What is Continuous Integration and Why it is Important?

Continuous Integration cannot help get rid of bugs, but it can indeed make a difference by finding and removing them. This is the prime reason why enterprises today are opting for Continuous Integration and saying goodbye to old methodologies. This article will serve as a comprehensive and elaborate guide to help you begin and excel with CI.

In this article, we shall learn the following topics:

  • What is Continuous Integration?
  • Importance of Continuous Integration
  • Continuous Integration vs. Continuous Deployment vs. Continuous Delivery
  • Best Continuous Integration practices
  • Best Continuous Integration tools and services

What is Continuous Integration?

Continuous Integration (CI) is a DevOps software development practice that enables the developers to merge their code changes in the central repository to run automated builds and tests. It refers to the process of automating the integration of code changes coming from several sources. The process comprises several automation tools that emphasize on the code’s correctness before Integration. 

Continuous_Integration

Continuous Integration is the best practice for software development that has a set of critical principles. Some of the principles of CI are revision control, automated testing, and build automation. The process is not known to get rid of bugs but makes it easy to find and remove bugs. 

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What CI Does?

Continuous Integration is a software development practice that integrates code into a shared repository frequently. This is done by developers several times a day each time they update the codebase. Each of these integrations can then be tested automatically.

One of the main benefits of integrating regularly and testing each integration is that you can detect errors more quickly and locate them easily. Since each integration or update to codebase is usually small, pinpointing the exact change that causes the error can be done quickly.

How CI Can be Used?

Over the past few years, Continuous Integration has become one of the best practices for software development. The goal is to detect the errors early on without having to wait until the end of the project.

Here are some basic prerequisites for implementing Continuous Integration: 

  • Automating builds
  • Automating testing
  • A single source code repository
  • Visibility of the entire process
  • Real-time code access to everyone in the team

For software development teams that don’t practice CI, they should start with small steps instead of implementing the CI/CD (Continuous Integration/Continuous Development) pipeline immediately. They should continuously iterate on code and process in a way that helps the organization grow.

Importance of Continuous Integration

Continuous Integration enables better transparency and farsightedness in the process of software development and delivery. It not only benefits the developers but all the segments of that company. These benefits make sure that the organization can make better plans and execute them following the market strategy. 

To understand the importance of CI, here are some of its benefits:

1. Reduces Risk

The frequent testing and deployment of code reduce the project's risk level, as now the code defects and bugs can be detected earlier. This states that these bugs and errors can be easily fixed and take less time, making the overall process cheaper. The general working speeds up the feedback mechanism that makes the communication smoother and effective.

2. Better Communication

The Continuous Integration process collaborates with the Continuous Delivery workflow that makes code sharing easy and regularized. This makes the process more transparent and collaborative among team members. In the long term, this makes the communication speed more efficient and makes sure that everyone in the organization is on the same page.

3. Higher Product Quality

Continuous Integration provides features like Code review and Code quality detection, making the identification of errors easy. If the code does not match the standard level or a mistake, it will be alerted with emails or SMS messages. Code review helps the developers to improve their programming skills continually.

4. Reduced Waiting Time

The time between the application development, integration, testing, and deployment is considerably reduced. When this time is reduced, it, in turn, reduces the waiting time that may occur in the middle. CI makes sure that all these processes continue to happen no matter what.

We came across three different terms, Continuous Integration, Continuous Deployment, and Continuous Delivery. We must have a look at the difference between the three.

Benefits of Continuous Integration 

Risk Mitigation

The most important benefit of Continuous Integration is reduced risks in the development process. When teams integrate consistently and frequently, they significantly reduce the number of potential risks because they always know the current state of the system.

Quality Teams

The software development teams have greater confidence in their work. They know that the system can catch bugs and defects almost immediately, which promises them a risk-free development process. 

Increased Visibility

A single repository and automated build provide full visibility for everyone working on the project. This also allows them to coordinate and work on the issues at hand before they turn into bigger problems.

Challenges of Continuous Integration

Here are some of the challenges of continuous integration

Change in Organizational Culture

Many businesses still prefer traditional methodologies when it comes to software development. Implementing Continuous Integration means that they would have to retrain their staff and also change existing operations. Most companies want to meet their objectives quickly and may be resistant to change.

Difficult to Maintain

The task of building a single automated code repository is not an easy feat. They need to build a proper testing suite and spend enormous amounts of time writing test cases instead of developing actual code. This could make them lose faith in completing their projects on time.

Numerous Error Messages

There can be a lot of error messages detected in the code and teams may start ignoring them altogether because they have other bigger tasks to handle. This can start turning into a habit and defects will start accumulating on top of each other.

Getting Started with Continuous Integration

While Continuous Integration should be done slowly, you may need to change the entire team culture in order to fully implement it. Here are five steps to get started with Continuous Integration:

  1. Write tests for the most critical parts of the codebase
  2. Run the tests automatically with a CI service on every push to the main repository
  3. Make everyone in the team integrate their changes every day
  4. As soon as the build is broken, fix it
  5. For every new story that is implemented, write a test

Continuous Integration vs Continuous Deployment vs Continuous Delivery 

All three are the phases of an automated release pipeline. These three processes are responsible for taking the software from its first phase to the final phase.

Continuous Integration

Continuous Deployment

Continuous Delivery

Continuous Integration (CI) is a DevOps software development practice that enables the developers to merge their code changes in the central repository to run automated builds and tests.

Continuous Delivery (CI) is a DevOps practice that refers to the building, testing, and delivering improvements to the software code. The most important part of the CD is that the code is always in a deployable state.

Continuous Deployment (CD) refers to the final stage in the pipeline that refers to the automatic releasing of any developer changes from the repository to the production. 

Continuous_Integration_vs_Continuous_Deployment_vs_Continuous%20Delivery

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Best Continuous Integration Practices

1. Test-Driven Development

Once the CI pipeline with automated testing is set up, it becomes crucial to develop and improve the test coverage. This is when a series of tests are needed to determine if the code is working as expected. 

Test-Driven Development (TDD) refers to writing the test cases before performing any actual coding. In a typical TDD scenario, developers and product managers discuss the specifications and the list of requirements. According to which the developers write codes, this list is further converted into a checklist of code. 

2. Code Reviews and Pull Requests

A pull request is used by a developer to merge new code into the central database. The pull request informs all the fellow developers that a new set of changes are ready for integration. This request is used to run a bunch of automated approval steps. Along with that, a manual approval step is taken, in which a code review is performed. This code review helps in a better assessment of the code and its functionality. 

Both the code review and pull requests are essential for sharing knowledge among the engineering team.

3. Optimized Pipeline Speed

There is always a need to optimize the execution speed of the CI pipeline. A fast CI pipeline allows a quicker feedback loop for the project. This makes it simple for the developers to push changes and experiment with some new ideas that improve the user experience. In this scenario, bugs can be fixed quickly and efficiently as soon as they are discovered. 

The Optimized Pipeline Speed increases the execution speed that benefits other competitors and provides a higher quality experience to the customers.

Best Continuous Integration Tools and Services

The Optimized Pipeline Speed increases the execution speed that benefits other competitors and provides a higher quality experience to the customers.

Organizations are continually moving towards DevOps methodologies to speed up the delivery process and ensure product quality. Today, the companies have started realizing the importance of CI and don't think twice about investing in it. 

Some of the third party tools that help in the management and installation of Continuous Integration are as follows:  

Best_Sources_For_C

These are some of the tools that may help in getting started. Some of the best tools are provided by the Bitbucket pipeline, Atlassian, and Bamboo. Jira is also one of the most popular Agile project management tools. 

Enroll for the DevOps Training Course and gain expertise in several aspects of the delivery model using DevOps tools like Docker, Jenkins, and more.

Conclusion

By now, you would have gotten a picture of what Continuous Integration is all about, and now we know why it is in so much demand by companies all around the globe. We also saw the difference between the three most important practices in DevOps. Towards the end, we understood the best practices and tools for CI that might prove useful to you in future projects.

If you are looking to learn CI/CD pipeline and excel in DevOps practices, do consider enrolling in Simplilearn’s DevOps certification training course. The Certification course will act as a catalyst to boost your career in the field of DevOps.

If you have any questions for us, mentioning them in the comment section of this article. We'll have our experts look into them and provide answers as soon as possible!

About the Author

Ishan GabaIshan Gaba

Ishan Gaba is a Research Analyst at Simplilearn. He is proficient in Java Programming, Data Structures, and Project Management. Graduated in Information Technology, Ishan is also passionate about writing and traveling.

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