Continuous integration/continuous delivery (CI/CD) pipelines are ideal if you want a reliable delivery process that lets you improve your software quickly, getting features out to users as soon as they’re ready. There is an added effort of standardising builds, developing tests, and automating deployments, but once everything’s in place, your team can focus more on enhancing your products and less on the system details involved in delivery.
While it would be nice if there was a one-size-fits-all tooling solution for CI/CD, every organisation is different. You might use one tool for your entire software development lifecycle or need something just for CI/CD to integrate with the other tools in your DevOps toolchain. Either way, whatever you plan to use needs to meet your requirements, not someone else’s. That means thinking about where you’re at now, and where you ideally want to be.
Whether you’re still dependent on monolithic applications or your environment is based on a microservices architecture with a container-based pipeline – or your organisation is somewhere in between – your tooling choices will differ. In our eBook – Transform Your CI/CD Pipeline – we take a closer look at technology and the pitfalls to avoid. In our previous articles we discussed the metrics you need to identify to banish bottlenecks from your pipeline, and how to empower people and processes to get the most success from your CI/CD strategy. Here, we explore some key considerations when choosing your CI/CD tool.
Open source tools have many benefits – in particular the variety and niche solutions they provide, but they are also responsible for creating choke points in your pipeline. One example is security tools that run at defined checkpoints in the pipeline. If a tool identifies a critical issue, the team needs to be able to break the build to update the defect tracking system and metrics dashboard. But because every tool has its own way of being configured and its own enterprise dashboard, this is a more timely and complex process. Successful integration is key if you’re to avoid issues, especially in the handoffs between different software stages. This is where automation plays an important role (see below).
Seamless integration takes skill and experience. If your organisation is lacking the necessary expertise, you can turn to consultants to fill the gaps. Or consider using a suite of tools that offer some integration potential, designed to work in harmony with your non-suite tools and popular frameworks. Third-party plugin potential means you can also benefit from added flexibility.
CI/CD doesn’t work without automation – it helps improve software quality and reduces time-wasting bottlenecks. With automation in place, you can deploy to production hundreds of times per day, delivering features to customers much more quickly. Automation is all about delivering better products faster.
But knowing what to automate at which points in your pipeline is key to its effectiveness. Want to know if you’re automating enough? One place to start is to assess how much manual work your people are still doing. This lets you work through each process point and insert automation as you go. But don’t mistake automation for avoiding human intervention. Manual checkpoints are also an important factor in any DevOps operation, to ensure compliance, for example. Make sure you identify these in your analysis and keep them in place.
Stepping up security
In all the excitement of integration and automation, it can be easy to overlook more serious issues like security. You’ll want to use tools that allow faster issue identification, notification, and better visibility. That way you’ll have a clear idea of the risks and vulnerabilities at each stage of the pipeline – during or on delivery of new releases. When an issue does arise, that’s when the power of your CI/CD pipeline really comes into its own – enabling speedy remediation and resolution.
Tools for testing
Manual testing can only get you so far. It’s slow, inefficient, and there’s a high chance of human error. As a result, bottlenecks inevitably emerge. By automating certain tests at code commitment during the CI phase of the pipeline, you reduce the chance of code failures later in the pipeline. It’s far easier and more controlled to write tests for this point in the process than once code has been deployed. We also recommend that your teams map interdependencies, so that they’re testing each function and its impact on others in the test environment.
What comes next?
Don’t forget about the future – when evaluating which tools to use, think about where you’re headed as an organisation and anticipate your next-stage needs. Accommodate future growth, headcount goals, expansion plans, and any additional products and services into your tooling strategy so you don’t have to go through the process again in six months’ time.
Cost will also be a factor. While free open-source software might make sense for today, will it give you the room you need to grow? If paid software is an option, it can bring a number of advantages, such as configuration expertise at your fingertips. You should consider which tools will help you produce better quality code, reduce vulnerabilities, and increase operational efficiency for your end users.
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To find out more about CI/CD, its significant role within DevOps, and best practice for implementation, contact us today.
Continue reading the next article in our CI/CD series, to understand the organisation-wide benefits of standardising your CI/CD tools.