Continuous Integration: Your first Step Toward Continuous Delivery
This post discusses the importance of mastering Continuous Integration as a stepping stone to achieving Continuous Delivery. If you’re not sure of the difference between Continuous Integration and Continuous Delivery, see the post Continuous Delivery Vs Continuous Integration.
There’s an important stepping-stone that should not be overlooked when considering building a Continuous Delivery Environment. That stepping stone is Continuous Integration. These two terms sound similar in name, but each are their own disciplines, focusing on different target areas of custom software development.
Continuous Integration focuses specifically on the development process and rapidly delivering high quality code. With Continuous Integration, code base changes are automatically integrated into the application. Thus, every time a code change is checked into version control (committed), the system attempts to automatically integrate the change into the environment.
If this attempt fails, the developer who committed the code that “broke” the build is immediately responsible for correcting it. This may require interaction with other team members and this is the highest priority of the entire team. This correction is typically required within some short time boxed window.
If the issue is not corrected, the change is generally rolled back. So why is it so important that the entire team is ultimately responsible for keeping the environment in a working state?
Think of it as an assembly line. When the line breaks, you’re not making money. You can probably see why automation is critical. Manual processes introduce error and time. If a rollback is merely the click of a button, then developers can have more confidence in committing changes.
The practice of Continuous Integration is important because it sets the foundation to provide:
- Software that is constantly in a working state.
- Quick delivery of more dependable software.
- Increased efficiency with automation and continuous evaluation of working code.
Continuous Integration- The Practice
One of the most important things to understand about Continuous Integration, is that it is a practice and not a tool, environment, or script. There are tools to support Continuous Integration, but the most important resource is a motivated development team. A team that adopts the new workflow of constantly integrating software into the environment. It’s a shift that must involve a collective culture and work system change to be successful.
Continuous Integration- How It’s Done
Overall, Continuous Integration addresses the basic automation of the development process. It’s a practice that is completed every day, or even multiple times a day. Builds are kicked off automatically and basic unit tests are run to get confidence in the changes. As a result, Continuous Integration offers tremendous benefits to any development team including:
- Smaller more frequent changes that mean fewer issues and rollbacks.
- Enforcing the basic principles to developing quality software.
- Building good developer habits.
With Continuous Integration, build servers can be used to automatically run unit tests frequently that perform basic checks and report the results to the developers. They can also be used to:
- Continuously apply quality control processes that can involve running additional static and dynamic tests.
- Measure and profile performance.
- Extract and format documentation from the source code.
- Facilitate manual QA processes.
- Run automated “smoke tests” to ensure critical business processes keep working.
Ultimately, the process improves the software because quality control practices are applied throughout development and not at the end of the process where it is far more expensive.
Continuous Integration- The Value
Mastering Continuous Integration is worth the time and effort. Think of it as a sport, where practice forces the team to get really good at the complex process of developing quality software. The number one priority becomes keeping the build working with every checkpoint along the way. Which differs from the old culture of deferring this non-priority until much later in the process.
Developers will come to value the fast feedback cycle and much easier problems to solve because of it. The practice aims to reduce rework, and reduce costs and time. Once this all becomes automatic (no pun intended), the team has developed a valuable base to build on.
That natural next step is Continuous Delivery. Continuous Delivery is the process of utilizing best practices to deliver working, tested code to users in other environments. Continuous Delivery encompasses much more than just the code, as it is the entire application environment needed for the application to work.
The practice of Continuous Delivery further extends Continuous Integration by making sure the software can be rapidly deployed to users. After all the code doesn’t have any value unless its in use. You can’t have Continuous Delivery without Continuous Integration. Most importantly, you can’t have a high level of business value without them both.
You may also be interested in: Continuous Integration vs. Continuous Delivery- What’s the Difference
Third Wave is a boutique software development company located in Boca Raton, Florida. Our business acumen, agile development solutions, and perfected continuous development process offer unmatched levels of expertly crafted software and development services. Our team is dedicated to helping companies break into the new era of rapidly changing business trends with adaptive technology that provides sophisticated business solutions.
Third Wave also offers Cloud CDE, a fully automated cloud based Continuous Delivery Environment “in a box”. Cloud CDE and our consulting services provide a jump start to organizations that are ready to start transforming their culture to a high performing IT organization.