Today, the world of software and app development evolves rapidly. Both startups and larger companies keep bringing more and faster enhancements and functionality to the market to stay ahead of the competition. In order to maintain the pace of development and increase efficiency, development teams need to constantly optimize their workflow. One of the methods to both develop and sustain business reliability is the implementation of a CI/CD pipeline.
It is now one of the fundamental practices for DevOps implementation in startups and one of the best practices that allow DevOps teams to deliver code more frequently and reliably. What are the benefits of CI/CD then? Is automation testing necessary in today’s software development?
What is a CI/CD pipeline?
A CI/CD pipeline is a way to automate your software delivery process. The whole idea builds code, runs tests, and safely deploys a new version of the application. This best practice is a great solution for removing manual errors, providing standardized feedback loops to developers, and enabling fast product iteration. Simply speaking, it is a set of rules to build, test and deploy. Adopting the CI/CD process enables DevOps teams to adapt their software on-demand to meet user feedback and market shifts. Let’s dive deeper into CI and CD and explain what the CI/CD tools are.
What does CI mean?
CI is short for Continuous Integration. It is a software development practice that requires programmers to integrate code into a shared repository several times a day. Each change in code causes an automated build-and-test sequence; i.e. automation testing for the given project. It automatically provides feedback to the team that has made the change so the team can detect problems early. CI integration tests and the entire feedback loop should run in less than ten minutes.
What does CD mean?
On the other hand, CD stands for Continuous Delivery (or continuous deployment). It is the practice of automating the entire software deployment to production process. It offers the capability to get changes of all types into production quickly and securely. A CD pipeline includes infrastructure provisioning and deployment which may consist of multiple stages.
Stages of a CI/CD pipeline
Implementing continuous integration and continuous delivery pipeline usually goes through a few stages.
- Source stage – most often, a pipeline run is triggered by a source code repository. Once a change in code occurs, a notification is sent to the CI server. The CI/CD tool starts running the corresponding pipeline.
- Build / commit stage – every time changes in application development are made, the code is committed to a shared repository which then integrates the snippet with the central codebase. A new piece of software is then built from the extracted code and unit tests start. CI automates each step after the code is written. If the build stage fails to complete, this is an indicator of a fundamental problem that should be addressed instantly.
- Automation testing – during this stage, automated tests are run to validate the code’s correctness and the behavior of the product. There are numerous testing methodologies and test automation frameworks that can be used to ensure the product behaves as expected. This stage prevents easily reproducible bugs from reaching end-users. The responsibility of writing integration tests falls to the developers.
- Deploy stage – once the code has passed automation testing, you can deploy. According to CD best practice, this process should be automated to ensure reliable delivery to end-users.
Want to learn more about CI/CD? Check out our other articles on the subject:
- What is CI/CD - all you need to know
- How to set up and optimize a CI/CD pipeline
- Best CI/CD pipeline tools you should know
- Continuous monitoring and observability in CI/CD
- CI/CD process—how to handle it
- Business benefits of CI/CD
- Sharing configuration between your CI, build and development environments
Business benefits of a CI/CD pipeline for your startup
Implementing continuous integration and delivery means continuous quality for your startup. Obviously, reducing time to market in any way will always bring benefits to your business. Having CI/CD pipeline as part of your business operations may turn out to be the cheapest form of testing and feedback. It will probably become even more essential in the future as it comes with various benefits for your business in the long term.
Why? Implementing a CI/CD pipeline enables the owner of a tech startup to begin generating revenue from the deployed feature rather than waiting for the entire software or application to be completed before the launch. What else? What are the other business benefits of CI/CD pipeline for your startup?
Collaboration and quality are improved
Among all the benefits of CI/CD, this might be the most relevant. A CI/CD pipeline leads to fewer merge conflicts due to shorter code commit cycles which, in consequence, ultimately saves a lot of business hours. Release cycles are faster so the operations teams can get new features into production quicker. Time-to-market for new products is shortened – your business can achieve maximum velocity without compromising on quality. The team’s flexibility is improved.
Your DevOps efficiency skyrockets
Once you implement a CI/CD pipeline, the manual tasks of your DevOps team are almost eliminated. You can automatically merge codes, run tests, and deploy changes. You keep the code in a release-ready state at all times. Thus, you prevent coding errors and detect most problems before deployment. The DevOps team works faster without compromising on quality.
The implementation of a CI/CD pipeline significantly reduces the cost of software development. Actions are automated so they are less prone to human error. On the other hand, they are easier to manage by the team. Costs associated with building and testing changes to the software or application are almost eliminated. The code is continuously committed so your team doesn’t spend its time fixing bugs.
Better quality code
A CI/CD pipeline improves the overall quality of your code. The code is thoroughly tested all the time, as it is managed in smaller chunks. Problems are isolated quickly and automatically, reducing the risk of unintended consequences in the production environment. The chances of finding a critical bug after release are much lower. This results in higher quality products – most changes and bugs are undetectable to the end-user which means your customers are happier and more satisfied.
A better app results in increased customer satisfaction. A CI/CD pipeline is a great way not to waste the first impression you create with your customers. Fast turnaround of new features and bug fixes will keep your customers happy. As you keep your app up-to-date with the latest technology, you gain new customers who will choose you over the competition due to positive reviews.
With a CI/CD pipeline, you get immediate feedback on new functions and features from end-users. Therefore, you can respond accordingly. Failure is nothing bad in general, it happens to everyone on a regular basis. However, it’s worth applying the principle of failing fast. A CI/CD pipeline automates tasks so that bugs are automatically identified and fixed quickly.
Flexible software updates
Thanks to a CI/CD pipeline implementation, you respond to customer needs as they evolve. Your team can update applications (and build or deploy new ones) in response to emerging trends and evolving market expectations. You don’t have to engage in so much time-consuming refactoring to change the direction later on.
New communication channels within the company
Effective collaboration is key when it comes to software development. Nowadays, the CI/CD pipeline has become a common set of best practices so communication between developers, testers, operations teams, and project managers gets much easier. The pipeline provides a platform for communications that ensures seamless collaboration with a sense of shared responsibility.
Better competitive advantage
Implementing a CI/CD pipeline is a perfect way to increase your business sustainability. Your team gets more flexible, making alterations to your software on the go. Automating manual tasks prevents your developers from burning out. Also, the amount of manual labor is reduced, which means cost savings. Your release process is turned into a competitive advantage. You innovate faster and meet customer needs faster.
Implementation of a CI/CD pipeline allows you to reduce the number of non-critical defects in your backlog. Why? It’s easy – they are detected prior to production and fixed before the app is launched and released to end-users. You and your key developers have more time to focus on larger problems.
When to start implementing a CI/CD pipeline in your startup
Most businesses clearly see the benefits of a CI/CD pipeline and test automation frameworks. Each element of the CI/CD workflow is interchangeable when it comes to tools, platforms, and languages. This means the pipeline works for almost all businesses, and startups are no exception. Not surprisingly, it’s a case of the sooner, the better. Implementing a CI/CD pipeline at the beginning of your startup journey can only speed up processes within your organization. Also, the more complicated the current structure of your business, the more it is to start working with a CI/CD pipeline.
How to implement a CI/CD pipeline right
You should know that there is no one way to set up your CI/CD pipeline. Each company is different, each startup has different goals and resources. The great thing about the CI/CD is that it can be tailor-made to best meet the exact needs of your business and its projects. First, you must select a version control system to maintain code repositories (you can choose a hosted version or a hosting provider). Then, you should create repositories to house app source code and pipelines. When you determine what build, or CI server, to use, you can start implementing tasks in the pipeline. After the tasks are implemented, you run basic tests on the code. After thorough testing, you either fix the bugs or deploy your product.
CI/CD pipeline best practices
To derive even more benefits from CI/CD, follow these tips.
- Don’t start too big – give the process some time to evolve. You can even start with just a CI pipeline and add the CD element after some time. Haste makes waste. Small projects are ideal places to try new tools.
- Think about what you want to achieve – define success to make it easier to see the pipeline’s value. You may define success as lower error rates, faster code building, etc. Make sure your project leaders foster and reinforce the attitude shift.
- Feedback is crucial – feedback within the pipeline is only successful when constant. It can and should take place at any stage of the process, and with any involved participant. Analyzing and categorizing errors should become your daily bread.
- Document the entire process – documentation is a very important part of the software development pipeline. It explains all stages of the process and helps find solutions to problems.
- Don’t forget about security – use security scanning tools at both the code and the test level. Keep updating the bug tracking system and ensure the security of the pipeline itself by implementing proper authorization and authentication.
Sounds easy? The implementation of a CI/CD pipeline is achievable for any business. In case you need support in building the full infrastructure for a CI/CD platform, you can always pick CodiLime’s brain for help.
Did you know that failed IT projects cost businesses around the world approximately $3 trillion each year? It’s no surprise that companies, especially startups, are trying to discover as many ways to minimize the risk of making bad decisions as possible. The implementation of a CI/CD pipeline is definitely one of the steps towards improved efficiency for your business. A CI/CD pipeline reduces the risk and cost of IT failure by producing better code and well-targeted products and systems. A strategic move to CI/CD may offer you more innovation overall.