Continuous integration/continuous delivery (CI/CD) is an automated software delivery process that empowers companies to be digital disruptors. In a digital-first market where speed is key, agility is a must. CI/CD facilitates the rapid product delivery and customer feedback necessary to support agility. So, what is a CI/CD pipeline? This guide explains that and more.
What’s It All About?
- Continuous Integration (CI): A process to merge code from all developers’ machines
- Continuous Testing: Automatically tests code before delivery and deployment
- Continuous Delivery (CD): The step where production-ready code gets deployed to a repository
- Continuous Deployment: A process to move code to a production environment
- Monitoring: This step monitors the codebase for code changes to automatically start the workflow
Together, these steps form a “pipeline” that orchestrates moving code from a developer’s machine to production.
The Goal of a CI/CD Pipeline
The ultimate goal of the process is about achieving business results faster. By replacing manual deployments with automation companies achieve significant results including:
Speed: Automation increases speed in deployments. By automating the process, teams can deploy more frequently than traditional methods.
Reliability and Accuracy: Manual deployments are inefficient. It takes too long to merge code, resolve errors, deal with configuration issues and perform testing. This approach can take hours depending on the application’s complexity. An automated pipeline takes care of these challenges and ensures a predictable outcome for every build.
CI/CD Pipeline Components
The steps in the CI/CD workflow represent subsets of tasks. These tasks are:
Source: The source refers to the central repository that contains the code. Developers merge their code changes to the central repository. The build tool monitors the repository for changes to initiate the process.
Build: The build stage compiles, packages and tests the code to generate build artifacts. The artifacts get stored in an artifact repository.
Test: During testing, the build tool runs a series of tests to ensure no errors exist in the code. There are three types of tests.
- Unit Testing: Testing the smallest unit of code or functions.
- Integration Testing: Validates that separate system components work together. It involves testing integrations to databases, APIs or services.
- Functional Testing: The process of testing the end-to-end functionality of an application
Release: At this stage, the code gets moved to the repository
Deploy: During the deploy stage, the tested code gets moved to the next environment in the pipeline. This Is often a staging or a production environment.
Functional Tests: Functional tests involve end-to-end application testing. It is often performed on staging servers before being released to production.
CI/CD Pipeline Stages
Each stage of CI/CD accomplishes specific tasks. These stages complement each other to accomplish one common goal: automated software delivery and deployment.
To achieve the speed CI/CD provides, developers must work on the code simultaneously. Each person works on different features of the application. Traditionally, deployment involved merging all changes in one day. This approach was manual, tedious and time-consuming. Waiting to merge everything on one day was risky because there was no way of knowing if the changes conflicted with each other. Continuous integration (CI) solves this problem.
This approach enables developers to merge their code regularly. Often, teams merge code daily. The automation platform runs tests as soon as the code is merged. That way, errors can be addressed immediately. Thus, this approach minimizes the chances of broken code making it into production.
Once the code passes all tests in CI, the automated delivery process releases that code to a repository. The goal of continuous delivery (CD) is to have a production-ready build at the end of the process. At that point, the operations team can deploy the app.
Continuous deployment is an extension of continuous delivery. At this stage, the code is ready for deployment. A well-designed pipeline facilitates deploying an application to production within minutes.
Putting It All Together
The CI/CD workflow has many moving parts. In isolation, it might be hard to see how everyting fits together. Here’s how it all works.
- Release to Repository
- Deploy to Production
Why All of This Matters
There are a lot of steps to deploying via CI/CD. Setting it up does require a time investment. However, once set up, companies have a reliable process to see amazing results.
- Shorter Time To Market: Through automation, teams reduce deployment time. Fast deployment gets the product in front of customers quickly.
- Continuous Feedback: By giving customers new features frequently, the team gets immediate feedback. They can incorporate the feedback and release the updates quickly.
- Decreased Costs: Developers spend less time troubleshooting builds with this process. That way they can focus on tasks that deliver business value.
- Higher Quality Code: With so many checks and balances at each step, issues are caught quicker. This allows teams to fix them before they make it to production.
Use Packagecloud To Manage Your Package Repositories
Packagecloud is a cloud-based service for distributing software packages to your machines and environments. Packagecloud enables users to store all of the packages that are required by their organization, regardless of OS or programming language and repeatedly distribute them to their destination machines.