What Is CI/CD?

CI/CD is a core part of DevOps. More than a methodology, it’s an approach that introduces automation and monitoring throughout the different stages of an app’s lifecycle. This practice aims at empowering development teams to accelerate software release cycles, with increased reliability and security.

CI/CD stands for continuous integration / continuous delivery or deployment. Let’s understand the difference.

What Is Continuous Integration?

Continuous Integration is the practice of merging a developer’s work in a single shared repository regularly, using different versions for each update.

This way, all developers are working from a common code base and all development efforts have a shared set of foundations.

Benefits of Continuous Integration

Here are the top benefits of a continuous integration approach:

  • Speed: breaking monolithic applications into smaller components enables new iterations of the software to be released much faster than with other types of application development.
  • Quality: because the software is constantly being monitored, faults are easier to isolate, have less impact, and can be remediated much more quickly.
  • Better resource efficiency: CI is highly automated and can therefore reduce strains on development teams, minimize application backlogs, and reduce costs.
  • User satisfaction:being able to introduce new features with higher quality and fewer problems improves user satisfaction. Feedback can also be incorporated in only a few hours.

What Is Continuous Delivery — or Continuous Deployment?

The CD in CI/CD can be seen as an extension of CI and ensures that the software can be deployed when it reaches a particular stage, after passing a set of predetermined quality tests. But if it stands for continuous delivery or continuous deployment is a common topic of discussion in the world of DevOps.

Continuous Delivery generally refers to the automatic preparation of code and code changes for release in production, and to the automation of testing and code release.

With continuous delivery, code is uploaded to a repository so that automated tests such as unit, regression, and performance can be run to ensure the code is of high quality. This approach does ensure that delivering code is as fast and easy as possible for operations teams; but someone is required to approve and push the release or update to production.

Continuous Deployment eliminates the need for human intervention and for on-demand release to production: instead, code moves automatically from integration to release into a production environment, and testing is integrated into the process. Continuous deployment builds on the benefits of continuous delivery and is considered the next stage in a CI/CD pipeline.

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At OutSystems, we prefer to use the term continuous deployment when talking about CI/CD because the lack of human involvement enables greater velocity in application delivery.

Benefits of Continuous Integration

Continuous deployment means ongoing innovation with a steady flow of new features or fixes going into production:

  • Faster deployment of higher quality code results in fewer interruptions to the business as a result of broken code, and an overall increase in productivity.
  • Increased velocity of code delivery reduces the backlog of application development work.
  • The continuous flow of small iterations means problems have less impact and are easier to remediate.
  • Greater productivity with fewer mistakes lifts the stress and workload that too many development team members currently experience.

Principles Supporting CI/CD

The core goal of CI/CD is to avoid increasing technical debt which can lead to constraints on future development efforts caused by introducing poorly designed code in the project you’re creating today.

CI/CD is all about allowing developers to move quickly—with the confidence not to break anything.

Agility depends on removing unnecessary dependencies between components which should therefore only be loosely coupled. This also impacts testability; if there are too many interdependencies, it’s hard to identify where any faults may lie.

Other considerations include:

  • Shift left and right: the more that development efforts are shifted earlier (towards the left) in the lifecycle process, the lower the risk of errors or failures. It’s also critical to engage with stakeholders such as security and end-users (shift right). In other words, it’s all about getting a faster feedback loop at an early stage.
  • High degree of automation: everything that can be automated, from creating, testing, and deploying code, should be automated. In particular, while thorough testing is important for any type of software development, reliable automated testing is crucial here as multiple tests will have to be frequently performed – all along the CI/CD pipeline.
  • Version control and ‘regressability’: if unforeseen issues arise, it is vital to be able to ‘hit the undo button’ and reset to the state prior to the faulty release.
  • Repeatable reliable process: you can’t improvise a process when you are operating at this velocity.

Common Enterprise CI/CD Tools

Popular CI/CD automation tools include:

  • Jenkins for monitoring the execution of repeated tasks. It is open-source software that you can use to run with any operating system, and it offers several built-in plugins for building CI/CD pipelines. With Jenkins CI/CD server, you can automate the various stages of your delivery pipeline.
  • Azure DevOps Server is also a CI/CD automation tool that covers the entire application lifecycle. Developed by Microsoft, it provides version control, with the use of Team Foundation Version Control (TFVC) or Git, reporting, requirements management, project management, automated builds, testing, and release management capabilities.

Low-Code CI/CD

Then you have high performance low-code platforms like OutSystems that have built-in tools that unify software development and operations with automation and monitoring to facilitate the implementation of continuous integration and deployment. This allows for shorter development cycles, increased deployment frequency, and more dependable releases.

By leveraging the platform’s LifeTime Deployment API, you can automate your deployment pipeline end-to-end, from the development environment all the way to production.

In addition to that, as OutSystems was built on the core principle of openness and with no limits, we also provide accelerators that reduce the complexity to integrate with enterprise-grade CI/CD engines like Jenkins, Azure DevOps, and TeamCity.

To learn more about how OutSystems can help you optimize your entire application lifecycle, visit this page.