These days, DevOps teams simply don’t have the time to build regular app releases without a little extra technological support.
So in this always-on dev environment, CI/CD tools are simply part of the furniture. And you wouldn’t buy a couch with no cushions, right?
And devs tend to like their sofas to be more on the padded side. So it’ll come as no shock that using CI/CD tools for developing software is just standard practice.
CI/CD tools automate the many stages of integration and delivery. Giving devs their much needed peace of mind, and customers their newly updated, upgraded, or released software.
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The importance of CI/CD tools for developers
CI/CD is a complex process whereby ongoing automation and monitoring is introduced into the lifecycle of application software.
With countless moving parts involving multiple stakeholders, a constant flow of work, and an environment that moves very quickly, it can get pretty hairy. And just to add to the madness, it can be done (almost) anywhere: on-premise, in the cloud, or in a hybrid environment.
So without the right tools, mistakes start to slip through the cracks, pipeline stages become bottlenecks, and updates become a lot less reliable. CI/CD tools have become invaluable to the modern dev, helping to automate some of the most error-prone tasks involved in software building, testing, and deployment.
For example, CI/CD tools can help improve everything from the overall efficiency of software builds right down to the granular quality of the code — at lightning-fast speed — by detecting and fixing any errors early in the development process.
Thanks to this advanced level of automation, CI/CD pipeline tools allow devs to focus on the good stuff — the human-touch tasks that add real value to their software
CI/CD pipeline stages
Build (or develop)
The build stage is the very first step in the CI/CD pipeline, and it’s the process of creating a version of the software that’s ready for testing.
Several factors will determine the complexity of the build stage, like the programming language used or the integrated development environment. And this means that even at step one, devs may need multiple tools to hand.
Firstly, devs will pull source code from either a public or private repository. They will then establish links to relevant modules, dependencies, and libraries. Finally, they’ll compile all components into a single binary artifact.
The build stage is typically automated using a build tool like Jenkins or Travis CI, which can be easily configured to run the process whenever changes are made, taking the (lengthy) manual build process out of the hands of the devs.
Step two: the commit stage. In the CI/CD pipeline, this is the process of committing any code changes into a version control system, like GitHub. The goal here is to remove any unsuitable builds from production and keep devs in the know of any issues in the meantime.
Here, devs need to check every phase of the source code against changes in the repository — every check-in creates a new instance of the deployment pipeline, and creates a release candidate.
CI/CD tools automate the process of running commit tests, compiling source code, creating binaries for later use, performing code analysis, and preparing artifacts like test databases.
The commit stage is crucial to the CI/CD pipeline since it gives teams traceability by ensuring that any and all code changes are tracked.
Once builds are completed, it’s time for step three. This is where builds undergo comprehensive dynamic testing.
This is the point in the process where CI/CD software will automatically execute tests of the software to check that it meets all the typical quality and usability standards.
It includes unit testing and regression testing. Unit testing verifies that individual new features and functions are working, whereas regression testing ensures that new additions to the code don’t break older and pre-existing features.
The “stage stage” is similar to the testing stage in that its function in the process is to essentially check that the code changes work in a live environment.
This stage includes extensive testing using a staging server that was built solely for this purpose. It’s all about making sure it’s all going to work by running deployment simulations. Needless to say, the environment needs to be as close to real-life production conditions as possible for an accurate result.
This is a critical part of the CI/CD pipeline since it will give devs a good idea of how the software will behave once deployed in a production environment. It allows teams to catch any errors before the software is released to the public.
Finally! Once tests are passed, you’re all set. Kind of. The final stage in the process is deployment, which is where new outputs, features, and updates are deployed to production — making them available to end users.
The work is not over once software has been deployed. It’s important to monitor the release to ensure it is functioning as expected. In the event of any errors or bugs, a rollback can be initiated to restore the software to a previous version.
Of course, it’s then time to collect user feedback and performance data to better inform any future updates and releases.
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The best CI/CD tools
Jenkins is an open-source tool that offers a wide range of plug-ins and integrations to support different coding languages and build frameworks.
As a cloud-based CI/CD tool, Azure Pipelines allows devs to automate the build process both on-premise and in the cloud.
GitLab CI/CD allows devs to complete the delivery pipeline process of software development directly from the GitLab repository.
Designed to provide a web-based interface for managing builds, plug-ins, and integrations, TeamCity includes built-in support for a large number of coding languages.
BuildKit allows devs to set up and manage software builds with ease, allowing for integration with other tools and including detailed metrics to help with troubleshooting.
This is a cloud-based CI/CD tool that is popular with many open-source projects, as it supports a variety of programming languages and offers seamless integration with other tools like GitHub.
Using a code repository shared by a host of devs, Bamboo helps automate and coordinate the building and testing of software.
Another cloud-based CI/CD tool, CodeShip can also be integrated with other tools and services like AWS and GitHub, allowing devs to set up and configure automated builds within minutes.
Implementing your pipeline with CI/CD tools
When implementing your CI/CD pipeline, it’s crucial to keep in mind that the tools are at your disposal to help make everything run that little bit more smoothly.
CI/CD tools are designed to speed up your cycle times and free devs up for more pressing matters — ones that require input from a human brain.
But there’s fast, and then there’s F1 Grand Prix vibes. And Incredibuild is on the track. We accelerate the CI/CD pipeline by using idle CPU cycles across machines in your network (whether that’s an on-premise, cloud, or hybrid network) to help the build server perform much faster. Essentially splitting the workload across multiple machines to speed up your software builds.
Plus, our software acceleration technology is compatible with every well-known CI/CD tool out there. So there’s really no reason not to look us up.
What is the most used CI/CD tool?
While it’s difficult to comment on which CI/CD software is the most popular, or the most used, there are features that should be considered when choosing the right one for you. For example, are you looking for an open-source tool? Or one that’s easy to use? Or one that has the most built-in features? Have a think about what you’re looking for, and search accordingly.
What are CI tools in DevOps?
Continuous integration tools are designed to automate the building and testing stages of the software development process. Typically triggered by commits in the codebase, CI tooling integrates with the code repositories and version control systems to help deliver the building and testing stages.
What are CD tools in DevOps?
Continuous delivery tools relate to the automation of the later stages of the pipeline, such as staging and deployment. CD tools allow for the automated testing of any code changes, ensuring that these code changes are uploaded to a repository, where they can then be deployed to a staged production environment.