The CI/CD pipeline integrates continuous monitoring and automation into the software development lifecycle, fulfilling its primary goal of automating the SDLC. It reduces the manual tasks done by development teams, consequently lessening human errors, enhancing productivity, and delivering faster results.
CI/CD has several potential benefits, which is why its accurate implementation is necessary for successful results. The process, however, can be challenging. In this article, we will offer you a guide to set up a CI/CD pipeline that talks about its various stages and best practices. It will help you effectively set up a CI/CD pipeline. Let’s begin.
- STAGES IN A CI/CD PIPELINE
Any CI/CD pipeline has three main stages:
- Building Stage
- Testing Stage
- Deployment Stage
It is sequential, implying that one stage must be completed before moving on to the next. Before beginning with the building stage, there is a step known as the ‘source stage,’ which focuses on source control, tracking changes, and covering version control. The CI/CD pipeline gets triggered by changes in the program or preconfigured flags in the code repository for tasks like unit testing or code compilation. Tools like GIT and Azure Repos are commonly used here.
- Building Stage
This stage is characterized by the combination of source code with its dependencies to create an executable instance of the development. Just like the name suggests, it deals with ‘builds,’ more specifically software builds and other buildable objects like containers.
Also referred to as the development environment, it is the only stage where code is written. It also includes generating build artifacts to be stored in an artifact repository and deployed to environments. It enables you to revert back to previous versions if necessary.
- Testing Stage
This stage is characterized by automated testing to validate the software’s behavior for identifying bugs. Also referred to as the test environment, it can be used to coordinate and regulate changes done by different members on different parts, review code, etc., before moving on to the deployment stage.
Automated tests play a vital role here. Different types of tests that can be done here are:
- Unit Test
- Integration test
- Functional test
Tools like Selenium help to perform streamlined tests.
- Deployment Stage
The final stage of the CI/CD pipeline, the deployment stage, is characterized by deploying the package to a staging environment for quality assurance (QA) before deploying the tested code to a production environment.
Some types of deployment strategies are:
- Blue-green deployment
- Canary deployment
- In-place deployment
Now that you understand the different stages of setting up a CI/CD pipeline, let’s look at the best practices you can leverage to set up a CI/CD pipeline.
- BEST PRACTICES FOR SETTING UP CI/CD PIPELINE
Taking an iterative approach to CI/CD best practices can help you set it up effectively.
- Ensure speed without compromising comprehensiveness.
When you keep your testing pipelines comprehensive, the number of unforeseen side effects that may show up in your production deployment reduced. However, speed is just as important, especially because every change must go through the process, making it challenging to balance the two. By thoroughly understanding and documenting your trade-offs, you can indulge in proper decision-making to ensure speed without compromising comprehensiveness. Consulting with stakeholders to align assumptions with primary areas of focus can also help.
- Build only once instead of building for each stage.
Rebuilding for each stage increases the risk of inconsistencies. Hence, it would be best if you focused on promoting the same build artifact through each stage of the CI/CD pipeline. You must ensure that the build is environment-agnostic, enabling it to be deployed to each environment for testing. Instead of being incorporated into the build, variables, configuration files, and authentication parameters should be called by the deployment script.
- Maintain uniformity with production whenever possible.
Significant differences between testing and production environments can facilitate the release of problematic changes. Early stages prove if testing should be continued and changes should be sent towards production. So, maintaining uniformity in the later changes helps ensure the accuracy of tests in reflecting the behavior of changes. As the differences between your testing and live environments increase, the efficiency of your tests to measure code performance decreases. While some differences are expected, it is vital to keep them manageable and well-understood.
- Streamline tests.
Even though CI/CD pipelines rely significantly on automated testing, balancing test coverage and performance is essential. It would be best if you prioritized running tests that finish quickly, followed by the lengthier ones. It will help you get early feedback.
You can begin with unit tests to ensure broad coverage while receiving alerts of obvious issues. This can be followed by automated integration tests to test the different components of the code. Consider investing in complex automated tests like GUI tests, security tests, etc., only when you’re done with the unit tests and automated integration tests.
CI/CD pipeline implementations differ for different organizations. Even then, there are several practices you can undertake to ensure efficiency.
A thorough understanding of the CI/CD pipeline’s different stages, along with its best practices, can help you avoid significant pitfalls. You can undergo the journey more smoothly and ensure its seamless setup.
Continuous integration and continuous development are essential to increase the efficiency of SDLC operations. An adequately set up CI/CD pipeline can enable your team to deliver working software swiftly while receiving timely feedback on changes. But it is also crucial to understand that the process of building a CI/CD pipeline cannot be along the lines of fire-and-forget. It requires continuous effort and an iterative approach.