Continuous Delivery vs Continuous Integration: Pairing Agility and Speed with Quality

by Alastair Wilkes in

The Variables and Value Behind a Continuous Pipeline Approach

Today’s software development environments are complex, with lots of moving parts and fast-paced turnaround times. But, when software development first began, it looked completely different. 

Most companies followed a waterfall development approach. This meant that developers completed each stage of the software one at a time. All pieces of the software would be written, all of them would be tested together, and all of them would be security checked together, and so on. 

The pitfalls of waterfall development quickly became apparent. By waiting until the last stages of development to actually test and security check the software, developers caused more work for themselves later down the line, as they needed to backtrack to fix big issues, instead of iteratively changing small problems as they’re detected. 

In addition, software plays a different role in the world today than it did 20 years ago. For one, we rely on software much more for our day-to-day operations. For another, we have a saturated, competitive market for most software products. This means that we’re competing to release new features faster. Because of this, development teams have shifted towards a DevOps culture and approach to software development. DevOps is a culture, practice, and set of tools that focus on automating and integrating software development and IT processes.

One software development practice of DevOps is the CI/CD pipeline. And it’s just what it sounds like, a virtual “pipeline” that works similarly to a factory assembly line, making the workflow continuous.

CI/CD pipeline

CI/CD Pipeline Elements 

CI/CD stands for Continuous Integration and Continuous Delivery (or Continuous Deployment). Each one serves as a building block to create a complete assembly line for software. 

The development first begins in the Continuous Integration phase, in which all the developers write pieces of code and merge them into a central repository. As they enter the repository, the code snippets are run through tests and compiled into builds to keep them organized and clean. 

Continuous Delivery takes it from there, moving the builds out of the repository and delivering them into the test environment.

Alternately, Continuous Deployment is used in replacement of Continuous Delivery. Continuous Deployment goes an extra step by not only moving the builds into a test environment but also deploying them into production automatically. Because putting an app into production automatically will raise the stakes, Continuous Deployment requires a team to have a good testing program and in-depth documentation. So when most teams start building out their CI/CD pipeline, they use Continuous Delivery as a starting point.

Continuous Delivery vs Continuous Integration 

While Continuous Delivery and Continuous Integration work together, they are distinctly different practices. It’s also important to note that while these two methodologies perform separate functions, it’s possible to find tools that include both Continuous Integration and Continuous Delivery elements. 

Continuous Integration covers the first part of the software development life cycle, aiding developers as they create the code at the beginning. It performs a few distinct tasks:

  • Source Control Version Management: Compiling developers’ code snippets into a central place, ensuring that redundant code isn’t accidentally written by different programmers, and creating a central source of truth for developers to reference
  • Automated Testing: Running tests on everything the developers build, to check for initial runtime errors or incompatibility with pieces of code that already sit inside the repository
  • Build Automation: Combining the code snippets into builds so they can be better used in the test environment, later down the line

Continuous Delivery, on the other hand, takes those builds and delivers them to the testing environment. It mainly involves optimizing the testing that happens when the builds arrive at the test environment, along with performance monitoring as the code travels from point A (the repository) to point B (the test environment).

  • QA and Testing: Following the Continuous Integration tests during the build process, Continuous Delivery includes testing and quality assurance.
  • Deployment Monitoring and Verification: Part of Continuous Delivery is monitoring and verifying releases and verifying production deployments are successful.
  • Deployment Rollback: The Continuous Delivery pipeline includes automating the rollback of releases that are identified within the monitoring and verification process as having issues. 

Just as the Clownfish scares away predator fish from the Anemone, while the Anemone gives the Clownfish a home, Continuous Integration and Continuous Delivery have a symbiotic relationship too. Together, these two DevOps practices create a reliable assembly line for faster software development.

The Value Behind A Continuous Pipeline Approach

Establishing a CI/CD pipeline empowers your engineering team to have a trusted, reliable workflow for faster software delivery without risking your product.

Pairing Agility + Speed + Quality

The demands of today’s software development industry require rapid releases with quality outcomes. Because code is written, monitored, and tested in an organized and scheduled way, a good-quality product is more likely to be produced through CI/CD.

Streamlining Processes

To actually set up a CI/CD pipeline in the first place, you need to look through your processes and discover which areas need work. Which parts of your current development life cycle are causing bottlenecks? Because you’re building a “conveyor belt” from one end of your process to the other, setting up a CI/CD pipeline will require you to do the work of identifying the gaps and will make it easier to see where improvements need to be made. 

Fostering Better Time Management for Developers

A CI/CD pipeline creates happier developers! Here are a few examples as to why. First, the source code repository within Continuous Integration prevents developers from writing conflicting or redundant code. Plus, the automated testing in both CI and CD means that someone doesn’t have to be manually and monotonously running those tests. The automated pass-offs between stages mean that it’s not up to a real human to press the button when they probably have a lot of better things to do with their time. 

Continuous Integration and Continuous Development are transformative for development teams.

With its ability to save time and create better-quality software at the same time, CI/CD pipelines are a big win for the businesses that implement them. 

To begin your journey toward effective DevOps software development, you’ll need great tools from solution providers who can partner with you and your team. At Launchable, we’re helping development teams make their CI/CD pipeline smarter with Predictive Test Selection. By running the right tests to get the right signals, we’re helping teams reduce their testing bottlenecks with smarter, continuous testing.

Learn how Launchable is fine-tuning which tests to perform - Discover Predictive Test Selection today. 

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