Continuous integration (CI) is the practice of merging code into a shared repository, usually several times a day. How continuous integrations works is that within the repository or production environment, automated building and testing is done to make sure there are no integration issues or problems with the code being merged. Continuous integration pipelines conduct automated tests. New code either passes these tests and proceeds to the next stage, or fails. This ensures that only CI-validated code ever makes it into production.
Continuous integration done well requires a mindset shift and a commitment to DevOps best practices. In addition to organizational buy-in, there can be significant investments in infrastructure and tooling to consider. Technical leadership with DevOps knowledge and experience working in a cloud native environment will also be crucial for success.
Teams can invest in any combination of tools or cloud services, but teams implementing continuous integration for the first time should start with three essential tools:
Continuous integration is more than just tools. While implementing CI tools is part of the process, there is a cultural shift that needs to happen as well. Continuous integration is one part of the larger DevOps mindset. To get the maximum benefits of continuous integration, keep in mind the tools and cultural needs:
Continuous integration thrives with small, frequent changes to code. Code tested in small batches makes it easier for developers to identify bugs and errors and ensures better code quality.
It’s easy to introduce unnecessary complexity into development environments. Keep things as simple as possible and look for boring solutions.
Not all CI is created equal, so it’s important to find the right CI for your needs. Is it compatible with your cloud provider? Is it within budget? How does it compare to other similar tools? Does it have room for growth? Ask the right questions and you’ll find a CI solution that can help you in the long term.