Faster Software Delivery with DevOps Continuous Integration

by Alastair Wilkes in

Top Focuses, Risks, and Metrics for Successful DevOps Continuous Integration

Today’s fast-paced customer-driven world requires software providers to move faster than ever to meet competitive demands and user expectations. Users expect the latest and best versions of our technologies to arrive at our devices as soon as possible, and if an app breaks or experiences an outage, it’s a surprise to us. 

DevOps was born out of this need to simultaneously speed up software delivery, but not sacrifice quality.

DevOps and CICD 

DevOps focused on building both functional and efficient software. And the CICD pipeline, with its automated testing and handoffs, does just that. Within CICD sits Continuous Integration. As one of the foundational elements of DevOps, Continuous Integration automates the first half of the development life cycle by:

  • Performing initial automated testing on pieces of code
  • Centralizing various parts of an application into a single repository, to control discrepancies between versions
  • Combining the code snippets into builds with build automation

By performing these three tasks together, Continuous Integration prevents bottlenecks (that’s the “efficient” piece of the puzzle), and it ensures that the code is well-built and debugged before it moves onto the next SDLC stage (the “functional” aspect). 

In the second half of the pipeline, “CD” can mean either “Continuous Delivery”, meaning that partially-built software is automatically delivered into a test environment, or it can stand for “Continuous Deployment”, which covers the same function as Continuous Delivery, but also automated the deployment of the software out of the test environment into production. 

DevOps Continuous Integration Benefits

DevOps seeks to drive higher software delivery and organizational performance. Incorporating Continuous Integration enables teams to reap the benefits of DevOps through an automated, efficient development pipeline producing the following top benefits:

Creating high trust

Customers appreciate software that functions well and become fans and advocates of your business if they’re happy with your products! DevOps facilitates the release of well-built software, meaning that a great DevOps process is linked to higher trust from consumers.

Nurturing learning culture

DevOps is all about keeping up with new innovations and iteratively improving processes. By focusing on “what can we do better?”, your business becomes an environment of learning and teachability. 

Amplifying orginizational performance

Research shows that development teams are happier when they’re using DevOps methodology daily. It makes sense - DevOps allows developers to get their code right the first time, causing less pain and time from fewer reworks.

Expanding technical capabilities

The tools encompassed within a CICD pipeline is very helpful for teams. But, DevOps methodology is an ideal place to introduce even more useful technical components outside of CICD, including:

DevSecOps- Baked in security practices that are conducted early on in the SDLC to prevent vulnerabilities and developer backtracking 

Microservices architecture- architecture hosted by services rather than mainframes, making it easier for teams to release rapidly without having to connect with outside parties for permissions

Team empowerment- DevOps is conducive to a team-centric decision-making process and is a great way to include teams to make decisions on tools and services 

devops systems


DevOps Continuous Integration Focus

Yes, DevOps can be a major shift in your organization’s culture. But there’s a huge payoff to switching. For Continuous Integration, there are three goals development teams are working to achieve for successful CI, and in turn, successful DevOps methodology.

Version control 

You’ve likely heard the phrase “too many cooks in the kitchen”. In the same way, when several developers are contributing to the same application, problems can arise. Two developers could spend several hours building the same piece by accident, or a few developers might create code snippets that aren’t compatible with each other. 

Version control allows developers to commit their new builds in real-time, running it through testing and debugging automatically. Plus, it serves as a central reference point for the whole team to use. 

Automated Testing

If you wait to test until your software reaches the final test environment (aka, until the last minute), it might work about as well as when you were in school and decided to cram for a test. 

Testing at an early stage checks for initial bugs, allowing developers to fix them right away instead of waiting until the software has gone further downstream and time has passed. 

Build automation

The build automation component of Continuous Integration takes developers’ individual code and automatically compiles them into builds. This enables the team to run better tests on the software, once it’s gone into the test environment during CD. 

DevOps Continuous Integration Pitfalls to Avoid

With any practice, there are common mistakes teams might come across - we’ve outlined the top Continuous Integration pitfalls to help your org avoid them from the start.

Circumvent automation obsession

When your team starts building out CI, it might be tempting to automate everything. But, this can waste time by causing too much of a learning curve as well as money because of spend on unnecessary automation tools. Instead of starting with the goal of automating everything, take a critical look at your whole SDLC and make small, iterative decisions on which pieces need to be automated. 

Steer clear of flaky or time-consuming tests 

It’s common to see an otherwise-great DevOps team fail because they are receiving random results from testing, such as false positives and negatives. The main frustration comes from the difficulty of distinguishing between true and false results. Or, issues can arise when a test is taking a long time to run and wasting developers’ time and effort. 

Bypass skipping on pieces of your CI pipeline 

This might hit too close to home for some of us, but how many of us decide that we want to start working out more regularly, get a great gym membership, go there for about 3 weeks, and then just stop going back? You can’t get fit by just owning a gym membership and never actually visiting the gym.

gym membership

In the same way, your team can’t reap the benefits of Continuous Integration by just owning CI tools. Here are a few ways developers might accidentally drop off regular CI processes over time, despite having the right resources at hand:

  • Not putting all builds into the code repository (“I’m just going to store a few things on my hard drive instead of putting them into the repository”)
  • Not performing quick tests on each committed snippet of code (“I just tested this same code a few minutes ago, before I made a few small changes. It’s safe to assume that it’s debugged, so I’ll skip the quick tests.”)
  • Not merging into the repository often enough (“I can merge everything I’ve written this week on Friday. It’s too much trouble to do it every day.”)

DevOps Continuous Integration Metrics for Increasing Development Velocity

It’s also important to collect metrics on how your Continuous Integration is going, as you iteratively grow your DevOps processes. Here are a few baseline factors to test: 

  1. Amount of code commits that end in successful builds WITHOUT manual intervention
  2. Amount of commits that end in successful automated tests WITHOUT manual intervention
  3. Amount of automated successful builds and tests every day
  4. Amount of tests that provide feedback to developers within a day
  5. Amount of time between a build break and fix (whether with a check-in that fixes the problem, or reverting the change)
  6. The (un)availability of builds to testers

With Launchable you can harness your Continuous Integration testing data and further speed up test cycles with advanced test health metrics including:

  1. Predictive Test Selection: Rank tests by importance to code changes and allows you to create a unique subset (based on this ranking) in real-time. Run a fraction of your test suite while still maintaining high confidence that if a failure exists it will be found.
  2. Flaky Test Insights: Identify the top flaky tests in a test suite to prioritize fixing the right tests
  3. Test Session Duration: Identify an increase in test session time which implies that the developer cycle time has been trending up.
  4. Test Session Frequency: Identify which tests are being run less often. This is a signal for negative health metrics such as increased cycle time, reduced quality, or fewer changes flowing through the pipeline.
  5. Test Session Failure Ration: Identify tests that are failing more often. An increase in this metric is a signal that a release is becoming unstable especially if the bump is in post-merge tests.

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