Back to Writing Understanding Continuous Integration and Continuous Deployment

Understanding Continuous Integration and Continuous Deployment

Feb 20th, 2024

When discussing modern software development practices, it's hard not to mention Continuous Integration (CI) and Continuous Deployment (CD). A decade ago, there were only a few vocal groups of this practice but today it's a common topic of discussion. They have revolutionized the ways in which developers write, test, and deploy their code, making the entire process more efficient, streamlined, and error-free. If you're writing code these day's you're actively practicing CI/CD, but that doesn't mean that you're doing it the most optimal way.

Continuous Integration

Continuous Integration (CI) is a software development practice where developers frequently merge their code changes into a central repository. After this, automated builds and tests are run. The primary goals of CI are to find and address bugs quicker, improve software quality, and reduce the time it takes to validate and release new software updates. Another important takeaway from this practice is that it shifts running tests frequently to a central location rather than having developer sit idly by while tests run.

CI promotes a coding philosophy and set of practices that drive development teams to implement small changes and check in code to version control repositories frequently. Because, most modern applications require developing code in different platforms and tools, the team needs a mechanism to integrate and validate its changes.

Continuous Deployment

Continuous Deployment (CD) is a software release process that uses automated testing to validate if changes to a codebase are correct and stable for immediate autonomous deployment to a production environment. 

Continuous Deployment follows the testing that takes place during Continuous Integration and pushes changes to a staging or production environment. CD automates the delivery of applications to selected infrastructure environments. Most teams work with multiple environments other than the production, such as development and testing environments, and CD ensures there is an automated way to push code changes to them.

Why are CI/CD so Important?

CI/CD introduces automation and continuous monitoring throughout the lifecycle of applications, from integration and testing phases to delivery and deployment. Here are a few reasons why they are important:

  • Faster Problem Detection With CI/CD, code changes are smaller and therefore easier to handle. This leads to quicker discovery of bugs, making it easier to address them without disrupting other aspects of the system.
  • Faster Release Rate By integrating regular code changes and automating the testing, organizations achieve more frequent and reliable releases. It offers a clear and speedy pathway from development to deployment.
  • Reduced Risk The Risk of finding late-stage lifecycle defects reduces when development and IT teams are seamlessly integrating and releasing code. 
  • Efficient Development Process CI/CD creates a sort of assembly line in software development, enhancing the efficiency of all associated processes. By ensuring that every change is deployable at any point during the lifecycle, teams can deliver updates more frequently and with less manual interruption. 

Am I doing it right?

The key takeaway and most important things to remember about CI/CD systems is that they should be continuous. It should be a component of your process that you mostly, set and forget. Beyond that, some other simple practices to follow would be:

  • Keep commits and merges small to assist with quick release cycles
  • Implement feature management to reduce branch based deployments for testing
  • Monitor the frequency of deployments
  • Monitor the state of test coverage

In the modern software development climate, CI/CD are no longer "good-to-have", but "must-have" practices. When implemented correctly, these practices can dramatically speed up your team's delivery speed while simultaneously catching bugs and problems before they are sent to users. This makes CI/CD an extremely compelling prospect for software development businesses worldwide, enabling them to maximize quality, efficiency, and return on investment.