Ensuring CI/CD success – Importance, Challenges, and Best Practices

CI/CD Introduction: Importance, Challenges and Best Practices
August 25, 2019

Today, Product Innovators and developers are aware of the concept of DevOps and are utilizing it to deliver products at a better pace. However, catering to the need of time and the rate at which the demand for these products is growing, having a faster delivery with better upgrades makes the lifecycle slow. This is critical because only 25% of enterprises feel that their software development and deployment are effective.

Practices such as continuous integration (CI) and continuous deployment  (CD) can automate the deployment process, make the lifecycle efficient, and make the production environment safe, reliable, and error-free. As such, CI/CD is now touted as a pillar of success for DevOps. However, ensuring the success of CI/CD is a dream for developers as it needs a well-oiled CI pipeline with security embarked at every stage. Let’s first understand why CI/CD.

The Benefits and Importance of CI/CD

Underpinned by automation, CI/CD has become core to DevOps for delivering software in short cycles of build-configure-deploy-test-release. The following are some of the many benefits businesses rely on CI/CD to reap in software development.

Speedy innovation for a competitive edge in the market: Today, mobile devices and web-based services have enabled making frequent updates to applications possible. You can continuously act on user feedback to improve your applications’ usability and functionality without waiting for months to add new features. It’s all just as simple as pressing a button and unveiling a new version. When you are delivering exceptional experiences.

Quicker revenue generation: With CI/CD code doesn’t need to sit and wait for deployment. Instead, organizations can make revenue from the features that they have deployed. There’s no need to check whether the code is up to par. Automated tests ensure that code is deployed automatically if it meets the established standards. On the other hand, if you don’t implement CI/CD, it would result in too many dependencies and too much work to be done manually. This can cause delays between when the code is written and when the business generates revenue.

Reduced manual effort and increased efficiency: We’ve already discussed how code that meets specific standards gets automatically deployed in the case of CI/CD. As a result, engineers can shift their focus towards strategizing and planning rather than worrying about time-consuming manual testing and unnecessary deployments. Also, because automation detects errors well before time, the process becomes much more efficient in terms of cost, speed, and quality. Lastly, with manual dependency reducing, engineers and developers can shift their energies to business problem-solving.

The benefits mentioned above are enough to build a case for CI/CD, yet a number of companies still haven’t implemented it in their Software Development Lifecycle. Specific organizational and cultural challenges keep them from taking on CI/CD path and leveraging the most out of it.

Challenges of CI/CD

Not everyone believes in CI/CD: One of the biggest hurdles one can face when implementing any ‘progressive’ change in an organization is employee resistance. Some people in your organization may see CI as counterproductive. So, it may be difficult for you to win support from everyone. For example, product managers see keeping the build clean as an extra burden, which will not win them any significant direct benefit. It’s not a KPI for them, after all. It will be tough for everyone to adapt to CI/CD quickly.

Integrating CI/CD Into Your Existing Development Flow: Shifting to Continuous Integration (CI) will inevitably require changing some parts of your development workflow. And changing current workflows must be done with extra caution. If this isn’t done, you will have to face serious consequences. The productivity of the development will decline, and so will the quality of the product. Because of the amount of risk involved in changing the existing development flow, and a lot at stake, the development team might be reluctant to take up CI/CD without sufficient support from the top management.

Difficulties while implementation: The absence of a central build server, broken builds, and improper maintenance of test servers are just a few of the many implementation challenges you might face while trying to take on CI/CD successfully. Whether the CI server can access the source version control is another crucial factor that can affect CI/CD implementation. Similarly, a lack of maintenance of Version Control can also lead to CI implementation-related problems and software development issues.

Are you aware of the challenges and roadblocks you might face while implementing CI/CD in your organization, yet willing to take up this futuristic course? Follow these best practices to make smoothly get started.

Best practices for CI/CD 

Gradual Replacement: Don’t go for a one-time overhaul of the entire system. Re-architecting your existing applications is best done by taking an incremental approach. Retain and maintain mission-critical existing systems and practices and gradually introduce the new architecture around them. This will not only help you steer clear of people’s resistance but will also help you analyze better how the newly introduced approach is benefiting you.

Vouch for ‘security-first’: CI/CD system is often a prime target for malicious breachers who want to steal key information and data. Since CI/CD offers access to your codebase and credentials that can be deployed in various environments, utmost security measures must be taken to reduce exposure to threats. A good practice would be to isolate and place your CI/CD systems in secure internal networks. Bake security into your development cycle from start to finish – a practice now commonly called DevSecOps.

Build once: Source code should be built just once. Refrain from any practice that will require you to do otherwise. Successful CI implementations start with the build process as a first step and don’t take it up over and over again in the CI/CD cycle. This reduces the chance of code errors being introduced and/or going missed anytime later in the cycle.

Release often: This requires your software to be in a release-ready state. One of the practices that will enable you to achieve this in CI/CD includes releasing to a subset of users and testing, thereafter rolling it out to a larger user base if successful or rolling it back in case not successful. Or, you could implement A/B test features within the application for usability. Note that A/B testing isn’t a release methodology and will only help you decide which version is better for release.

Track and monitor: Delivering code faster than ever? Great. However, are you ensuring quality too? How do you know if the code that’s being delivered is error-free? How do you tell if it is passing the testing stage? To know these key answers implement monitoring tools that help you track the deployment frequency, change success/failure rate, mean time to recovery (MTTR), and the rate of security test passes, etc.

Take a consultative approach to CI/CD: Consultation in CI/CD implementation is one of the easiest ways to steer clear of challenges you are otherwise likely to face. The only concern or challenge here is to select the best DevOps consulting services provider who can understand your requirements and offer the right solutions.

CI/CD Case Study

TIX Technology sought Rapyder’s expertise in implementing DevOps using CI/CD approach. With the help of CI/CD, TIX Technology can now minimize human intervention in deploying the application and reduce the turnaround time. To read their complete story, check out this case study here.

[ Read Next : DevSecOps: Shifting Towards A Culture Of Security ]

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