What is CI/CD?

CI/CD Pipeline Elements, Benefits, and Relationship with DevOps and Agile Practices

Key Takeaways

  • What is CI/CD - The short answer: CI/CD helps development teams to automate software releases.

  • The long answer: CI/CD is a method used by development teams to quickly deliver apps and new software releases to customers, through smart automation during development. The CI/CD pipeline includes three key components: Continuous Integration, Continuous Delivery, and Continuous Deployment.

The landscape of software testing and development is more challenging than ever. In order to stay competitive, create the highest quality products, and maintain peak efficiency, developers need all of the tools, practices, and processes at their disposal to speedily deliver the goods. And that’s how we arrive at CI/CD, a methodology used by organizations to deliver the highest quality software, as rapidly as possible.

What is CI/CD?

The short answer: CI/CD helps development teams to automate software releases. Now, for the slightly longer, more in-depth answer to the question: what is CI/CD?

CI/CD is a method used by development teams to quickly deliver apps and new software releases to customers, through smart automation during development. The CI/CD pipeline includes three key components: Continuous IntegrationContinuous Delivery, and Continuous Deployment.

CI/CD introduces ongoing automation and continuous monitoring throughout the lifecycle of apps, from integration and testing to delivery and deployment. Taken together, these connected practices are known as the "CI/CD pipeline" and are supported by development and operations teams working together in an Agile way, with either a DevOps or Site Reliability Engineering (SRE) approach.

CI/CD streamlines the challenges development and operations teams face during the integration of new code, so the highest quality product can be delivered as speedily as possible.

What are the elements of CI/CD?

The first phase of CI/CD is CI, or Continuous Integration. In Continuous Integration, software code changes are automated by frequently building, testing, and merging branches into a shared repository.

The second phase, CD, stands for Continuous Delivery. Continuous Delivery is a process where development changes to the software are automatically pushed from a code repository to the production environment. The goal of CD is always for the code to be production-ready, even though changes are not automatically deployed. 

CD can also stand for Continuous Deployment. Continuous Deployment is like an amplification of Continuous Delivery, in that every code change pushes to production automatically

CI/CD is referred to as a pipeline, with each phase flowing into and building upon the next, in order to more quickly and efficiently push code changes, fix flaws, and deliver high-quality software.

What are the biggest benefits of CI/CD?

DevOps teams that want to compete in today’s fast-paced world understand the need to reliably release software updates, as rapidly as possible. Why the need for such speed? Faster releases equal lower costs, lower risks, and happier clients.  

In order to speed up releases, while maintaining a high quality of code, CI/CD is an especially helpful methodology to utilize. There are three critical benefits of implementing CI/CD including speed, efficiency, and improved team morale and customer satisfaction.

1. Accelerate Your Pipeline at Every Stage 

First, CI/CD can improve the operations of your DevOps team, through the powers of automation. Within the CI/CD pipeline, code changes are automated, which helps to speed up the stages of building, testing, and deployment. This automation also helps to slash the time typically required by developers to manually perform these tasks. With a smoothly flowing CI/CD pipeline, developers can spend the most time doing what they do best: crafting high-quality code. 

2. Identify Gaps and Bottlenecks in Your Release Process

Another huge benefit of CI/CD is the improved efficiency of the software development process. Through automation and machine learning, CI/CD not only helps DevOps teams release more frequently, CI/CD also reveals the problems and flaws that mire down a product and create bottlenecks in the release process. With CI/CD, developers can work to deliver faster validation during development and ship changes as rapidly as hourly, daily, or weekly.

3. Boost Morale with Streamlined Collaboration

Finally, another major benefit of implementing CI/CD is improving the happiness of your DevOps team and your customers. CI/CD can help to improve communication and feedback between developers, operations, management, and clients, thanks to the faster, automatic code changes. With work visibility highlighted, and code changes pushed automatically, CI/CD improves everyone’s speed and efficiency. This means happier clients and happier developers.

Together, Continuous Integration, Continuous Delivery, and Continuous Deployment can help DevOps teams create the highest quality app, in the most efficient manner possible. 

How does CI/CD fit into DevOps and Agile Practices? 

Some view CI/CD, DevOps, and Agile as separate frameworks for software development and project management. However, CI/CD can also be viewed as a complement to both DevOps and Agile.

DevOps is a set of practices and tools that combine software development and IT operations, focusing on shrinking the software development life cycle. DevOps aims to provide consistent releases of high-quality software. On the other hand, Agile development, or agility, is a software development and management framework that lasers in on continuous improvement through small, frequent releases. 

Here’s a simple way to think of the differences between CI/CD, DevOps, and Agile is:

  • CI/CD focuses on implementing the tools of automation and machine learning to improve the software development process.

  • DevOps focuses on implementing a culture of speedier, high-quality releases and better responsiveness.

  • Agile focuses on implementing the practices that enable code change that improve quality and speed delivery.

Although different from each other, CI/CD, DevOps, and Agile complement each other by their goal: use the best tools, practices, and philosophies to deliver apps at a high-speed velocity. (Also, to do this at a faster pace than organizations using more traditional software development and management practices!) 

In this sense, it’s clear how an efficient CI/CD pipeline fits into a DevOps or Agile approach to software development. 

A DevOps lens can help organizations to understand the components of configuration and packaging necessary to the software, which creates a higher value of Continuous Delivery and practice. The practice of CI/CD in DevOps then also adds to an Agile development framework, as faster, more frequent updates and releases create positive incremental change and better quality.

Together, CI/CD, DevOps, and Agile are all valuable practices, processes, and methodologies to improve the quality and release speed of your software.

How can you improve your CI/CD pipeline?

Ready to move towards a better functioning, faster CI/CD pipeline? Launchable is here to help improve your testing practices and amplify your CI/CD pipeline.