Article Header

CI/CD Explained

CI/CD Explained

CI/CD falls under DevOps (the joining of development and operations teams) and combines the practices of continuous integration and continuous delivery. CI/CD automates much or all of the manual human intervention traditionally needed to get new code from a commit into production, encompassing the build, test (including integration tests, unit tests, and regression tests), and deploy phases, as well as infrastructure provisioning. With a CI/CD pipeline, development teams can make changes to code that are then automatically tested and pushed out for delivery and deployment. Get CI/CD right and downtime is minimized and code releases happen faster.


CI/CD is an essential part of DevOps and any modern software development practice. A purpose-built CI/CD platform can maximize development time by improving an organization's productivity, increasing efficiency, and streamlining workflows through built-in automation, testing, and collaboration. As applications grow larger, the features of CI/CD can help decrease development complexity. Adopting other DevOps practices — like shifting left on security and creating tighter feedback loops — helps organizations break down development silos, scale safely, and get the most out of CI/CD.


CI/CD is important because it helps development, security, and operations teams work as efficiently and effectively as possible. It decreases tedious and time-consuming manual development work and legacy approval processes, freeing DevOps teams to be more innovative in their software development. Automation makes processes predictable and repeatable so that there is less opportunity for error from human intervention. DevOps teams gain faster feedback and can integrate smaller changes frequently to reduce the risk of build-breaking changes. Making DevOps processes continuous and iterative speeds software development lifecycles so organizations can ship more features that customers love.


What is Continuous Integration (CI)?

Continuous integration is the practice of integrating all your code changes into the main branch of a shared source code repository early and often, automatically testing each change when you commit or merge them, and automatically kicking off a build. With continuous integration, errors and security issues can be identified and fixed more easily, and much earlier in the development process.


By merging changes frequently and triggering automatic testing and validation processes, you minimize the possibility of code conflict, even with multiple developers working on the same application. A secondary advantage is that you don't have to wait long for answers and can, if necessary, fix bugs and security issues while the topic is still fresh in your mind.


Common code validation processes start with a static code analysis that verifies the quality of the code. Once the code passes the static tests, automated CI routines package and compile the code for further automated testing. CI processes should have a version control system that tracks changes so you know the version of the code used.


What is Continuous Delivery (DC)?

Continuous delivery is a software development practice that works in conjunction with CI to automate the infrastructure provisioning and application release process. Once code has been tested and built as part of the CI process, CD takes over during the final stages to ensure it's packaged with everything it needs to deploy to any environment at any time. CD can cover everything from provisioning the infrastructure to deploying the application to the testing or production environment.


With CD, the software is built so that it can be deployed to production at any time. Then you can trigger the deployments manually or move to continuous deployment, where deployments are automated as well. Continuous deployment enables organizations to deploy their applications automatically, eliminating the need for human intervention. With continuous deployment, DevOps teams set the criteria for code releases ahead of time and when those criteria are met and validated, the code is deployed into the production environment. This allows organizations to be more nimble and get new features into the hands of users faster.


While you can do continuous integration without continuous delivery or deployment, you can't really do CD without already having CI in place. That's because it would be extremely difficult to be able to deploy to production at any time if you aren't practicing CI fundamentals like integrating code to a shared repo, automating testing and builds, and doing it all in small batches on a daily basis.


CI/CD Fundamentals

There are eight fundamental elements of CI/CD that help ensure maximum efficiency for your development lifecycle. They span development and deployment. Include these fundamentals in your pipeline to improve your DevOps workflow and software delivery:


  • A single source repository
  • Frequent check-ins to the main branch
  • Automated builds
  • Self-testing builds
  • Frequent iterations
  • Stable testing environments
  • Maximum visibility
  • Predictable deployments anytime


Companies and organizations that adopt CI/CD tend to notice a lot of positive changes. Here are some of the benefits you can look forward to as you implement CI/CD:


  • Happier users and customers
  • Accelerated time-to-value
  • Less fire fighting
  • Hit dates more reliably
  • Free up developers' time
  • Less context switching
  • Reduce burnout
  • Recover faster


By implementing CI/CD, organizations can streamline their software development and deployment processes, leading to faster, more reliable, and higher-quality software releases.