Continuous Integration: 5 Best Practices, Best Tools, & Benefits

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In the DevOps world, we hear Continuous Integration, Continuous Testing, Continuous Delivery, Continuous Monitoring, Continuous Planning, and many more forms of ‘Continuous’. These are the key for improving DevOps maturity.

Continuous improvement and integration is the culture required in DevOps for providing better services to customers. An organization might be the most mature Organization currently, but if it does not invest in continuous improvement, very soon competitors will overtake it in this race of DevOps and Digital – which is key for delivering Business Value.

In this article, we will talk about some best practices, tools, and benefits of Continuous Integration. Continuous Integration is the development process of getting early feedback, which is key for the success of DevOps. Failure is the stepping stone for success, failing fast accelerates your journey to success, and Continuous Integration helps us fail fast.

5 Best Practices in Continuous Integration

Continuous Integration is the first stepping stone in Continuous Delivery Pipeline. Automating testing through Continuous Integration improves code quality. Implemented with best practices, CI helps in getting early feedback, increases transparency and sets the stage for better Continuous Delivery thus improving DevOps maturity. Following are a few best practices for implementing a successful CI practice:

  1. Manage Source Code:
    1. Centralized version control repository: Source code should be managed using centralized version control repository.
    2. Code Review: Two levels of Code Review must be performed.
    3. Compile, Unit Test and Static Code Analysis: Code should be Built, Unit tested, and Analyzed using Static Code Analysis tools before pushing to the central repository.
    4. Code Commit: Code changes must be pushed to central repository multiple times a day or at least once a day to the main line.
  2. Manage Software Binaries:
    1. Binary Repository Manager: Software Binaries must be centralized using the Binary repository manager, and software dependencies between teams must be seamlessly shared.
    2. Vulnerabilities and Compliance: Software Binaries must be scanned for security vulnerabilities and license compliance. The build should be failed if vulnerabilities are found in software binaries.
    3. Publish Builds: Build artifacts should be published to a Binary repository to be able to share seamlessly with dependent module builds.
    4. Deployment Automation: Deployment of build artifacts to environments should happen from the binary repository for better security and reliability.
  1. Build Automation:
    1. VCS Trigger: Builds must be triggered for every code change done in source control repository.
    2. Unit Tests and Static Code Analysis: Static Code Analysis and Unit Tests must be run for every check-in.
    3. CI Job as code: Build configuration must be maintained as the code.
    4. Feedback: Notifications must be sent to developers on build failures, SCA criteria not met, and Unit Tests Failure, Security Vulnerabilities, and License Compliance.
  2. Reduce Build Time:
    1. Modularizing code and Micro Services: Independently buildable components must be identified and the builds simplified by executing them in smaller sizes to minimize the Build time.
    2. Dependency Management: Binaries from Binary Repository Manager setup must be resolved behind the company firewall to reduce the time taken to download from external portals.
    3. Collocation of machines and repositories: Build machines, source code repository and Binary repository must be collocated – this creates the least network latency for pulling source code and Binaries.
  3. Automate Deployment and Tests:
    1. Automated Environment: Environment Provisioning and Configuration management using tools with code from Version control repository must be used.
    2. Deployment Automation: Deployment must be automated by identifying simple steps, configuring entire workflows, and implementing the flow using script or tool.
    3. CI Build Tested: The CI Build must be self-tested in a production like environment.

5 Top Tools to Build Scalable CI

Today, there are multiple tools available in the market that help build a scalable Continuous Integration practice. Following is a list of 5 well known and robust tools:

  1. CircleCI: It is one of the SAAS-based CI servers for simple setups. CircleCI is the best CI/CD solution for teams who want to build faster, ship more, and fail less at any scale.
  2. Go: It helps distribute builds across different systems and monitor them all at one place. It is easy to perform regular tasks as they are added to the pipeline.
  3. Jenkins: It is developed in Java and can be installed using the simple java command: –jar Jenkins.war. It is mainly used for building and testing software projects continuously and monitoring externally-run jobs.
  4. TeamCity: This is a powerful CI server from JetBrains for enterprise needs with high availability and scalability. A Continuous Integration server, TeamCity encompasses all the features you expect from a mature Continuous Deployment platform.
  5. Travis CI: This is one of the simplest CI servers to get started, is available as open source, and is also free to host on your server.

5 Major Benefits of Implementing CI

5 major benefits that Continuous Integration brings to the table are:

  1. Delivers software on time with market-readiness
  2. Identifies issues faster and thus helps resolution in real-time
  3. Brings to an end the need of longer and stressful integrations
  4. Brings to an end the need to wait for evaluating if the code is functioning properly
  5. Enhances visibility of the development process for better interaction and resolution

    In Conclusion

    A CI approach is designed to effectively create an automation environment, ensuring that every change to the application results in a reliable version and that any version can be built automatically with proper version control. Continuous Integration comes with various key principles and best practices. The most important practice is, establishing the ritual of Continuous Integration and Continuous Deployment. This eliminates the need to authorize and delegate from the top. It is automated and self-triggered. While implementing Continuous Integration testing for your apps requires some investment on your part in the beginning, but the later benefits achieved would make it completely worthwhile.

    Cigniti has a decade of expertise in enabling independent testing services and is far ahead of the curve in following the process of Continuous Integration. It has developed new frameworks to deliver comprehensive and the best-fit testing approach for many clients. Our large pool of test professionals has in-depth expertise in handling various commercial testing tools as well as tools which are open-source. At Cigniti, we work to accelerate your entire software test life cycle with end-to-end testing ownership. Continuous integration testing is the core to the success of Web application testing.

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