CI/CD Pipelines:  DevOps Automation Through Code

With each passing year, modern technology and development is turning to diverse cloud-based solutions. Large companies are implementing cloud tech for many reasons, but primarily to enhance the efficiency of their business operations, to improve application functionality, and indeed to lay the foundation for the best possible DevOps practices. CI/CD pipelines (i.e. Continuous Integration / Continuous Delivery) represent the best possible set of practices for developing, fine-tuning, and releasing app/project changes through code. Let’s dive into it a bit more.

What is Continuous Integration?

Continuous Integration (CI) denotes multiple developers actively working on adding a variety of new features to the same application. That represents the very essence of continuous integration . Implementing into everyday coding effectively simplifies and speeds up the development process. Here’s how it works: when development teams utilize CI, they include any minor changes, and can validate builds super-fast. For modern-day application development, continuous integration drives teams towards automation and an easier way to implement work from different development ecosystems.  Application builds are built, packaged and tested with automation and efficiency.

CI Requirements, Benefits, and Automation Tools

To reiterate, continuous integration emphasizes testing automation – i.e. checking if application is working properly after new commits are added into the main branch.

CI requirements:

  • Continuous integration server for running automated test
  • Write automated tests for all fixes and changes
  • Merge changes as often as possible

CI benefits:

  • Capture and iron out bugs with automated tests fast
  • Cost reduction – the CI server runs hundreds of tests in seconds
  • Team is focused on improving quality, rather than endless testing

Terraform and Ansible

One of the key values of this methodology is dev teams combining work and collaborating through code. To enhance development, major public cloud providers encompass a range of CI/CD solutions, from GitLab, to Atlassian Bamboo, and many others. While you have tools that are fundamental to DevOps, such as Terraform, what really kicks the CI/CD process into high gear is Ansible, which is extremely effective when it comes to configuration. These two essential tools complement each other perfectly and make the CI/CD process run swiftly and smoothly. Simply put, Terraform lays the groundwork and it allows you to interact with cloud infrastructure. So, for example, if you are using Terraform to build a web server or to create infrastructure like firewalls (in Azure), Ansible then jumps in allowing you to configure that easily.

Automation Through Continuous Delivery

Continuous delivery (CD) is what follows naturally after continuous integration. It’s a process that automates the delivery of applications to appropriate infrastructure environments. As we’ve already mentioned, development teams tend to work in diverse environments and what begins with continuous integration, connects into continuous delivery; therefore, whenever any changes need to be pushed through code, continuous delivery speeds that process up. In short, you are essentially bringing automation not just to testing, but to the release process as well, with a mere click of a button.

On that note, your gain is massive. The result is having the ability to push code changes, and releases monthly, weekly or daily – depending on the nature of the application/project/business. For that reason, the sooner you deploy to production, the better.

To summarize, continuous delivery is a series of practices, as well as a method of using automated testing to see if business applications are achieving the desired functionality. When all changes are checked through automation, it’s time to opt whether the application should be deployed to production – according to business needs. Every company must at this stage decide whether continuous deployment (i.e. deploying an app into production) is the right move for their business/app.

Continuous deployment and continuous delivery are connected processes. When continuous deployment starts any changes made in the production pipeline are released to clients/users. If there’s a failed test, changes or fixes won’t be deployed to production. In a nutshell, releases are fixed and changed a lot quicker, and the whole process gets faster feedback from clients/users.

Benefits and Key Considerations

As your development team is working, spinning up resources and deploying through code, CI/CD plays its part as a fundamental methodology that yields the following benefits:

  • Improved quality: the focus always is to improve quality of business workflow. This particular methodology bridges the gap between developers eager to innovate and push changes often, and operational teams who are focused on applications running smoothly.
  • Improved productivity: CI/CD is the vital element that enables effective collaboration on technologies, practices, and project priorities and thanks to automation and continuous testing during the delivery process, productivity is increased every step of the way.

Continuous integration, continuous delivery and continuous deployment are also essential components of many key DevOps practices here at Hentsu. We have seen other methods that help with us innovate fast through code and focus on cloud-native applications. Also, automation tools such as Ansible and the benefits of Serverless Technologies is something that helped us gather great expertise in managing, deploying and complex data workloads. Cloud-native applications, and serverless architectures, are topics we will be digging into in our next blog post, so stay tuned.