AUTHOR
Adservio team
DATE
March 28, 2022
CATEGORY
Digital Quality
Continuous Integration - Benefits | Best Practices

Digital Quality

10 min

Continuous Integration - Benefits | Best Practices

Paul Duvall, Steve Matyas, and Andrew Glover helped popularize continuous integration to improve software quality and reduce risk when they released their Martin Fowler Signature Book Continuous Integration in 2007. Since then, the concept has become essential for developers who want to create excellent products as quickly as possible.

Plenty of tools now exists to make continuous integration easier than ever. Still, there is quite a bit to learn before your development environment includes continuous integration.

What is Continuous Integration?

Continuous integration is an essential step in the modern DevOps build process. Software developers frequently update source code by adding new code to a centralized shared repository.

Then, they distribute the code changes to users, giving them new features and updates without requiring those users to download a new version of the application.

Development teams can choose to integrate new code into existing code repositories as often as they want. Many choose to use automated tools that test code for potential integration issues before releasing updates to users.

Continuous Integration and Continuous Delivery

Continuous integration is the process of producing and testing new code to ensure that it works with existing software. After automated testing, continuous delivery sends the updated code to users, machines, and environments.

Together, continuous integration and continuous delivery (CI/CD) improve workflows for development teams. (Continuous delivery also goes by continuous deployment)

The automated build, testing, and delivery processes mean that team members can focus on more creative tasks, such as brainstorming ideas and testing different approaches for developing new products.

Benefits of Continuous Integration

Relying on a CI/CD pipeline can give developers several benefits. Some of the most common advantages of continuous integration include:

  • Smaller code updates. These updates are more likely to integrate with the existing code base and less likely to disrupt the user’s experience.
  • Faster release dates. Developers can release products sooner when they know they can continuously update applications. As long as the tools serve their essential functionality, future updates in the development cycle can add more features. Continuous integration becomes part of the release process that software development teams rely on.
  • Better security. When you discover a vulnerability in one of your digital products, you can generate new code and integrate it into your source programming to prevent anyone from taking advantage of the flaw.
  • Lower costs. Automated code generation and debugging means that you need fewer developers on your team. You can get just as much accomplished while spending less money on employees.
  • Responsive results. You will likely get feedback from users throughout a product's life cycle. Continuous integration makes it easier for you to address feedback quickly to create a better experience.

The effectiveness of continuous integration depends on how well your development team members use the technology.

Continuous Integration best practices

Continuous integration makes software engineering easier by automatically generating and testing code.

That doesn’t mean CI tools will do all of the work for you, though. Instead, you can use these best practices to streamline workflows and keep your products functional.

Document commits and feedback

Document each commit so that team members know how a product’s code changes over time. Document feedback, too.

It could help someone identify a flaw more quickly during a future integration attempt. Save documents in README formats for easy accessibility.

Take a close look when integration tests fail

Automated integration testing will give you some information about why updates fail. Use failed testing as an opportunity to review your source code and recent changes.

Doing so will help ensure that you have a strong foundation on which to build your products.

Release small updates frequently

Releasing one large update makes it harder to identify potential flaws in a product’s code. For example, if you push hundreds of lines of code through your CD pipeline, you will need to search through all of those lines to find flaws.

Continuous integration lets you release small updates as often as you want.

Take advantage of that ability to run tests on small chunks of code, avoid big mistakes that could harm your product’s overall functionality, and optimize your workflows.

Clean pre-production environments between deployments

It’s a good idea to clean your pre-production environments between every deployment. This approach helps ensure a clean slate so that previous mistakes don’t accumulate over time.

Popular Continuous Integration tools

Before starting your upcoming software projects, take some time to learn how the following tools could contribute to your integration process. They stand out as some of the most popular tools in the CI process, so one of them will likely meet your needs.

Jenkins

Jenkins has a very straightforward user interface that makes environments easy to configure. Other benefits include:

  • Notifications when it completes a build.
  • Versions for Windows, macOS, and Linux-based operating systems.
  • Open-source software with a robust community of users.
  • More than 1,800 plugins for building, deploying, and automating.
CircleCI

CircleCI stands out as a great tool for automating steps while building code, testing updates, and deploying applications. Benefits of choosing CircleCI include:

  • Easy integrations with Bitbucket (owned by Atlassian) and GitHub.
  • Very fast testing.
  • Personalized notifications.
  • Can run builds in virtual machines or containers.
Travis CI

DevOps teams often choose Travis CI because of its robust automation. It also supports a long list of programming languages, including Java, Perl, Node, Python, and PHP. Other attractive features include:

  • Pull request support.
  • Clean virtual machines for every new build.
  • Options to deploy to multiple cloud services.
GitLab

Although GitLab mainly functions as a Git repository manager, it has several features that make it useful as a CI tool. Some of those features include:

  • Branching tools that help you manage project data and code.
  • Easy scalability and handy when you need to collaborate with other teams.
  • Full automation for source code builds, integration, and testing.
Buddy

Buddy gives you Docket containers that come with preinstalled languages and frameworks, making it easy to start building products quickly. Other benefits of choosing Buddy include:

  • Custom Docker-based images that you can use as test environments.
  • Optimization features such as smart change detection and parallelism.
  • Diverse CI/CD pipelines that you can customize to your unique needs.
Nevercode

Nevercode is a terrific CI/CD tool for mobile app developers. It can automatically publish to Google Play, iTunes Connect, HockeyApp, TestFairy, and Crashlytics.

Summary

Make sure your development teams know how to use the CI/CD tools that fit your existing IT assets. If you need assistance in making sure you are using implementing CI in a professional and safe way, reach us.

Our team of professionals will take care to gain the most and the best from Continuous integration.

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