevOps team should use an automated CI/CD pipeline for the most effective development process. The CI/CD pipeline is the path the software follows on its way to deployment. This path consists of multiple automated steps to increase the efficiency of product development and release. After the code is committed to the repository, the source code is integrated into a build. After the build, automated tests are run, then the built version is delivered.
The key to a pipeline’s success is the depth of its automated testing. It should include testing at unit, integration, and system levels as well as various types such as performance testing, load testing, and functionality testing. Because of such frequent automated testing, the pipeline gives quick feedback to developers, and they can immediately make the necessary changes.
Take a look at one of our previous blog posts to learn how Gatling Enterprise Cloud can increase the efficiency of your CD pipeline. If you are not yet familiar with Gatling Enterprise Cloud, watch this tutorial.
The Top Ten Best Practices for Continuous Delivery
If you want to ensure that your continuous delivery process is smooth and effective, or if you are aiming to adopt an automated process, check out these ten best practices for Continuous Delivery.
- Implement CI
First and foremost, you need to implement steps for continuous integration to achieve successful continuous delivery. CD is an extension of CI, therefore, in order to have a smooth CD process, it needs to be preceded by a high-quality CI process. Utilizing CI and CD together streamlines the software development process as the various stages are included in the daily workflows of each team member.
- Automate! Automate! Automate!
It might seem obvious that you should automate everything, but it is worth emphasizing. Automation is crucial for the most effective CD, so be sure to automate everything. Analyze your pipeline and examine the entire process; include every step to ensure CI/CD automation. Look for bottlenecks that are holding up the process. If there is anything that is still manual, automate it!
Many aspects of effective CD are technical (as you can see from the rest of the items on this top ten list!). However, there are also non-technical aspects to consider, like communication. Communication among team members can deliver countless benefits. In order to reap those benefits, all team members involved in the software development process need to be on the same page. Since communication is the key to having a cohesive approach to product development and delivery, all team members should know the expectations and the team’s plan.
- Measure Your Success
Further improvement to your process can only happen by assessing your success (and challenges!) and making changes when necessary. Development teams needs to track metrics along the pipeline to determine what is working and what is not, then determine how to improve the process further. Metrics to check include the frequency of deployments, MTTR, or the change fail rate.
- Employ the Same Automated Release Mechanism for Each Environment
Using different release mechanisms for each environment likely leads to complications and issues that require fixing. If you use the same automated release mechanism, the steps will run more smoothly, and you will reduce the likelihood of a time-consuming problem. Although environments are not the same, you can still utilize the same configuration across environments.
- Only Build the Binaries Once
It is important to build the binaries once so that the binaries that are deployed are the same as the binaries that were tested. If you recreate binaries, there is a possibility that the released ones will differ from the tested ones. When the binaries are built during the commit stage, store them in a repository.
- Utilize Quick Feedback
Once the commit tests are complete, developers get feedback about any failures. Utilizing this feedback and making necessary changes is key to keeping the process efficient and accurate. Whether you are dealing with a configuration problem or a syntax error in the code, responding to the feedback as quickly as possible keeps the process moving.
- Use Version Control Systems
By using a VCS, members of the development team are able to work on any file at any time, even simultaneously. The version control system will then merge all of the changes made into one version. This eliminates confusion about where the most recent version of a file is…it’s in your VCS! This practice is a “must-have” in any smooth workflow.
- Use a Copy to Validate Changes
No development team wants a last-minute surprise right before production. To ensure a problem-free process, new deployments should be sent into a pre-production environment that is as similar to the final production environment as possible. To do this, make a copy of the production environment that matches in infrastructure, databases, firewalls, configurations, etc., and validate any changes before moving on to production.
- Don’t Forget to Include the Database!
It is true that the database is not like other software elements or code that can be copied in each stage, yet it should be managed using the same protocols. After all, it is essentially a repository of your most valuable asset: your data. Preserving the data accurately is crucial to a successful continuous delivery process.
The best practices included in this article are suggestions for steps and methods to reap the greatest benefits of a smooth and effective continuous delivery process. Fully adopting an automated pipeline might seem overwhelming or intimidating, but trust us, it’s worth the effort!