Continuous Integration and Continuous Delivery–Some Concepts

Posted by: Brian Martel , on 1/17/2023, in Category DevOps
Views: 51809
Abstract: This tutorial explores the principles of Continuous Integration and Continuous Delivery (CI/CD), their importance in the IT4IT Reference Architecture, and the significance of Application Life-cycle Management (ALM). We will briefly discuss the challenges of implementing CI/CD, the process of pipeline development, and clarify common CI/CD terminology.

In today’s fast-paced software development landscape, Continuous Integration and Continuous Delivery (CI/CD) have become essential practices for improving productivity, reducing risks, and maintaining high-quality software.

In this tutorial, we will dive into the principles of continuous integration and continuous delivery (CI/CD), their importance in the context of the Open Group’s IT4IT Reference Architecture, and the significance of application life-cycle management (ALM). Additionally, we will explore the journey of implementing CI/CD and the crucial process of pipeline development, which is analogous to application development. Finally, we will clarify common terms associated with CI/CD to provide a solid understanding of the subject.

Principles of Continuous Integration and Continuous Delivery

Continuous integration (CI) and continuous delivery (CD) are essential practices in modern software development. These processes enable development teams to integrate their work continuously, test it automatically, and deliver updates to production environments with minimal manual intervention. The main principles of CI/CD are:

  1. Frequent code integration: Developers should merge their changes to the main branch as often as possible, ideally several times a day.
  2. Automated builds and tests: CI/CD pipelines should automatically build and test code upon each integration.
  3. Fast feedback: Developers should receive immediate feedback on build and test failures to fix issues quickly.
  4. Deployment automation: CD pipelines should automate the deployment process, minimizing manual intervention and increasing consistency and reliability.
  5. Collaboration and visibility: CI/CD fosters a culture of collaboration and transparency among team members, encouraging shared responsibility for code quality and deployment success.

CICD

[Image Source: commons.wikimedia.org]

CI/CD in the Context of IT4IT Reference Architecture and the Software Supply Chain

The IT4IT Reference Architecture is a standard for managing the business of IT, providing a comprehensive framework to support IT management and governance. It comprises four value streams: Strategy to Portfolio, Requirement to Deploy, Request to Fulfill, and Detect to Correct.

CI/CD plays a crucial role in the Requirement to Deploy (R2D) value stream, which focuses on the efficient delivery of applications and services. By implementing CI/CD practices, organizations can optimize the software supply chain, enabling faster delivery, higher quality, and more frequent releases. In this context, CI/CD ensures a seamless flow from development to operations, improving collaboration and reducing lead time for delivering new features and bug fixes.

The Importance of Application Life-cycle Management (ALM)

Application life-cycle management (ALM) is an essential aspect of modern software development, covering the entire process from ideation to deployment and maintenance. ALM platforms integrate various tools and processes to manage the development, testing, deployment, and monitoring of applications.

Examples of ALM platforms include:

  • Atlassian Suite: Combines Jira, Confluence, Bitbucket, and Bamboo to provide an integrated environment for project management, collaboration, code management, and CI/CD.
  • Microsoft Azure DevOps: Offers a comprehensive set of services and tools for planning, coding, building, testing, and deploying applications.
  • IBM Rational Collaborative Life-cycle Management: A solution that integrates requirements management, quality management, and change management in a unified platform.

ALM platforms streamline the software development process, enabling teams to work more efficiently and effectively. They provide a single source of truth, improve collaboration, and ensure traceability across the life cycle.

ALM

[Image Source: commons.wikimedia.org]

The Bumpy Journey of Realizing CI/CD

Implementing CI/CD is not a straightforward process, and organizations often encounter challenges along the way. Some common hurdles include:

  1. Cultural resistance: CI/CD requires a shift in mindset and culture, with team members needing to embrace collaboration, transparency, and shared responsibility.
  2. Legacy systems: Outdated infrastructure, tools, and processes can impede the adoption of CI/CD practices.
  1. Inadequate testing: Insufficient or ineffective testing practices can hinder the implementation of CI/CD, as automated tests are crucial for ensuring code quality and enabling rapid deployment.
  2. Lack of expertise: Organizations may struggle to find experienced CI/CD practitioners, and upskilling existing team members can be time-consuming and challenging.
  3. Complexity of tools and processes: Integrating various tools and processes for CI/CD can be complex, requiring significant effort and expertise to configure and maintain.

To overcome these challenges, organizations should invest in training, adopt a gradual approach to implementation, and leverage proven tools and practices.

Pipeline Development: From Application Development to CI/CD Pipelines

Pipeline development is the process of designing, implementing, and managing CI/CD pipelines to automate software delivery. Since pipelines are essentially software, they should be treated with the same rigor as application development. This involves following the same steps as software development:

  1. Requirements analysis: Gather requirements to understand the problem domain of CI/CD and scope the implementation.
  2. Design: Design the pipelines to determine the flow, conditions, tasks, and external systems involved.
  3. Development: Develop the pipelines and integrate them with other tools and systems.
  4. Testing: Test the pipelines themselves, ensuring they function as intended and meet quality criteria.
  5. Implementation: Set up interfaces with external systems, configure pipelines, create monitoring dashboards, and share knowledge within the team.
  6. Operation and monitoring: Monitor and evaluate the performance of the pipelines, addressing any issues or improvements.

Following this structured approach ensures that CI/CD pipelines are designed and developed effectively, facilitating a seamless software delivery process.

Demystifying CI/CD Terminology

There are several terms associated with CI/CD that can cause confusion. To avoid misunderstandings, I will provide definitions for some of the most common terms:

  • Analyze code: A subset of quality assurance that includes static code scans to assess code quality and identify vulnerabilities.
  • Application life-cycle management (ALM): An integrated toolset that covers the main aspects of the software supply chain.
  • Artifact: A package stored in a binary repository, used for deployment to a target environment.
  • Build: The process of combining source code and dependencies to create a runnable product (artifact).
  • Continuous deployment: A process where the artifact is built, tested, and deployed to production automatically, assuming it meets all quality criteria.
  • Deploy: The act of installing an artifact on a target environment, such as a test or production environment.
  • Environment: The platform or infrastructure on which the artifact is deployed, or the context of an ALM platform and related CI/CD tools.
  • Pipeline: The design and implementation of all steps defining the automation of the software delivery process.
  • Release (verb): The activities performed to deploy an artifact to a production environment.
  • Release or release version (noun): An artifact that can be deployed to a production environment.
  • Source control management (SCM): A system for managing version control, such as Git, Mercurial, or Subversion.
  • Stage: A group of related activities in a CI/CD pipeline, such as Execute build, Analyze code, or Perform test.
  • Target/target environment: The environment in which an artifact is deployed, which can be a test server, production server, or an account/subscription on a cloud service provider.
  • Test: A subset of quality assurance involving automated and manual testing.

Summary

CI/CD is an integral component of modern software development, enabling organizations to deliver high-quality software more quickly and efficiently.

By understanding the principles of CI/CD, the importance of ALM, and the process of pipeline development, organizations can streamline their software development process and improve their agility. Embracing the CI/CD mindset and continuously learning, improving, and adapting are crucial for achieving software delivery excellence.

This article has been editorially reviewed by Suprotim Agarwal.

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Author

Brian Martel, an experienced Azure and DevOps developer, has spent the last decade mastering technologies such as Kubernetes, Docker, Ansible, and Terraform. Armed with a Bachelor's degree in Computer Science and certifications like Cloud DevOps Engineer Expert (AWS and Azure) and Certified Kubernetes Administrator (CKA), Brian has a proven track record of guiding organizations through successful transitions to cloud-based infrastructures and implementing efficient DevOps pipelines.

He generously shares his wealth of knowledge as a mentor and an active participant in the developer community, contributing articles, speaking at user groups, and engaging with others on social media. All the while, Brian remains dedicated to staying current with the latest trends in his field.



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