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Continuous Integration

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Continuous Integration (CI) is the first stage of the automated software release pipeline, also known as the CI/CD pipeline (continuous integration/continuous delivery pipeline). CI ensures that distinct development processes don’t conflict, empowers developers to build, test, and merge changes to applications in central repositories, and allows developers to practice continuous code change integration to the main software branches.

What is the state of continuous integration?

Many businesses adopt agile development and other modern practices to help manage the increasing demand for application development. This allows organizations to rapidly build, test, and release secure apps.

Software development often requires multiple branches (vendors independently working on various parts of an application). However, when combining the work of these branches into a trunk (the shared repository), there can be conflicts and obstacles. Even without these issues, the process is tedious and long.

Continuous integration allows developers to get around this problem. By using automation, CI makes the process of merging developers’ changes into a trunk regularly a much smoother process. Automated integration tests validate developer changes during merging, which automatically exposes any conflicts and makes fixing those conflicts smoother.

Hurdles to implementing CI

Implementing all of CI at once is practically impossible. Instead, organizations generally roll out CI to individual projects and/or teams. Rolling out these smaller batches gives software teams access to faster feedback on updates, which makes it easier to address bugs quickly, track success, and test and iterate new features.

Additionally, implementing a CI workflow at the beginning of a project can also be beneficial since it is more time consuming to transition pre-existing project.

Finally, guaranteeing accuracy throughout the entire process of testing can be difficult. Additionally, if tests are not free of flaws, they can create further problems during the production process. Problems can also include security issues, as security is often overlooked by teams implementing CI/CD.

To avoid these common issues, teams should catalog the implementation of CI as part of DevOps. This will allow teams to see how much CI is shortening development timelines and where issues appear. The following lists useful areas to track:

  • Workflow run time: CI can reduce the runtime of an entire workflow from weeks or even months to hours or minutes.
  • Deployment rates: CI automation helps confirm the quick and easy deployment of all updates, regardless of their complexity. Tracking the amount of work moving through your development pipeline can help teams understand how much CI is increasing efficiency.
  • Fail percentages: CI improves the number of changes to the main code base that result in failure.
  • Mean time to recovery (MTTR): The length of time taken to recover from errors and issues is greatly reduced with CI.

Purpose of CI in app development

Without CI, software teams often waste time resolving issues that emerge when combining development branches. By contrast, CI enables teams to efficiently design, test, and iterate on various parts of larger application development projects.

By increasing individual accountability, growing visibility, providing autonomy, and facilitating easier communication, CI improves agile development workflows. Consequently, developers can focus on their independent projects without worrying about integrating their code.

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