5th June 2021
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The Importance of Continuous Integration in Software Development

Przemyslaw Potoczny

Przemysław Potoczny

Continuous Integration - process importancy
4 minutes read
Contents
  • What is Continuous Integration?
  • Continuous Delivery (CD) and Continuous Deployment
  • Benefits from CI Process
  • Benefits of Continuous Integration for Developers and Development Teams
  • Continuous Integration Best Practices
  • How to get started with continuous integration
  • Conclusion

The importance of Continuous Integration (CI) in software development cannot be overemphasized. CI provides better insight and transparency to the software development and delivery process. It does not only benefit the developers; it also cuts across all the sectors of a particular company. With these benefits, an organization can create better plans and implement them using market strategies.

What is Continuous Integration?

CI is a common software development practice that allows developers to frequently integrate codes into a centrally shared repository. Developers can run automated builds and tests from this central repository. It is a process in which code changes coming from various sources are integrated automatically. This process usually includes the use of different automation tools with much emphasis on the correctness of the code before integration.

Continuous Delivery (CD) and Continuous Deployment

Continuous delivery has to do with how integrated code is delivered uninterruptedly, be it bug fixing, production, or new features. With CD, your “green builds” are ready for deployment whenever you choose to release them. Continuous deployment however goes a step further. You can automatically deploy every major branch change which passes the Continuous Integration.

Benefits from CI Process

Faster Release with Reduced Risk, Reduced Costs, and Easy Bug Removal

By frequently testing and deploying codes, a project’s risk level reduces drastically. This is due to the early detection of bugs and code defects. Locating the causes of error is easy since each codebase integration is usually small. The overall process subsequently becomes cheaper as these errors and bugs can be easily fixed over a short period.

Higher Product Quality and Increased Customer Satisfaction

The features of CI such as code quality detection and code review make error identification easy. Once a code does not meet up to the standard level, it returns an alert in form of IM or emails. Reviewing code assists developers to constantly improve their programming skills. By ensuring that a code meets up to standard level, you’re sure of producing products with high quality that will satisfy the needs of your customer.

Reduced Waiting Time

CI reduces the time between developing, integrating, testing, and deploying the application. This invariably reduces the waiting time that may happen in the middle. CI ensures that all these processes keep happening no matter what.

Benefits of Continuous Integration for Developers and Development Teams

Better Communication

The CI process makes regular code sharing easy with Continuous Delivery workflow. With this, the process is more collective and transparent among team members. Over time, communication becomes more efficient and everyone in the team is on the same page.

Risk Mitigation

Risk reduction in the development process is one of the most important benefits of CI for developers. Consistent and frequent integration by teams significantly decreases the risks potential as they are always aware of the system’s current state.

Quality Assurance Teams

CI increases the confidence of software development teams in their work. They are certain that the system will catch defects and bugs almost immediately. This assures them of a risk-free development process.

Increased Visibility and transparency

Every developer working on a project has full visibility. This is provided by the repository and automated build. When you set up a CI/CD pipeline, the entire team is aware of what is happening with the builds and also has access to the latest test results. This means that they can bring up issues and plan their work accordingly. They can see the changes that break builds more frequently.

Continuous Integration Best Practices

Pull Requests and Code Reviews

Pull requests allow developers to integrate new code into a central database. Pull request notifies other developers that new changes are set for integration. The request helps in running a series of automated approval steps. Code review, a manual approval step, is conducted alongside pull requests. Code reviews help to better assess a code and its functionality. Both pull requests and code reviews are important for knowledge sharing among the development team.

Test-Driven Development

After setting up the CI pipeline with automated testing, it becomes important and necessary to improve the test coverage. Here, a series of tests are required to determine if the code is working properly. Test-Driven Development (TDD) has to deal with the writing of test cases before executing any actual coding. Ideally, the product manager and developers discuss the requirements list and specifications. With these, the developers write tests which are then converted into a validation checklist.

Improved Pipeline Speed

It is always crucial to optimize the speed of execution of the CI pipeline. A CI pipeline with a fast speed gives space for a faster feedback loop for any project. It becomes easy for developers to make changes and experiment with new ideas which would improve the user experience. Improved pipeline speed makes it possible for bugs to be quickly and efficiently fixed immediately after they are discovered.

How to get started with continuous integration

It is quite easy to get started with the proper CI service. Below are some required basics to get started:

  • Choose your preferred version control to implement (e.g., Gitlab-CI, Bitbucket, GitHub Actions, and so on).
  • Write tests for components that are critical in your codebase and treat each test as production code.
  • Automatically run the tests with a CI service on every change made to the main repository.
  • Ensure daily integration of changes by everyone in the team.
  • Fix the build as soon as it breaks.
  • Write a test for every new story implemented.

Conclusion

It is incredibly complex and sometimes difficult to get it right when building software. However, using the appropriate tools help you to stay on track and also supports your development process. In summary, take note of these principles to help you run a successful CI/CD pipeline:

  • Ensure that changes are integrated daily.
  • Create a safety net by writing the tests.
  • Run tests to identify what to fix.
  • Delete or fix the tests that are no longer needed.
  • Maintain green builds.
  • Carry the team(s) along.

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