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DevSecOps

What Is Continuous Integration (CI)? Explained by Wallarm

What Is Continuous Integration (CI)? Explained by Wallarm

DevOps crews have to tackle frequent issues as the pace of product expansion and release increases. How do you make sure the QA settings are just right? When it comes to continuous integration and/or agile growth, how well does your trialing program perform?

The answer to the second question is probably not, at least in the context of most enterprises and traditional QA practices. The only path ahead is not necessarily through automation and machine learning, and this does not mean that exploratory testing is dead. However, this calls for combination and optimization as you scale your business and testing effectively.

Over the last few years, it has exploded in popularity and is now commonly used by nearly every application software company. Developers rely on CI servers like Jenkins, and there are a number of CI tools for open-source systems like Google's Kubernetes that enable carting pipeline mechanization.

Learning Objectives

What Is Continuous Integration?

It denotes a method of freeware development in which cipher is integrated into a central source on a regular basis (preferably many times per day). In this way, an automated build and automated tests can confirm the integrity of each integration. Even while automated testing is not technically a part of CI, it is often assumed. Integrating frequently permits you to catch issues early and pinpoint their source, which is a major advantage. 

Since most changes are comparatively minor, tracking down the one that resulted in a bug is a straightforward progression. Integrating CI into software development has been standard practice in recent years, and it is governed by a number of guiding principles. Revision supervision, computerized structure, and testing are just a few examples of continuous integration.

The best implementations have emerged to guarantee that your application may be deployed at any time and that your primary codebase is pushed immediately into production if any changes are made. With this setup, your team may move quickly while still maintaining high-quality standards, which can be checked automatically. Though, while CI does not eliminate bugs entirely, it does make them much calmer to track down and fix.

Essentials of Ongoing Integration

CI is based on the subsequent principles:

  • Keeping track of source code.
  • Building course mechanization.
  • Producing a self-checking shape.
  • Consistent daily commitment from everyone to the baseline.
  • A solid groundwork for any baseline commitment
  • It's important to maintain a rapid progression of construction.
  • For quality assurance, it's best to use a replica of the live server.
  • Facilitate the acquisition of finished products when they become available.
  • Outcomes of the newest build are visible to all.
  • In-automation placement

Importance Of Continuous Integration

Without CI, engineering groups can become siloed, with communication between them suffering as a result. Significant bureaucratic expenditures, slower code releases, and higher failure rates can result from this. Since incorporating new changes is more difficult, this makes it tougher for engineering teams to produce delivery-time estimates for requests.

As a means of facilitating increased openness, continuous integration is also crucial. This is useful for the company as a whole, not just the developers. In this way, continuous integration not only helps to guarantee that teams have the resources they need to implement their plans effectively but also facilitates more effective planning overall.

When properly implemented, continuous integration facilitates numerous goals that allow for on-time releases to the market without compromising quality. In a team setting where numerous developers are contributing to a single repository, continuous integration is a must.

Listed below are some factors that make it significant and advantageous:

  • When using continuous integration, the code repository is always up-to-date.
  • The team never loses touch with what's happening on the master branch.
  • Any problems in the main branch are notified as soon as possible.
  • As the modification that caused the build to fail becomes more apparent, it becomes simpler for developers to identify the source of an issue.
  • A lot of effort is not required of the developers to update to the current version of the main branch.
  • When flaws are discovered at the point of introduction, they are never a "surprise" towards the conclusion of the software development lifecycle.
  • Finally, the time required to release the product is cut down significantly because the developers no longer have to spend as much time fixing bugs and resolving conflicts that are uncovered later in the testing cycle.
Continuous Integration workflow
Continuous Integration workflow

How Does Continuous Integration Work?

All of the software's source code is stored in a central repository that all of the developers can "check out" on their own computers. Whenever they're satisfied, they push the updated code back to the repository. After this, the automated CI server will take over, creating the system and running unit and integration tests to make sure the code didn't break anything. If the build fails, the server will report exactly where the code failed during testing, so that the team may fix the issue as soon as possible.

This CI procedure runs repeatedly each day, so new code is continually being built and tested. DevOps teams can choose to release the updated software manually, or they can automate the project even further by having the system deploy and distribute the product.

DevOps teams save a massive amount of time and energy since engineers never have to go back to figure out where a piece of code fails to function. And because it's an ongoing procedure, developers never have to worry about working on obsolete goods or pushing out updates too quickly to meet external or internal deadlines.

With CI, developers can run tests and builds in parallel on containers or virtual machines, automating otherwise time-consuming tasks. As a result of automating these procedures, developers are free to attend to other matters while the system operates in the background. The likelihood of breaking the master code is minimized because changes are only merged after the build has passed testing.

Advantages And Disadvantages of Continuous Integration

Let's take a look at how CI can have far-reaching effects on development processes, from streamlining the release process to enabling a more productive production setting. Let’s have a quick reflection on its advantages and disadvantages for a better understanding: 

Pros

  • Faster bug fixes

Bugs are reduced when new code is pushed out often and automated tests are run continuously. Because the differences are simpler, it facilitates easier problem isolation. This makes QA more efficient and effective in the long run.

  • Team confidence-inspiring stronger code

The stress of releasing a large amount of code at once is lessened with continuous integration because you don't have to worry about a thousand potential problems and their causes. Each developer can keep a close eye on their modifications and any issues that arise if they commit frequently and in tiny increments.

  • Facilitating iterative application development

Quicker problem fixes mean more time spent developing and releasing useful applications. Key stakeholders can receive updates and enhancements to existing features more regularly. Incorporating CI makes your company more adaptable.

  • Enhanced productivity and efficiency

As a result, your team will be more efficient, and you'll be able to schedule more regular updates thanks to continuous integration. Lightening the load of code commits and issues will allow your team to create more nimble software. The team spends less time testing and the process itself becomes less laborious. This frees up resources that can be used toward feature development rather than QA.

  • Overall increased mechanization

In this method, teams are encouraged to start using their chosen CI solution for more than simply testing; they can also start using it for building and managing their pipelines. This improves code and product quality while also making your workforce more mobile.

Cons

  • Not everyone values constant transformation

During CI, many changes are made behind the scenes that the end user never sees, such as changing databases or business processes. Renaming features, reorganizing menu bars, or altering long-standing procedures are all examples of UX-altering alterations that users are unlikely to welcome. Changes to the user experience (UX) must be effectively communicated to users as quickly as feasible, and if practicable, on-screen help should be provided. 

Cascade development allows businesses to educate both their help desk staff and their end users on impending changes. In an environment that emphasizes continuous integration and continuous delivery, the support team may find it difficult to anticipate and prepare for queries and complaints from users. Integrate the help desk into the continuous integration pipeline and solicit feedback on updates from staff members before releasing them to end users.

  • Microservices changes propagate

In a microservices setting, where continuous integration and continuous deployment are commonplace, a single change can have far-reaching consequences for many interactions. While an adjustment may improve one microservices operation, it could disrupt an entirely different set of services. Through orchestration, configuration management ensures that modifications to one microservice won't affect other streams and that development teams may undo mistakes if they're made.

  • Change involves monitoring and reporting

CI/CD changes affect the platform where they're implemented. Real-time monitoring and reporting help understand and fix problems rapidly. If a modification misbehaves, you must know immediately, before problems cascade and user complaints flood the help desk.

  • Resource management must be agile

Without rigorous testing, developers and testers may not foresee CI resource and performance hits until it's rolled out. Automate as much as feasible to prepare and provision workloads agnostically, using recipes and manifests to push workloads to the organization's platforms. Orchestration technologies can assist in continually monitoring IT platforms and automatically taking corrective steps, such as assigning more compute or memory, throttling activity, reallocating or spinning up or shutting down a microservice/app, or flagging for manual intervention.

CI Vs. Continuous Deployment Vs. Continuous Delivery

An automated release pipeline will always have all three of these stages. The progression of the software from its first phase to its final phase is the collective responsibility of these three procedures.

CI Vs. Continuous Deployment Vs. Continuous Delivery

Continuous IntegrationContinuous DeploymentContinuous Delivery
Continuous Integration (CI) is a software development strategy that is used in DevOps. This practice allows developers to integrate their code changes into a common repository so that automated builds and tests can be executed on the code.Continuous Delivery (CI) is a practice within DevOps that refers to the process of developing, testing, and delivering enhancements to the software code. The fact that the code is always in a state that may be deployed is the component of the CD that is considered to be the most essential.Continuous Deployment, abbreviated as "CD," is the final stage in the pipeline, and it refers to the process of automatically releasing any changes made by developers from the repository to the production environment.

Continuous Integration and Delivery
Continuous Integration and Delivery

Best Practices

Learning the benefits of continuous integration and how it may benefit your platform engineering team is vital, but so is learning the appropriate best practices, such as integration tests, test suites, critical metrics, dependencies, and tutorials. Let's examine a few of them in greater detail below.

  • Development through testing

Once the CI pipeline incorporating computerized trialing has been established, expanding and refining the test coverage is essential. Now is the time for testing, to see if everything is as it should be with the continuous integration code.

As part of Test-Driven Development (TDD), test cases are written before any actual coding is done. During TDD, developers and product managers talk about the list of needs and specifications. This list is then transformed into a code checklist based on how the developers write their programs.

  • Incorporate robotic process automation

Having your tests and builds automated is a huge time saver. Nowadays, automated build environments are a standard portion of the development process. Tools like Java's Ant and Unix's Make, as well as GitHub and Docker Hub, can be used to establish such environments. Turning sources into a running system is a complex process (including loading schemas into databases, transferring files, compiling, etc.), therefore you should automate as much of it as possible.

  • Pull requests and code revisions

When a programmer wants to add new code to the main storehouse, they send in a pull request. A developer's pull request alerts their colleagues that fresh modifications are ready to be implemented. A number of predetermined approval procedures are executed automatically in response to this request. In addition, a code review is conducted as part of a manual approval process. The quality and usefulness of the code can be evaluated more accurately using this review.

Sharing expertise amongst engineers is facilitated by both code review and pull requests.

  • Boosted pipeline speed

The speed at which the CI pipeline is executed is something that must always be optimized. The project's feedback loop can close more quickly with a swift CI pipeline. The developers can easily submit updates and try out new ideas to enhance the service. If this is the case, fixing defects is a straightforward process that occurs immediately after their discovery.

Gaining an advantage over the competition and giving your clients a better overall experience is as simple as increasing the pace at which your pipeline processes data.

Continuous Integration Tools

Continuous integration tools are software programs that streamline the combining, building, and testing of code. As with other DevOps tools, they are triggered by code commits and can communicate with version control and code repositories.

  • Bitbucket Pipelines

It is a continuous integration solution developed by Atlassian that is built right into the Bitbucket cloud-based version control platform. If your project is already hosted on Bitbucket, implementing CI using Bitbucket Pipelines is a simple next step. Pipelines on Bitbucket are treated like code, allowing you to quickly and simply share pipeline definitions and initiate builds. There is another CD available through Bitbucket Pipelines. This means that its projects can be moved to the production environment as well.

  • CircleCI

CircleCI is a Continuous Integration solution that integrates seamlessly with Github, a leading cloud host for version control systems. CircleCi is among the most adaptable CI tools because it works with a wide variety of VCSes, containers, and delivery mechanisms. CircleCi can either be run locally or in the cloud.

  • Gitlab

Among the newest Continuous Integration (CI) tools available is Gitlab, which provides a comprehensive DevOps continuous integration environment. It was with the hope of making Github better all-around that Gitlab was born. Gitlab has a cutting-edge UI and it also supports containers.

Getting Started with Continuous Integration

Version control is CI's cornerstone (VCS). If a CI install's target code base doesn't have a VCS, install one. After implementing version control, select a hosting platform. Most modern version control hosting systems enable CI. Bitbucket, Github, and Gitlab are popular VCS hosts.

After implementing version control, integrate approval stages. Automated integration tests are very important. Automated tests add the expense to a project. Then, developers must write test code and test cases. CI isn't an engineering-only business procedure. CI pipelines also aid marketing, sales, and product teams.

Conclusion

Making continuous integration work for you will depend on your setup and team, so you'll need to be flexible and pragmatic. If you're new to continuous integration, it may be useful asking experienced teams for advice.

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