With all aspects of business and operations becoming automated, from an automated phone system for small business owners to self-driving cars, it should come as no surprise that CI/CD pipelines are becoming automated too. In this comprehensive guide to the best CI/CD practices, we will explore what a CI/CD pipeline is, the core components, and an array of other topics related to discovering the most recent and best CI/CD practices.
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What is a Continuous Integration and Delivery Pipeline?
A Continuous Integration and Delivery Pipeline, or CI/CD, is an organized and automated suite of tests used to ensure all software versions are up-to-date, compatible, and ready for use. As most software is often dependent on other tools, continuous integration ensures continuous delivery and maximizing efficiency.
What are the core components of a CI/CD Pipeline?
The core components of any CI/CD pipeline are its build elements, infrastructure elements, test elements, release elements, and validation elements.
A CI/CD pipeline will have build elements in the form of build scripts. A build script is simply a set of instructions that tell a build tool what to do and is used to automate the tasks associated with building software.
These components include infrastructure elements such as a platform and deployment environments. Other infrastructure elements include hosting services or virtual equivalents, such as a Linux virtual machine (VM) or an Amazon AWS EC2 instance.
Automated testing is one of the best ways to detect issues and defects before the software is ready to be deployed. These tools provide you with the ability to automate the testing of software.
When preparing a release, the release team will have to decide how to create and test releases. An automated release process consists of an overview and a detailed plan of action for each release. Examples: Rolling Deployment, Blue-Green Deployment, and Canary Deployment.
Validation elements are tools, or toolsets, that enforce and support automated testing. These are part of the release process. Validation tools test that the release has not encountered any issues that could render it not suitable for use by the business.
What are the key stages of a CI/CD pipeline?
You should be aware of four key stages of a CI/CD pipeline before starting, with each stage needing to be completed before the next can be carried out. They are: Source, Build, Test, and Deploy.
This is the first stage and is typically one of the most essential stages in any CI/CD workflow, as it’s where the source code is being identified and built. Unfortunately, a common mistake is committing code before you have a complete test suite for it, which can cause problems.
By checking if the code is using the correct version of a library, target software, syntax, and any other core components, you can ensure a healthy repository of code for the next stage of the CI/CD pipeline.
Here, you’ve identified what needs to be built by checking the code and identifying a building process. Once this has been done, you’ll want to create a build script to build the code, typically done with a Jenkins job.
Test cases and pipelines can be used to test the code, again ensuring that there are no issues with the builds and testing that the outputs of the builds run correctly. Once the test code has been completed, it is then committed to the changes you’ve made to the code repository and is ready to be deployed.
Once the source code has been built and tested, it’s time to deploy it to a host on the internet. This is where your CI/CD pipeline can shine, as you can include a whole host of features.
What are the best CI/CD Pipeline Examples?
There is a range of pipelines, but the most common is the traditional CI/CD pipeline and the cloud-based CI/CD pipeline.
What is a Traditional CI/CD Pipeline?
A traditional CI/CD pipeline usually includes several automated tools that are configured to run automatically and interact over the lifecycle of a software project. The automated tools trigger each other to perform different actions as needed, e.g., build, test, deploy, or run in production.
These tools can be configured to run in parallel, in a loop, or a specific order. The main goal of the pipeline is to be able to run each of these tools independently and to perform one action before the next one.
What is a Cloud-based CI/CD Pipeline?
The recent growth of cloud-based software development has seen the introduction of international file storage accessible from anywhere, VoIP call center software, and, more importantly, cloud-based CI/CD pipelines. Cloud-based CI/CD pipelines use a continuous integration/continuous delivery mode to operate – think of a traditional pipeline, but functional even with cloud technology.
By integrating these two components and creating a cloud-based CI/CD pipeline, these tools can work alongside different technologies such as an HTTP API, a container, a build tool, or a command-line tool. The advantage of this approach is the possibility of building multiple versions of the software simultaneously. Still, the downside is the ability to launch the software in a particular environment.
What are the benefits of a CI/CD Pipeline?
CI/CD Pipeline Structures and Goals
The structure of a CI/CD Pipeline is dependent on what exactly it is you want to achieve. For instance, Pipelines are usually driven by tests, services, outcomes, and in some cases, people.
Depending on how often you intend to run tests, you may decide to construct a test-driven pipeline to assess your code for bugs and other flaws continuously. An exploratory testing example of a CI/CD pipeline:
At some point in time (defined by the test trigger), the application is exposed to a staging environment, and all changes are continuously tested against the environment. When the tests pass, the CI/CD pipeline is triggered, and the actual app is tested for the same behavior, although it’s not yet part of the production environment.
This way, tests that fail in the staging environment can be automatically caught and replaced. This is a simple example, but the principle remains the same. As a result, an estimated number of test executions and changes in the production environment are checked before any changes are pushed to production.
Service Driven Pipelines
A service-driven pipeline has to be planned, built, and maintained and relies on implementing a specific service to a pipeline’s flow. The usage of services is driven by the need for an external data source, or rather, a set of services used by an application to persist data.
But what is a service? A service refers to more than just a method or function, but instead to an interface or specification that indicates the data types that can be processed.
As the name suggests, outcome-driven pipelines focus on the pipeline’s output in relation to a goal or outcome. You can think about the output of the pipeline as the outcome that you’re after. For instance, a pipeline for building a database application can focus on the requirements for an application, where the database’s functions are abstracted behind a library that the library’s client code is using to get the required data from the database.
People Driven Pipelines
People-driven pipelines focus on managing the people involved in a CI/CD Pipeline. For example, if you are part of a team that wants to migrate from an old version of PHP to a new version of PHP, you would be responsible for building a pipeline that involves not only testing your code but also making sure that people on your team understand the new PHP version; all while monitoring their expectations.
How to Begin Implementing CI/CD
Whether you’re looking to release a new version of your stock tracking software or want to test a work in progress, you can use a variety of software to implement a CI/CD pipeline. Some of the most popular ones are:
Jenkins is an open-source automation tool written in Java and is primarily used for the continuous integration process aspect of CI/ID. However, it’s also capable of supporting various programming languages such as Java, C#, and PHP and can integrate with CI/CD tools such as Hudson and Gradle.
Git is another helpful tool when implementing CI/CD, as it makes it easier to manage code changes by tracking multiple branches and applying them all at once. It allows you to create one branch, apply that branch to multiple branches, and then merge the branches.
Will CI/CD Modern Mainframe Development change?
Software and technology are constantly evolving and despite the cloud-based CI/CD infrastructure being the most recent development, will it change? In the future, maybe, but not for now, so the only thing to concern yourself with is which CI/CD infrastructure works best for you.
About the Writer
Grace Lau is the Director of Growth Content at Dialpad, an AI-powered cloud phone system for small business for better and easier team collaboration. She has over 10 years of experience in content writing and strategy. Currently, she is responsible for leading branded and editorial content strategies, partnering with SEO and Ops teams to build and nurture content. Here is her LinkedIn. She has also written content for Multibriefs and Nordic APIs.