Scared to scale your CI/CD pipelines? Find out about the most common challenges and what you need to do to overcome them.
Successful DevOps requires an agile approach focused on collaboration, fast releases, and customer feedback, as well as secure, resilient code. With automation, governance, longevity, security, and rigorous testing as the foundations of your CI/CD framework, you'll be well on the way to doing DevOps right.
And then you want to scale…
Going from 20 people benefitting from a CI/CD tool to 200 or even 2,000 is a challenging task. Right away, you'll be dealing with issues around complexity, scalability, and performance.
Inevitably, scaling will take a lot of work. It's essential that you have plans in place rather than letting it turn into a runaway train. Being prepared for a bumpy ride is half the battle. That's why we've distilled our years of CI/CD scaling experience down into these three common challenges.
You might even recognise some of your own frustrations here. Never fear! We've also included some simple measures to ensure you're ready to overcome them.
Challenge 1: Expense and effort
A big chunk of the IT budget typically goes to support engineers whose sole job is integrating and maintaining complex toolchains. With multiple hardware and software configurations, installing, maintaining, and upgrading everything to keep your CI/CD process on track will be costly and time-consuming.
With no standards in place, DevOps teams will have to spin up new pipelines for each app as required. If people have chosen their favourite tools and there are multiple instances across the enterprise, that's a hefty bill, not to mention the manual effort involved. It's likely teams will be more siloed as a result, and code will take longer to ship.
Implement a standardised and automated development pipeline for everyone rather than have 50 different ways of building products across 50 teams. This will cut these human costs and toil, and see resources better spent on delivering business value. Remember to build in some flexibility for where you need to customise processes.
Challenge 2: Miscommunication and misalignment
As mentioned above, scaling CI/CD can cause teams to be siloed by the tools they choose. With a lack of visibility, it can be difficult for developers and operations staff to collaborate across their stacks. Developers might also base their code on an environment's capabilities, rather than what's best for the business.
While dev teams are incentivised to speed up and ship new features, ops teams are trying to ensure stability, uptime and keep errors to a minimum – often putting the two skill sets at loggerheads. If neither side has evidence to work towards the other's goals, you will find downtime, and errors will go up as a result.
By adopting a pipelines as code (PaC) approach, you build an audit trail into your pipelines, so dev and ops can both see when changes were made to pipelines, by whom, and why. This transparency builds trust, makes knowledge-sharing much easier, and encourages collaboration.
Involve key stakeholders from across dev and ops, to explain that delivering bug-free, brilliant code takes time. It might seem like velocity has dropped, but the long-term benefits are in the business's best interests, leading to higher productivity and more innovation in the long run.
Challenge 3: Tricky tools
Unfortunately, an enterprise needs multiple teams and programming languages, which increases the number of build agents you're dealing with and their complexity. If managing multiple CI/CD toolchains is not testing enough, you'll come to realise that each tool comes with its own set of challenges.
Most CI/CD tools will all have dependencies, and you'll need to look out for those that rely on plug-in architectures (which might not perform well at scale). Scaling some of these tools will require manual processes, like partitioning build jobs, adding to the effort required.
You can't avoid having teams working across microservices, monolithic apps, and legacy apps. Different technologies and languages will be involved, and different deployments and orchestrations too. Whatever tools you're working with must be robust enough to support the enterprise's performance needs. Research and test tools thoroughly and avoid loading on numerous plug-ins to boost performance.
Embrace the challenge
Scaling CI/CD across the enterprise is challenging, but with the right skills and support, it can revolutionise the way your growing number of DevOps teams build, test, and deploy software.
Get in touch to find out how we can help get you there.