Software is a key competitive differentiator for companies across industries. The faster companies can get new enhancements and functionality to market, the wider their competitive edge (Dzone). You've probably heard the term CI/CD if you've worked in software development for a time. Continuous integration, delivery and deployment are strategies that aim to minimize feedback loops and automate repetitive operations to speed up the software release process. The agile philosophy of frequently delivering valuable, working software to users is made possible by these techniques. And, with these techniques, you can deliver high-quality code to customers with improved speed, accuracy and efficiency.
In this article, we’ll break down the differences between continuous integration vs. continuous delivery vs. continuous deployment. We’ll also discuss how they work together and how implementing these practices can benefit your organization.
Continuous Delivery vs. Continuous Integration vs. Continuous Deployment—An Overview
There is no shortage of acronyms in the DevOps process. CI/CD is just one of many terms you’ll hear when discussing automated software delivery. With so many terms, it can be difficult to keep up with what each means. The terms continuous delivery vs. continuous integration vs. continuous deployment at a high level can be explained as follows:
CI/CD refers to a set of best practices for delivering apps to clients more frequently by incorporating automation and deployment tools into the app development process. Continuous integration (CI), continuous delivery (CD) and continuous deployment (CD) are the three key principles associated with CI/CD. CI/CD fixes the challenges that development and operations teams face while integrating new code.
There are several possible meanings for the abbreviation CI/CD. The "CI" in CI/CD stands for continuous integration, which is a developer automation method. New code changes to an app are merged to a common repository regularly with successful CI. It solves the problem of having too many app branches in development at the same time that could conflict.
Continuous delivery and/or continuous deployment are related ideas that are sometimes used interchangeably in the CI/CD acronym. Both are about automating pipeline stages farther down the line, although they're sometimes used independently to show how much automation is taking place.
Continuous delivery often means that a developer's modifications to an application are immediately bug-checked and published to a repository (such as GitHub or a container registry), from which the operations team may deploy them to a live production environment. It solves issues with a lack of visibility and communication between development and business teams. To that end, the goal of CD is to make it as easy as possible to deploy new code.
Continuous deployment (another alternative "CD") refers to a developer's changes being automatically released from the repository to production, where they can be used by customers. It tackles the issue of operations staff being overburdened with manual processes that hinder app delivery. It extends the benefits of CD by automating the pipeline's next stage. Let's take a closer look at each of these steps.
When examining the differences between continuous delivery vs. continuous integration vs. continuous deployment, it is important to note that they are all pieces of an automated workflow that starts with software integration. The goal of modern application development is to have numerous developers working on different aspects of the same program at the same time. However, if a company is set up to combine all branching source code on a single day (known as "merge day"), the work involved can be tedious, manual and time-consuming. That's because when a developer working alone makes a change to an application, there's a potential it'll clash with other modifications being made at the same time by other developers.
CI enables developers to merge changes to a shared branch, or "trunk," more frequently—even daily. Once a developer's modifications to an application have been merged, the changes are validated by generating the app automatically and running various levels of automated testing, often unit and integration tests, to confirm the changes haven't broken the program. This entails testing everything from classes and functions to the various modules that make up the program as a whole. If automated testing uncovers a conflict between new and existing code, (CI) makes it easier to fix errors fast and frequently. CI places a strong emphasis on testing automation to ensure that the application is not broken.
The following phase, delivery, is automated through CD. When a new build artifact becomes available, it is immediately installed in the desired environment and deployed under CD. Because it distributes all code changes to the testing and/or production environment immediately after the build step, CD is an extension of CI. This means you have an automatic release process in addition to automated testing and you can deploy your application at any time by simply pressing a button.
In theory, CD allows you to distribute on a daily, weekly, nightly or monthly basis, depending on your business needs. CD automates the deployment of validated code to a repository after the builds and unit and integration testing are automated in CI. As a result, CI must be already built into your development pipeline if you want to have a successful CD process. The purpose of this type of delivery is to have a codebase that is always ready to go into production. Every level of CD incorporates test automation and code release automation, from merging code changes through to delivering production-ready builds. At the end of the process, the operations team can quickly and efficiently deploy an app to production.
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With CD, you can automate the entire process from code commit to production with ease. Not only does this allow for a more efficient workflow, but it also saves time and money by reducing the number of steps involved in each stage of the development cycle. Because the transition between development and deployment is automatic, code changes are pushed online once they have been validated and have passed all tests.
Every update that passes through all stages of your production pipeline is released to your customers using this method. There is no need for human intervention, and only a failing test will prevent a new change from going into production. CD is a great approach to shorten the feedback loop with your clients and relieve strain on your team because there is no longer a specific Release Day. Developers can concentrate on creating software and their work gets published minutes after they've completed it.
Advantages of CI/CD
There are many business benefits of using CI/CD. Continuous integration and CD allow you to integrate small portions of code at a time. These code modifications are less complicated and more manageable than large chunks of code. The results are:
Because of the bite-size and particular changes delivered to the system with CI/CD, test reliability improves, allowing for more accurate positive and negative testing. Continuous Reliability is another term for test reliability in CI/CD. Regular feature releases demonstrate to customers and project stakeholders that the code is reliable and works as expected.
The amount of non-critical bugs in your backlog is reduced when you incorporate CI/CD into your development process. With this approach, minor flaws are discovered before production and corrected before being distributed to end-users.
The number of errors that can occur in the many repeating processes of CI and CD can be reduced by automating the CI/CD pipeline. Because there are fewer code modifications to fix down the road if the problem is spotted soon, this approach also frees up developer time that may be spent on more value-add tasks.
Integrate Package Cloud Into Your CI/CD Pipeline
Packagecloud is a cloud-based service for distributing different software packages in a unified, reliable and scalable way, without owning any infrastructure. You can easily integrate Package Cloud into your CI/CD pipeline to store, manage and build your code from a central repository.
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