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What Is Continuous Integration? Things You Need To Know

February 13, 2021
What is Continuous Integration

Continuous Integration is a commonly heard term in the software industry. And you’ll see more of it as we proceed through the blog 1st because it is super popular, and 2nd it’s a colossal savior for so many good reasons. This blog teaches you what continuous integration is, what it does, and some of its best practices. Let’s get started!

What is Continuous Integration?

Continuous integration is an undertaking where the developers frequently introduce their changed code into a shared respiratory. It can happen once a day or even more but ideally multiple times a week. The team uses a few automated tools to find the correctness of the new code prior to integration. Leveraging this process will impact the delivery of new features, supposedly every week instead of once in a few months or quarterly.

Developers prefer it for several factors, like, constant feedback, continuous delivery, and more, all contributing to catching and resolving issues early in SDLC. It’s often found that teams practicing continuous integration and continuous testing tend to see fewer bugs that aren’t tough to fix, resulting in excellent quality.

Continuous integration and continuous testing go hand in hand. And, in connection with that, continuous testing is ironically the less acknowledged element of Continuous integration. Let’s break down that silos and understand that Continuous Testing is necessary and holds as many benefits when practiced.

For example, no one wishes to use your new features unless they are non-troubling (without unnecessary bugs) and smooth. Well, continuous testing ensures that for you. So, keeping your eyes rolling from one end to the other is a critical step in establishing the software’s quality before the delivery. That’s why we have these well-established engineering practices like Continuous Integration.

What happens in the absence of Continuous Integration?

Whenever the developers contribute a new code to the end product, they should make sure they manually communicate the changes to everyone in the team. It’s an exhausting process to coordinate and inform the teams outside development or to the rest of the organization. Further, the product team must correspond with their new launches, fixes and decide who takes up what responsibilities. These communication efforts with a non-CI environment are complicated and can potentially lead to unnecessary disturbances in the projects. And as a result, it leads to slow code releases, ultimately ending with hiked failure rates. All of the above may seemingly grow as the engineering team and codebase increase.
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All this to say, the absence of CI is like building a useless giant wall inside the same room, which serves no purpose but causes more problems. It is potent that there is an effective communication channel between the product, engineering, and rest of the team. That’s where the CI breaks down these silos and improves communication and collaboration among the group. And reverse all these assumptions we just mentioned above, you’ll understand the importance of the CI. Look below to learn more about the CI.

What is the primary job of Continuous integration?

First and foremost, CI is an invaluable tool that helps developers work independently and in parallel to the features. It’s a deep-rooted modern-day practice that is proven to be effective for so many organizations. It’s always a bonus to add up CI to your current development and testing activities.

How to use CI?

It’s perfect when working along with Agile development. You have a product roadmap; you make a list of tasks and collate them. Then you distribute them amongst the engineering team and further work on the delivery. Whenever the tasks get complete, the developer will add the new task to the CI to integrate the whole project.

CI Vs. Continuous Deployment Vs. Continuous Delivery

All three are three different phases of automated software release also including a DevOps pipeline. And all these contribute, from idea till the delivery.

  • The integration that we are talking about the whole time comes as the first step in this process. CI is where the developers introduce their code to the commonly shared respiratory. (basically adding the changes)
  • The extension of CI is Continuous Delivery, where an articraft is generated for the packing and delivery to the end-users. Automation building tools are run to create that articraft. Further, this articraft should be ready to be deployed at any time.
  • The final phase of the Software release pipeline is the Continuous Deployment. The created articraft is now distributed to the end-users automatically.

Benefits of Continuous Integration

CI and its significant benefits not only impact the software development team, but it overall has a massive effect on the whole company. On the broad spectrum, it provides transparency and clearness in the process of software development and delivery. The benefits of CI are extended to the whole organization in numerous various ways. Let’s list a few down below.

1. Improvement through feedback

The process tremendously supports in ascertaining business decisions because constant feedback is the core features of CI.

2. Early fixing of issues

One other plus while doing everything right in Continuous integration is addressing issues or bugs and fixing them as immediately as possible because it’s as important as pushing the new features itself.

3. Effective communication

We threw a lot of emphasis on the communication side of the CI and how it breaks down a few problematic silos. It then enables a good collaboration between the and development and operations in a team.

4. Enhanced scaling among the team

CI improves the scalability of engineering team size, code size, and also the infrastructure. Well, the developers can work independently on the features without the stress of aloft communication and code integration bureaucracy.

Best Practices in CI

For every process to go correctly needs a specific set of best practices. Even CI does require several acceptable practices to take the optimum benefit of the process; we have listed a few down below for your reference.

1. Test-Driven Development

After establishing a proper Ci pipeline with automated test coverage, it is considered good practice to keenly and regularly develop and improve the test coverage overall.

Test-Driven Development style of programming is when the software requirements are converted into test cases before the software’s complete development. With every new feature arriving from the CI pipeline, should partner with a set of tests to know if that new code is working as expected. Thus, the product team provides the business behavior specifications, which can further be converted into test cases. The developers and the product team will then derive a list of requirements. This particular will be turned into a checklist for code assertions. Next, the developers will employ code that tallies these assertions.

2. Improve the pipeline speed

The CI pipeline is a regularly in practice process (a centralized one for the whole team) where speed plays a significant role. Any sort of slow down can directly impact the entire team as the team size, code size, and new changes keep growing. This is why keeping the speed in check is too crucial. If that’s fixed, it simultaneously speed up the feedback loop; developers can quickly make changes, experiment with features, and provide a good user experience. Apart from that, it can foster bug finding and fixation while at speed.

3. Pull request and code review

Many modern-day software development teams practice this pull request and code review workflow. 1st pull request is an essential element of CI; it is created whenever the developer is ready to merge the new code into the main codebase. So, it notifies the developer about the latest changes that are ready to go for integration. It’s an excellent tool for passive communication among the team.

Drawbacks of Continuous Integration

We have discussed a lot about how CI will help developers and, of course, the whole organization; now, let’s throw some light on its drawbacks. These could be some of those prominent reasons why most aren’t doing the CI.

  • It sometimes creates a panic situation. Meaning that the code base has to be ready for production immediately because the apparent result is ‘successful.’ That immediacy is not so calming and relaxed every time.
  • However, it’s costly that would drop as you go (because you would significantly save afterward). It requires a lot of training, and that would also cost more for some companies.
  • With daily new codes being pushed in, it may require daily testing, which most feel exhausting. But, if that is adopted, the process is sure to yield good benefits to the team.

Lastly, if you have a multiple-developer software team, do go for CI, which is essential. Many companies don’t even stress more on investing in the CI, and such is its impact. It’s definitely a bit of a task in the beginning, but the results are magical. There are so many 3rd party software that can help you with CI installation and Management.

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