The world of software development has changed significantly over the past decade. Applications are everywhere. Mobile and web-based digital channels are the preferred routes for consumers. Expectations are rising on, what seems like, a daily basis. And that holds true for enterprise users as well as common folks.
Developers are increasingly under pressure to keep their codebases agile and open to extensions and upgrades always. Traditional modes of product, app, and solution delivery have found themselves turning to the DevOps methodology in search of ways to address ever-evolving customer needs. DevOps is helping bring much-needed flexibility and agility into practices that developers follow while building the digital assets today’s world demands.
One foundation of DevOps relies on automating the deployment of new code versions for a digital offering. This automation has 2 critical categories into which activities fall:
In simple terms, CI and CD are development principles that encourage automation across the process of an app development project. This empowers developers to make continuous changes in their code without disrupting the actual application that may be in use by end-users. Automation helps development teams deliver new functionalities faster in the product. This allows continuous product iteration.
In wake of the COVID 19 pandemic, software development teams across the world became more distributed than ever. For them, effective collaboration determines the efficiency of the software engineering process. In this scenario, CI and CD-led automation can also lead to better software quality and promote active collaboration between different teams working on a software project like Front-end, back-end, database, QA, etc.
Despite the benefits, several organizations are still not very confident in turning to CI and CD their deployments. A recent survey pointed out that only 38% of the 3650 respondents were using CI and CD in their DevOps implementations.
We believe that one of the key reasons for the slow adoption of CI and CD is the lack of awareness of what it takes to get CI/CD right. With that in mind, let us take a look at some of the best practices in CI/CD that every organization involved in developing digital applications must cultivate in their software engineering teams:
1. Treat CI and CD Individually:
While the end product requires a combination of CI and CD, the operational style for a DevOps-enabled project necessitates that development teams need to focus equally on CI and CD as two separate entities.
In CI, they can manage code changes that are smaller in size for either adding a new feature to an existing software product or making modifications or corrections of faults in the same. In CD, developers have to focus on transitioning their code from release to production through a series of automated steps that encompasses building and testing the code for readiness and finally sending it to end-user view. CI may be easier to implement and companies can focus on moving ahead with CI first and then slowly set the pace for CD which encompasses testing, orchestration, configuration, provisioning, and a whole lot of nested steps.
2. Design a Security-first Approach:
One of the key outcomes of implementing CI and CD is that organizations are equipped to make changes and roll out these changes to production on demand. At that accelerated pace, however, vulnerabilities may creep into the application due to confusion about roles and permissions.
Therefore, it is essential to bake security into the application at every step. Apart from focusing on the architecture and adopting a comprehensive safety posture, it is also essential to address the human element, often the weakest link in security. As a best practice, people need to be assigned specific roles and permissions to be able to perform only what they are tasked to do and not access sensitive or confidential application components in production. Valuable deliverables can be protected by enabling role-based access control for staff who practice CI and CD regularly in their development activities.
3. Create an enabling Ecosystem:
The technology leaders of organizations must make the effort of educating team members about the fact that CI and CD are part of holistic app development and delivery ecosystem and not a simple “input-output” process that can be linearly handled like in an assembly line.
Much is spoken about the need to create a culture of adherence to such practices. A key element of that culture is inculcating process discipline. DevOps, in general, and CI and CD, in particular, hold the potential to dramatically accelerate product delivery timelines. At that pace, alignment is super-critical. The people, processes, and tools must be brought into one page, roles defined, standards assured, and integrations meticulously planned to ensure that the activity moves forward with all stakeholders understanding and drawing value from the implementation.
4. Improve with Feedback:
The fundamental objective app development teams seek to achieve with CI and CD is the ability to release fast and iterate often. This only makes sense when the product iterations, feature additions, and quality improvements are driven by the need to give the users what they need. Also, as with any software development paradigm, applications built with CI and CD can be susceptible to incidents, defects, and issues in their lifecycle. Therefore, it is important for app development teams to build processes that allow them to capture user feedback, work it into the product (or app), test it for its ability to deliver value to the users, and release it fast. Teams must gain feedback, identify patterns through retrospective analysis, and use this learning to improve future CI and CD deployments.
CI and CD open the doors to higher-quality software. Organizations that leverage CI/CD best practices and concepts will gain the ability to differentiate their digital assets from the competition. With faster time to market and lower defects guaranteed, CI and CD help create a development ecosystem suited for high-end products needed by the consumers of today.