By: Jayati
August 8 2019

How CI/CD Pipelines Perform for DevOps Teams

Great production is marked with precision, on-time delivery, and reliability whereas building a product includes modernizing the approach with automation. 

The adoption of CI/CD pipelines within the DevOps practices has indicated a remarkable growth for many enterprises. Being at the core of DevOps, the production cycles of CI (Continuous Integration) and CD (Continuous Delivery) are both said to be enhanced by a large margin. 

In this article, we have highlighted how the architecture of CI/CD pipelines can build better products and deliver more efficiently along with reaping benefits in turn. We have tried to showcase how the streamlining of CI/CD pipelines with DevOps can lead to agile development

difference between agile, CI/CD pipeline and DevOps
Source: Synopsys

Continuous Deployment or Continuous Delivery?

Sure, it's a confusing state to be if you are just learning about the CI/CD pipeline and its elements. You might encounter dilemmas in context to continuous deployment and continuous delivery when it comes to software production. Here’s a crude explanation to it: 

Continuous delivery is when you ensure that the production is ready for release. It begins by sending the production to user acceptance test (UAT) phase and then clearing each stage. However, continuous deployment is when you automate your release and build the production environment around it. It is generally the next step in continuous delivery. Continuous deployment should be a goal for organizations who want to regulate their ecosystem in an orderly manner. 

Therefore, continuous delivery can be a necessity for DevOps practices while continuous deployment might not be a fit for all. 

continuous deployment and continuous development flow
Source: Puppet

Phases of Building a CI/CD Pipeline

The complete process of initiating the development and delivering the product entails four main phases that lead to the final delivery and thus, maintaining a continuous delivery. 

Phase 1: Change

Developers must know where and how to commit their code. If a change is triggered by a source code repository, the CI/CD tool receives a notification that corresponds to it in the pipeline. Thus, that change is committed to the repository. Proper execution of this change becomes necessary in the pipeline.

Phase 2: Build 

With all changes in place, the code is then integrated into a build. A program written in languages like Java or Go has to be compiled first. But Ruby, Python or JavaScript can skip this step. 

Often the software is deployed with Docker. Thus, the stages of CI/CD pipeline are also build in the Docker containers. 

Phase 3: Automate Testing Stage

Validating the code and its behavior is where automation is applied against the build. The QA process is an essential step in preventing bugs and errors. It might involve multiple stages of testing for large projects with complex codes. It essentially helps in tracking the code and maintaining a constant feedback loop.  

Phase 4: Deploy 

A running build that passes the stage of testing is then mirrored as closely as possible in multiple environments. Starting with internal production or ‘beta’ version of the actual production. With real-time monitoring in the agile development model, teams are now automating approved changes that accelerate the production in one click. This makes it easier to streamline the pipeline and achieve the fundamentals of DevOps.

What differentiates a Good Pipeline?

You can distinguish a good CI/CD pipeline on the following parameters:

Speed

Traditional CI/CD pipelines have limited capacity to withhold the production. When building, testing, and deploying a simple code, the developers might have a hard time committing due to the queue created in the pipeline. On the other hand, setting up a new pipeline is an arduous process of scaling the infrastructure whereas reusing the existing one might create friction. In such cases, the speed of the development cycle loses the grip and productivity falls to a minimum. This is where implementing principles of serverless can be a solution

With a cloud infrastructure based on the lines of microservices, the CI/CD pipeline can make the best of the development workflows and make the process of reviewing, restoring more productive and moving. 

Reliability

Failures in a pipeline can be best avoided by having a reliable output to the production input. In order to achieve that, you have to cross-check the documentation and make sure that the production objectives align with the stakeholders. A reliable CI/CD pipeline invites greater communication and collaboration between teams and thus, a good pipeline. 

Accuracy

Automation seems to be the tip of the iceberg. When we automate our production pipeline, it accurately runs the workflow. Often, there is a common practice to automate only one part of the process, the CI phase, and the deployment is carried out manually. In such cases, CI/CD tools can be put to use and the complex workflows can also be untangled to an extent.  

Best Practices in Review

Tracking and version control

Visibility of the progress and the transparency among distributed teams is of utmost importance. Jira and Bugzilla are tools that can help you gain control over the tracking of activities and changes in the code-base. Also, the integrated teams share a common repository which can be improved with a degree of visibility.

Build Once

Multiple software built can create friction and bottleneck the pipeline. For a successful implementation of CI, the first step is to package the software in an environment that eliminates errors. A clear view of the build can promote your binaries.

Security

Automation comes on the cost of massive security needs. The CI/CD systems have access to your codebase and deployment environments. This means, the pipeline is vulnerable to hacking and thus massive business reputation is on the line. A secure network needs to be installed that ensures that the activities from development to deployment are contained in a safe ecosystem called, DevSecOps

Conclusion

DevOps practices focus on understanding elements like configuration and orchestration of a proper CI/CD pipeline. It holds the potential to contribute to the successful implementation of software products for an organization. With more responsive and automated environment integrated with CI/CD practices, we can achieve agile development.

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