Continuous integration and continuous delivery (CI/CD) are at the heart of any successful DevOps practice. Teams wanting to achieve modern software development must keep up with CI/CD best practices. Here’s what you need to know to make sure your team is on the right track.
What is the meaning of CI/CD?
It’s a tech process, it’s a mindset, it’s a series of steps… CI/CD is all of those things. Put simply, CI enables DevOps teams to streamline code development using automation. CI simplifies software builds and source code integration, enables version control, and promotes greater collaboration via automation. Where CI leaves off, continuous delivery kicks in with automated testing and deployment. Not only does CD reduce the amount of “hands on” time ops pros need to spend on delivery and deployment, it also enables teams to drastically reduce the number of tools required to manage the lifecycle.
What are the best practices for CICD?
Ask 10 DevOps teams about CI/CD best practices and there will be 10 largely different answers. However, there are several principles that are widely agreed upon:
Fail fast: On the CI side, devs committing code need to know as quickly as possible if there are issues so they can roll the code back and fix it while it’s fresh in their minds. The idea of “fail fast” helps reduce developer context switching too, which makes for happier DevOps professionals.
Make it daily: The more regular the code commits, the more benefit DevOps teams will see.
Fix it if it’s broken: CI/CD makes it simple to fix broken builds.
Automation all the time: Keep tweaking the CI/CD pipeline to ensure the “continuous automation” state is achieved.
Know the steps: Make sure the release and rollback plans are well documented and understood by the entire team.
Keep it safe: CI/CD is a shift left, so it offers a good opportunity to integrate security earlier in the process.
It’s a loop: Make sure there’s an easy way for the entire team to receive (and contribute to) feedback.
Continuous delivery best practices
Continuous delivery/deployment feels like it deserves it’s own deep dive into best practices because CI often steals most of the headlines. Here is a roundup of CD best practices:
Start where you are: Don’t wait for a new platform. It’s always possible to tweak what you have to make it faster and more efficient.
Less is more: The best CD is done with minimal tools.
Track what’s happening: Issues and merge requests can get out of hand. If milestones are an option, they can help. Bonus: Milestones do double-duty when setting up Agile sprints and releases.
Automatically deploy changes: Streamline user acceptance testing and staging with automation.
Manage the release pipeline: Automation is the answer.
Establish monitoring: Keeping a good eye on the production process saves time and money. It also can provide key data points to the business side.
Kick off continuous deployment: Once continuous delivery is humming, bring on the hands-free deployment where it’s possible to send changes to production automatically.
How to improve the CI/CD pipeline
If it’s time to finetune the CI/CD pipeline, consider the following performance enhancements:
Mix up the release strategy. A canary release (sometimes called a canary deployment) might be worth considering. In a canary release, new features are deployed to just a select group of users.
Add more automated testing because there is never enough automated testing.
Continue to pare down. Fewer tools mean fewer handoffs and steps. If CI/CD is part of a DevOps platform, everything will be in one place.
Consider a routine practice of software composition analysis to ensure the DevOps team is keeping track of critical open source software issues.
How to measure the success of CI/CD
DevOps teams can’t know how well their CI/CD practices are going unless they measure them. Here are the best metrics to employ:
Cycle time, or how long it takes to roll out an application from the time work on the code begins.
Time to value, or how long it takes to release written code
Uptime, a key priority for ops pros
Infrastructure costs, something that’s critically important with cloud native development
What are the benefits of following CI/CD best practices?
A well-functioning CI/CD pipeline can be a game changer for DevOps teams. Here are some of the biggest benefits:
Developers aren’t fixing things, they’re writing code. Fewer tools and toolchains mean less time spent on maintenance and more time spent actually producing high-quality software applications.
Code is in production. Rather than sitting in a queue, code actually makes it out into the real world. This also leads to happier developers.
Developers have the bandwidth to focus on solving business problems. A streamlined CI/CD process lets developers actually focus on what matters and not on the distractions of problem code, missed handoffs, production issues, and more.
It’s easier to innovate. It’s a competitive world, and organizations need all the tools at their disposal to stay ahead. A well-built CI/CD process makes software development easier, faster and safer, which means DevOps teams have the time and energy to think outside the box.
Attract and retain talent. It’s a very competitive labor market and DevOps talent can be very hard to impress. Nothing says “we take our DevOps team seriously” more than an organization that’s invested in the technology and processes around CI/CD.
Everyone does what they do best. Dev, ops, sec and test each have a critical role to play, and CI/CD helps clearly delineate the responsibilities.
“How to keep up with CI/CD best practices.” – Valerie Silverthorne
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