Written by Kevin Guan
Think about the 100+ decisions that each person has to make every day. Each person only has a limited amount of bandwidth to commit before needing to retire for the day. When it comes to software development, this prime bandwidth is precious. Automation through Continuous Integration (CI) can reduce the workload stress of both Agile development and deployment teams significantly and frees up attention for important tasks that require human intervention. Be it code reviews, test cases, security checks, or deployment, automation through CI can help save time and reduce the odds of a system failure.
While coding still requires attention from a developer, Continuous Integration tools can automate the build and deployment process and remove manual intervention. As build and deployment projects are very time consuming, CI can expedite the process and offer significant long-term savings, as the resources saved will outweigh the tool’s price. A set of well-designed automated pipelines will allow companies to profit from the initial investment. More importantly, it will instantiate a more optimized workflow in the organization and provide more time to meet customer expectations.
Continuous Integration can also help bolster the quality of code. With every check-in or set times a day, the CI can configure a series of automated tests and reviews on its CI server. This build server can be local or cloud-based. If bugs are found, the report will be delivered and can be addressed in a timely fashion. This real-time integration testing also encourages developers to check-in cleaner code that meets requirements or, otherwise, they should expect the test’s fail to be broadcasted on a live channel. This facilitation ensures the code base is always at a standard level of quality and allows developers to quickly address problems if trash ever gets detected, assuming proper unit tests and instrumental tests are in place. There are also many CI tools that provide integration like version control systems and source controls. It also supports many types of builds like visual studios or Gradle, so team members are well equipped to handle test failures or setting up new shared repositories.
Alongside Continuous Integration, Continuous Delivery (CD) works on reducing the chances of tests failing during the deployment or release process. The production environment will ensure that the software development team members will always be able to deploy software securely at any time a day. Additionally, with Continuous Deployment, the CI server can automatically build and test to deploy a software build whenever the code base experiences any major changes.
From a business perspective, Continuous Integration offers a plethora of benefits. As Agile software development work in continuous cycles, CI enables development teams to track the project and provide feedback to the customer in real-time. As a result, these reviews can allow the team to fix any shortcomings and plan more refinements that better suit the end user’s expectations (like a cleaner user interface). In addition, CI requires the breakdown of integration processes into smaller development tasks during setup. As a result, this setup allows for defects to be detected earlier in the project and eases maintainability in the long run. Lastly, the faster build times on CI will help minimize build costs and facilitates quicker resolutions when issues arise.
For getting started, there are server-based tools, such as Jenkins, GitLab, or TeamCity. There are also cloud-based options, such as Circle CI or Travis CI. All of these options have their pros and cons. All of these options can benefit the software development cycle significantly. Nonetheless, success in CI tools is also dependent on the responsiveness of team members and a willingness to build and test bugs in real-time.
Continuous Integration (CI) can greatly optimize the workflow in an Agile team and encourages build-and-test driven development. Not only are the benefits clear for businesses, but also for product owners, development teams, and end-users. The beauty of this system is that it works without any manual involvement, and it is flexible enough to provide alerts when problems occur. It is maintaining the codebase with a controlled test environment and gathering feedback for optimizing the release process by default. Most importantly, this automation will greatly streamline the development cycle and enables teams to develop more amazing, consistent apps with faster time to market.
Written by Kevin Guan