CI- Best Tools, Techniques, and Benefits

Presently, to deliver a great software, software operations need to be optimized for efficiency, speed, quality, and reliability. To keep up with the incessant demands posed by these dynamic environments, software development process has moved from the sluggish Waterfall approach to fast-paced Agile methodologies. Modern development practices like Continuous Integration, Continuous Deployment and Continuous Delivery act as catalysts leading to the release of quality code faster, and continuously. Let’s focus on what Continuous Integration (CI) is, and how it is helpful.

CI is the Agile technique to check code in small increments and test it against the large code base, thus offering early feedback. Ideally, developers integrate their code daily, if not several times a day. With automated tests on each new commit, CI is a good way to significantly reduce integration errors and enhance software quality. Let us observe some of the best CI tools to streamline the development process, and enhance software quality and accuracy.

Some of the Best CI Tools

1. Jenkins – It is an open source cross-platform CI tool written in Java. It works as a standalone CI server and can be turned into a continuous delivery platform for virtually any of the projects.

2. TeamCity – It is a powerful CI server from JetBrains for enterprise needs. Though it is a Java-based solution but offers good .NET support.

3. Travis CI – It is a hosted CI solution but offers on-premise versions too in the form of enterprise packages. Travis CI cuts out the need for a dedicated server, supports multiple languages, and is customizable and extensible.

4. Circle CI – It’s a flexible cloud CI tool with no need for a dedicated server, and offers a free plan for enterprise projects. It is one of the best CI/CD solutions that helps increase productivity, build faster, and scale effortlessly.

5. Go CD – It is an on-premise solution that is quite useful for complex scenarios. It is designed to support pipelines and eliminate build process hurdles with parallel execution of the tasks.

These tools can be of great help, but for an overall increased efficiency, it is imperative to fine-tune CI techniques and practices. Let us observe some ways to do this.

Some CI Best Practices

1. Maintain a Centralized Source Repository – This simply implies that source code must be managed using a centralized version control repository. All changes, where possible, must be integrated continuously rather than simultaneously managing multiple versions of the software. However, no work in progress must be committed to the master branch.

2. Build Automation – Build tools used for automation should also support additional integrations like code quality checks, semantic checks and more. With different teams working on different parts of the system, build automation must be developed for each individual part of the system.

3. Commit Changes Once a Day – Changes must be committed on a regular basis to reduce the number of conflicting changes. This must be at least once a day or once per feature.

4. Reduce Build time – This can be achieved by co-locating the build machines, source code repositories, and binary repositories. The independent buildable components can be identified and builds can be executed in smaller sizes to save time. When a build is completed rapidly, integration problems can be quickly identified.

5. Use Virtualization Platform – Using virtualization platform or a container platform can help replicate the real production environment thus helping achieve better software quality. To deploy the build into these virtual environments, CD pipelines can be used.

6. Automate Deployment -.Deployment can be automated by identifying steps, configuring workflows and implementing the flow using a tool or a script. This helps prevent defects and helps deliver the product faster.

Once these CI practices are followed in accord with the project requirements, we can expect a number of benefits. Let us reflect on some of the benefits that CI offers.

Benefits of Implementing CI

  • Identify all major integration challenges early on, saving both time and effort
  • Offers continuous availability of the ‘current’ build for testing, demo, or release
  • Provides enhanced code coverage
  • Promotes transparency and accountability across the team
  • Can deploy the code automatically to staging or production if all the tests are green
  • Reduces the chances of a broken code to be shipped to production
  • Reduces the code review timeframe

In a nutshell, investment in CI can transform the entire software development process. Using the right CI tools and implementing the best CI practices can lead to a superior quality software with faster speed to market. Happy testing!!


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