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The Continuous Integration and Continuous Delivery (CI/CD) process helps in having the code in a releasable state. As Jez Humble defines CD – “Continuous Delivery is the ability to get changes into production or into the hands of users safely and quickly in a sustainable way”. When changing code is regular, development cycles are frequent, significant, we need to have the process sustainable. To make CI/CD a reality, you require to take help of automation, however, to get the benefit from the automation, we need to architect the entire IT System, both software and hardware, in a loosely coupled manner.

According to a recent IDC study, the worldwide DevOps software market is forecasted to reach $6.6 billion in 2022. With many IT organizations embracing DevOps every year, CI/CD has become a vital part of the software development processes. Gradually businesses are adopting DevOps transformation journey everywhere.

“As cloud-native approaches gather steam, CI/CD practices have to evolve to maintain stability as you increase speed. Because without the right guard rails, it’s like attaching a rocket ship to a go-kart. It’s not a fun ride.” — Ravi Tharisayi

We’ll help you learn the best CI/CD practices which can assist increase its adoption and application in your DevOps journey.

CI/CD Best Practices

It is known that CI/CD is more than the automation of tasks in order to get machines to do the repetitive tasks and free up the human beings, who are much more capable to do things that machines cannot do. It allows you to acquire new solutions into the users’ hands as fast as possible. Hence, if your organization is implementing CI/CD, use the best practices to get the best outcome from the DevOps journey.

  • Focus on security: Security is the top concern for all organizations as more numbers of breaches are frequently happening. As Google mentions, a system is not reliable if it is not secure. Security is not a program or something to bolt on at a later stage. Security has to be baked-in throughout the CI/CD pipeline. If we want to do Continuous Delivery, we need to have Continuous Security. Security has to be there from the user requirements as non-functional user stories; developers should consider how to ensure secure code and avoid common vulnerabilities like SQL Injection, Cross-site scripting, etc., by following 12 factor app methodology, secure coding standards, doing Threat Modelling as a Risk Assessment practice and then the various SAST, DAST, IAST, SCA, Pentesting, Red, Blue and Purple Team exercises throughout the lifecycle.     
  • Implement version control and tracking tools: We need to have very strong version control process. The version control is not only of the code, but also of all the infrastructure as code, test scripts, test cases, test data. We should be able to recreate any situation anytime. We need to use tools like Git, Sonatype Nexus, Jfrog Artifactory for digital signing and digital version control. Use of Distributed Version Control (DVCS) is very important.
  • Code needs to be merged to main trunk every day at least once and eliminate feature branching: Trunk based development is important to practice CI/CD. We also need to make it mandatory, as a working agreement that every day the code will be merged into the main trunk by every developer at least once. This will require a lot of automated testing, use of containers. Loosely coupled architecture is very important along with following the “Immutable” approach.   
  • Build once: There should be one single codebase. As we keep bringing new changes, the build is created for unit testing and once it passes, the same build will be used throughout the pipeline for all the other tests and finally to production. This will lessen the management of changes, help in finding which code is breaking the build or the effect on any other’s code or anyone else’s code breaking your code at the shortest time.
  • Defining what will be automated first:  Automated functional and non-functional testing is mandatory for those who have chosen to begin with CI/CD. Testers do not need to do testing but need to keep improving the testing by analysing the results, creating more tests to improve coverage, decide on which tests to bring early in the day and which ones to shift to later to get faster feedback of common defects that are getting caught only at a later stage.
  • Utilize on-demand test environments: You should reflect upon running tests in the containers as this methodology lets the quality assurance team lessen the environment variables and changes available between the development and production settings. The key benefit of utilizing such transient testing environments is that they include agility to your CI/CD phase. It is in fact much simpler to spin up the containers and release them when not required.  This also brings consistency across the environments. Testing has to be done on similar to production environment, else testing is not complete.

Benefits of CI/CD

There are many benefits of using CI/CD. It helps make the releases to be less risky and painless. Due to faster delivery, helps to reduce time to market. The quality of software is much better and stable. As we can get faster feedback and catch the problems faster, it reduces cost of software development. All these leads to greater employee satisfaction.

Let’s have a quick look at the CI/CD benefits.

  • Delivering software with lesser risks: CI/CD pipelines regulate release processes throughout the projects. By assessing every change in the source code, you can lessen the possibilities of introducing the bugs. With more automated testing throughout the pipeline, we catch problems faster and take care of them. Smaller changes and catching problems earlier makes the software better.
  • Help eradicate failures: CI/CD pipelines allow theintegration of smaller chunks of codes that makes it easier to manage with probable problems afterward. These smaller pieces of code, are tested by integrating into the build, they are merged into the main trunk, once it passes all tests like unit test, regression test, integration test, etc. Thus, applying CI/CD guarantees quick fault identifying along with segregation. This is an ideal solution for bringing in continuous changes to production.
  • Increase the release rate: If bugs are identified earlier, they can certainly be fixed quickly. It confirms increasing release rates which will help the developers create the code incessantly. Thus, the CI/CD pipelines offer constant coding integration and operation, making the code set for release frequently. With their ability to accelerate the software development method, the automated delivery pipelines assist the businesses to respond in a better way to the market requirements.  
  • Help increase productivity: Automated delivery pipelines guarantee fewer errors. In case they occur, the error can be detected quickly. This signifies that team members spends less time in firefighting and they can emphasize on more engineering work. This helps reducing Toil and bring better value sooner, safer and happier.
  • Better visibility: With the structuring of the CI/CD pipeline, the complete procedure of new develops, test findings, and any concerns with the new builds can be evaluated. Through this clarity, the developers understand which are the variations in the build that led towards brokerage and to evade them for future use. Observability throughout the pipeline needs to be built.

Automating the release pipeline through CI/CD helps teams release high-quality code faster and more often. Most notably, teams that practice CI/CD spend 44% more of their time creating new features and code instead of managing processes and tools.” – Ihor Feoktistov, CTO, Relevant

Making the Best of Enterprise DevOps

A properly administered DevOps toolchain is the smoother solution for automation of software development and delivery, including integrating unified, collaborative CI/CD toolchain; implementing DevOps Consulting Services; and overcoming resource complications and challenges to deliver your software quicker and with better quality through automation processes. To be able to do this, we need to break our work into smaller pieces. Loosely coupled architecture only can help in implementing proper CI/CD. This means we need to do a lot of refactoring of technical debts.

Hence, to summarize, process automation is compulsory, along with loosely coupled architecture, if you want to expand the results of your works. CI/CD being a logical solution for web developers, want to concentrate on innovative tasks, instead of wasting time on boring routines. Also, CI/CD pipelines allow the teams to quickly respond and resolve the faults, rationalize the testing process, and enhance user experience. You may contact us to learn more about CI/CD practices that would help automate releases for your organization.