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Application Development, DevOps and SRE

What is CI/CD?

By Leah Zitter | October 26, 2021

It's tough to imagine a time when developers released their software without a preview at the end of their negotiated terms. Client dissatisfaction, miscommunications, and faulty code were only a few of the problems developers commonly faced.

2001 saw the publication of the Manifesto for Agile Software Development, which suggested that DevOps teams split work into modules and commit each bit of code to a repository, where the entire team reviews the code for bugs or errors in a process called continuous integration (CI)

In this model, once that code is vetted, it is passed on for continuous delivery (CD), where it is mock-tested, before being submitted for continuous deployment (CD), to ensure flawless results.

Since CI/CD is consistent and continual, some DevOps teams focus on CI, while others work on CD to move that code further down the pipe.


CI in short

Once a day, or as frequently as needed, developers commit - - or "continuously integrate" (CI) - - their built codes in a shared repository, where the team checks it for errors, bugs, and the like. Tests include:

  • Unit testing that screens the individual units of the source code;

  • Validation testing that confirms the software matches its intended use, and;

  • Format testing that checks for syntax and other formatting errors.



After successful continuous integration, the code moves on to continuous delivery or release, followed by continuous deployment (CD).

Both CI and CD are rinse-and-repeat situations, looping endlessly until DevOps is satisfied with the software.

Check out a handful of popular CI/CD environments; which one do you use?

  • Jenkins, an OS solution

  • CircleCI

  • Gitlab

  • Github Actions

  • TeamCity, a proprietary solution.



Whether organizations add CD onto CI depends on the size of the organization. 

Complex organizations like the Big 3 (Google, Amazon, and Facebook) use all three stages. Smaller organizations, or those with fewer resources, mostly leave out either the continuous deployment or the continuous delivery stage, preferring the more fundamental continuous integration module. CI helps DevOps practice fault isolation, catch bugs early, mitigate risks, and automate successful software roll-out.


Why Use CI/CD?

CI/CD helps software developers move flawless products to market faster.  

Benefits include the following:

  • Manual tasks are easily automated. 

  • Minor flaws are detected before they penetrate the main codebase.

  • CI/CD helps prevent technical debt, where overlooked flaws turn into expensive remediation down the line.

  • CI/CD processes can shorten cycle times. 

  • The CI/CD process potentially makes software developers more productive, efficient, and motivated.

Considerations include the following: 

  • CI/CD requires a talented DevOps engineer on your team, and these engineers are expensive. 

  • CI/CD requires proper infrastructure, which is also expensive. Few legacy systems support the CI/CD pipeline, so you may have to build your IT from scratch.

  • CI/CD also requires rapid response to alerts - like integration deadlines and issues raised by the unit team - for the system to work as it should.

Other options: 

If the hassle and expense seem overwhelming, there are alternatives. Consider the shortlist below: 


Bottom Line:

According to a recent Gartner report, CI/CD has become a staple for top-performing companies during the last three years, with 51% of these organizations ready to check these agile SaaS developments within the next five years. CI, too, remains more popular than CD, especially for smaller organizations.

For Google Cloud users like us, Cloud Build, with its particular CI/CD framework that works across various environments, is ideal. It helps us improve our lead time (namely, decreasing the time it takes from building to releasing the code), boosts our deployment frequency, reduces Mean Time to Resolution (MTTR), and dramatically reduces the number of potential software defects.

Cloud Build can include VMs, serverless, Kubernetes, or Firebase, and helps us build, test, and deploy software quickly and at scale. 


So, how have you used Cloud Build or CI/CD? Did any of this resonate? I'd love to hear your story!

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