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What is CI/CD: Continuous Integration and Continuous Delivery explainedHeading

The need for speed and quality is real in the digital world. Organizations across the world are required to deliver value at the speed of business while keeping quality intact. In order to achieve such outcomes, businesses must reduce the time involved in all the software development phases. This is where DevOps CI/CD comes into the picture. Let’s delve into the details:

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What is CI/CD?

Continuous Integration and Continuous Delivery (CI/CD) is an essential aspect of DevOps and any other software development methodologies. It automates much or all of the manual human intervention traditionally required across the software development phases, including build, test, and deploy. With CI/CD, the DevOps team can make code changes more frequently and reliably, which are then automatically tested and rolled out for delivery and deployment.

Read: The boom of no-code DevOps orchestration

Why is CI/CD Important?

CI/CD is crucial for every software business because it empowers the developers and operations teams to work as efficiently and effectively as possible. As CI/CD automates the time-consuming and resource-intensive manual processes across the SDLC lifecycle, the DevOps teams can now focus more on upskilling and cross-skilling. Moreover, with CI/CD, the DevOps teams gain faster feedback and can make smaller code changes more frequently to reduce the risk of build-breaking changes.

Simply put, the CI/CD makes DevOps processes continuous and iterative, thereby accelerating software development lifecycles so businesses can ship better quality products that customers love. (Read our blog on Reimagining the Future of Software Delivery)

What is the Purpose of CI/CD?

The main purpose of CI/CD is to integrates code changes initiated by individual developers into a shared branch. Then the code is tested against the threshold values in a demo environment. Once validated the code is packaged into a shared repository and then automatically deployed into production.

Now, let's understand what continuous integration, continuous delivery, and continuous deployment are about:

Continuous Integration: Explained

Continuous Integration (CI) is all about integrating all the code changes from individual developers into the main branch of a shared source code repository, more frequently and continuously. It also automatically tests each change whenever you commit and automatically pushes a build. With continuous integration, the DevOps teams can identify and address the code errors and security issues more easily and much earlier in the SDLC lifecycle.

As the code changes are merged frequently, with automatic testing and validation, the team prevents the scope of code conflict even when multiple developers are working on the same application. The common validation processes will range from static code analysis to unit testing and integration testing. Once the code is validated by the tests, the CI routines automatically prepare the code for further automated testing. If any issues are unearthed during the testing process, the dev team can fix them quickly before more code is built with the identified issues.

The CI process completes when the build successfully passes initial screening testing and is prepared for more comprehensive testing. During the preparation stage, the built will be packaged into a deployable image, such as a virtual machine (VM) image or a container. Then it is made available for further tests.

Continuous Delivery: Explained

Continuous Delivery (CD) starts where continuous integration stops. Once the code is tested and built in the CI process, the CD process takes over during the final stages to automatically release the validated code into the code repositories or live production environments. It ensures that the code is packaged with everything it requires to deploy to any environment at any time. The CD process comprises everything from infrastructure provisioning to application deployment to the testing or production environment.

By the end of the continuous delivery process, the software is built and is ready for deployment to any production at any time. Then the DevOps initiate the deployments manually or move to continuous deployment for automatic deployments.

Continuous Deployment: The Other CD

Continuous Deployment (CD) comes after continuous delivery. It empowers DevOps teams to automatically deploy their applications, eliminating the need for manual deployment processes. With continuous deployment, the teams can set predefined controls against which the code releases are validated. Once the code meets the criteria, it is automatically deployed into the production environment. This aspect enables businesses to be more nimble and release new features faster.

CI Vs CD: What is the difference

As described above, continuous integration (CI) is the process of integrating changes made to code by individual developers into a mainline code base. In contrast, continuous delivery (CD) is the process that involves pushing these integrated changes to the production environment. Though both the processes work in conjunction with each other, it’s imperative for DevOps teams to understand the thin line of difference between them. Let’s have a quick glance at the key differences between CI and CD:

Continuous Integration (CI) Continuous Delivery (CD)
CI is all about integrating each code change to the codebase automatically. CD is all about pushing changes of new features, configurations, and bug fixes into production
CI refers to source code versioning. CD refers to the logical extension of CI.
CI automatically tests code to ensure that the software has no errors or bugs. CD automatically releases new changes to the customers.
CI continuously integrates and tests the code until it successfully passes the criteria. CD continuously delivers the code until the programmer considers it is ready to ship.
CI helps the DevOps teams to identify and address issues early. CD helps the DevOps teams to release software updates more frequently.
CI leverages unit testing. CD leverages business logic testing.
With CI, the developers can send continuous code merging requests even when the testing is in progress. With CD, the team can deliver code for peer-review that can be batched for release.
The team requires a CI server to monitor the main repository. The team requires a strong foundation in CI to leverage CD.


For a detailed breakdown of the CI/CD tools, read here:
Top 25 CI/CD Tools

The Stages of a CI/CD Software Lifecycle

From source code to production, the below stages make up the CI/CD software lifecycle:

1)Develop: This is the initial stage of a CI/CD software development lifecycle where the development happens. The code is merged into a version control repository and is assessed against some tests.

2)Build: This stage is part of a continuous integration process where the application is developed using the validated code. This artifact is used for testing.

3)Test: At this stage, code testing takes place. The built artifact is pushed to the test environment, where it undergoes extensive testing to ensure the quality and functionality. The tests include unit tests, integration tests, and regression tests.

4)Deliver: At this stage, the validated codebase is pushed to the production environment. This stage is automated in continuous deployment, whereas in continuous delivery it is automated only after the team's approval.

5)Deploy: At this final stage, the changes are deployed, and the final product is pushed into production. In continuous delivery, this process is triggered by human approval, whereas in continuous deployment it is automated.

CI/CD Tools for 2022

Businesses need CI/CD tools to implement and leverage CI/CD capabilities. The CI/CD tools empower DevOps teams to automate all the phases of their software development lifecycle, including development, deployment, and testing.

Some tools are particularly for continuous integration, some for continuous deployment, while others are designed for continuous testing and other relevant functions. So, when selecting CI/CD tools, businesses must focus on selecting the right set of tools that help optimize and automate the software development process. The right configuration of your CI/CD process also impacts the outcome.

An effective way is to leverage open-source CI/CD tools. And the most common open-source CI/CD tool is Jenkins. As an automated CI server, Jenkins is used for automating CI/CD processes and reporting. Some other common tools for integration are Travis CI and CircleCI.

The most common CI/CD tools available in the market are:


For a detailed breakdown of the CI/CD tools, read here:
Top 25 CI/CD Tools

CI/CD Best Practices

The below states CI/CD best practices help ensure optimal efficiency of your software development lifecycle. These best practices span development and deployment. Leverage these CI/CD best practices to improve your DevOps workflow and software delivery:

1. Maintain a single source repository

You must leverage a Source Code Management (SCM) to comprise all the required scripts and files to create builds. The repository must include source code, database structure, libraries, properties files, version controls, and all the other things required for the build. It should also include test scripts and application build scripts.

2. Integrate code to the main branch regularly

You must integrate code into your truck, mainline, or master branch, more frequently and early. Don't work on sub-branches, prefer the main branch only. Leverage small sections of code and merge them into the branch more frequently. Avoid merging more than one change at a time.

3. Automate builds

Ensure that scripts contain everything needed to build from a single command. Some of the essential components include web server files, application software, and database scripts. The continuous integration processes must automatically package and compile the code into a usable application.

4. Test builds

The testing processes must fail the build if the code fails to pass the tests. Leverage prebuilt static tests to check the code for quality and security. Ensure that only the validated code is pushed into the build.

5. Iterate frequently

Frequent commits to the repository prevent code conflicts. So, it's wise to make small, frequent iterations, instead of significant changes. This helps in a faster rollback of changes if there's an issue.

6. Ensure visibility

The DevOps teams must have visibility into the latest executables and changes made to the repository. Leverage version control to manage handoffs. This empowers developers to know the latest version.

Need an in-depth understanding of the CI/CD best practices for effective software development, download our ebook on CI/CD best practices.

CI/CD Testing: Building Secure Toolchains

Automated testing, which enables continuous testing, is at the core of any CI/CD pipeline. It is because it enables the early detection of code issues and bugs. Automated testing follows the idea of testing fast and failing fast, making it easier to fix the bug when it is identified early.

At the core, continuous testing in CI/CD is about the following things:

Some of the CI/CD tests that you can automate are regression tests, functional tests, integration tests, and performance tests.

You can learn much more about CI/CD testing in our blog post on the prominent role of continuous testing in the CI/CD pipeline.

CI/CD Security: Automating and Monitoring Security

While CI/CD accelerates software development and delivery by integrating automation, the pipeline won’t include security at its core. CI/CD security is the sect of security practices and processes aimed at identifying and addressing the security loopholes in the code without impeding the software development phases. These security practices mostly include penetration tests and audits to eliminate the impediments triggered by late handoffs to security teams.

Following are the best practices for automating and monitoring security across the CI/CD lifecycle:

Threat Modeling:

Threat modeling is a structured approach to evaluate and mitigate risks to application security by analyzing all the points of attack that hackers could exploit such as entry and exit points, data flows, and critical assets of that application. The ideal time to conduct this test is in the early stages of the CI/CD lifecycle. The earlier your team discovers the security threats, the more effectively they can build the guardrails to prevent the attack vectors.

Code & Design Reviewing:

Review the code once it is written to ensure that is on par with the requirements and identify the vulnerabilities and security issues. Leverage a vetted library to sanitize and validate the code inputs, implement secured authentication, and scan for vulnerabilities in software dependencies.

Testing:

Once the code is validated in the above steps, push it through automated tests. Test the code for input validation, network calls, authorization, logs, and access controls. The continuous testing in this manner facilitates fast feedback.

Production Security:

Production is the last stage for code, but not for security. As resources can be changed, added, or removed, the code in production should undergo continuous testing for compliance with organizational and industrial standards. The production security includes various security processes such as automated patching of bugs, automated updating of dependencies, and configuration management,

For more details on CI/CD security, read our blog on integrating security into DevOps CI/CD toolchain

How to Get the Maximum Out of Your CI/CD Process: KPIs You Should Measure

Below are the key metrics that every business must consider to measure the success of their CI/CD process:

1. Cycle Time

The cycle time is the time taken for the DevOps team to deliver a functional application. It is from the time work started to the time the value is delivered to the end-users.

2. Time to Value

The time to value is the time taken for the written code to start running in production. The higher it is the more inefficient the CI/CD pipeline is. Leverage continuous delivery as well as continuous testing to overcome this barrier to fast deployments.

3. Uptime

Uptime is the time during which an application is up and running. It is one of the top priorities for the operations team. A good CI/CD strategy that automates all most all processes helps improve the uptime.

4. Retention Rate

Team retention rate is the best way to measure how well the CI/CD processes and pipelines are working for the team. These metrics help you understand and identify the potential problems faced by the DevOps team.

A robust CI/CD strategy empowers teams across the organizations, from HR to operations, to work better and achieve business goals. In the present competitive IT world, implementing the right CI/CD helps you gain an edge.

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Why You Should Automate CI/CD Process

The CI/CD workflow indicates the processes involved in developing and deploying the application code. an efficient workflow significantly improves code resilience, which means that:

However, one must automate these CI/CD workflows to achieve the above-said outcomes, along with enabling agility and accelerating the deployment velocity. As automation streamlines the processes and routines across the CI/CD lifecycle, developer productivity will be improved significantly. The dev team can spend less time fixing broken code and focus on building functional code without compromising quality and security.

Without automating the CI/CD processes, the dev team might end up spending significant time handling configuration files rather than focusing on writing quality code. The application deployment takes days when manual intervention is involved, instead of just a few clicks when CI/CD is automated. An audit can be resource-intensive for manually retrieving files and data that should otherwise be built into the CI/CD pipeline to make the information retrieval process automatic.

So, businesses must automate their CI/CD processes to ultimately deliver better value to the end-users.

The CI/CD workflow indicates the processes involved in developing and deploying the application code. an efficient workflow significantly improves code resilience, which means that:

Worried About Coding Complexity? Go for the No-Code CI/CD pipeline

CI/CD pipeline enables DevOps teams to deliver business value quickly. However, the teams end up reeling under the complexity of maintaining the CI/CD pipeline and toolchain. Maintaining these pipelines requires extensive scripting and glue code, such as scripts that integrate various CI/CD tools. The glue code used to write these scripts and maintain the pipeline makes it difficult to change or add new functionality without extensive refactoring and testing. Addressing this challenge is the no-code CI/CD pipeline.

No-code CI/CD platforms such as Opsera eliminate the need to write custom scripts to collect data or build monitoring solutions—it does this automatically, so you can focus on what matters, which is building great software. It enables you to scale already-tested workflows for improved efficiency and productivity.

Toolchain Automation

Business benefits of having a CI/CD automation platform

The businesses that leverage a CI/CD automation platform realize a lot of potential benefits. Here are some of the benefits:

Empower and enable your developers
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