Companies today are under heavy pressure to deliver software faster and with more quality than their competitors. A set of good features and their reach to customers can increase only when the company releases software updates frequently. As a result, organizations are embracing DevOps and CI/CD approaches to improve their ability to plan, build, test and release applications and features to market quickly with quality and at scale. IDC predicts the worldwide DevOps software market will reach $8 billion by 2022, up from $3.9 billion in 2017.
The buzz around continuous integration, continuous deployment and continuous delivery is more than ever today, but in practice, the actual usage of CI/CD seems to be less. It can be because of the shortage of skill set required in DevOps or companies still practicing traditional software development methodologies. Enterprises are not understanding the amount of money they are leaving on the table by missing CI/CD and DevOps automation practices.
For many companies, DevOps is something they have to try because their competition is doing so or because it is a trend. This is a desperate attempt without understanding the consequences and basic understanding of DevOps principles.
For the most part, it is a disparate set of tools that customers have to connect together for their software delivery that creates chaos around. On the other hand, it is difficult to choose the right tools and understand what are the best practices. That’s why we are starting to see a trend of DevOps companies delivering a unified toolset so that customers have a complete solution out of the box —without having to worry about finding many different solutions from different vendors.
What Is CI/CD?
Whenever a developer commits and pushes changes to the repository, the CI system will rebuild the branch and run all related test cases to verify that new changes won’t break the existing application and functionalities.
Continuous delivery is an extension of continuous integration that helps you deploy your application with a click of a button. It means deploying changes every time they pass CI tests. With this, you can easily automate your build and testing phase and most of your release process as well.
With continuous deployment, developers will be able to release or deploy software automatically into the production environment. In this stage, no manual code check-ins happen into the app. Code is automatically tested through the CI process for issues, and if none are found, then the code is deployed.
CI/CD serves as the best practice for testing and deployment of applications. For the purpose of quality assurance, making CI/CD the single channel to deploy code is the best practice. DevOps teams should ensure that everything is going through the CI/CD pipeline so that the code in testing and production are the same. This will also reduce human error and avoid deploying other versions not being tested by mistake.
One of the biggest reasons for companies to practice CI/CD today is faster software delivery, which leads to more frequent updates to customers. It makes them feel happy and a constant improvement with frequent releases will ensure enhanced customer satisfaction. This is a competitive advantage because it allows companies to deliver new features more often. It can help companies stay ahead of competitors.
Passing code through the CI/CD pipeline ensures that any changes made adhere to the established standards before moving to the next stage in the delivery pipeline. Any failure or discrepancy prevents the advancement of such changes to the next step until it is rectified. This simply means this approach of CI/CD ensures that bad code does not get into the production. CI/CD promotes the fail fast, learn fast and deliver fast approach. When you have automated CI/CD in place, the code is run through the CI/CD process constantly with each commit by developers which allows bugs to be caught quickly — it is easier to isolate the bug since each small change is tested separately.
What Is the CI/CD Pipeline?
A CI/CD pipeline is a deployment pipeline workflow that is integrated with automation. When conducted well, it will minimize manual handoffs and errors to enhance the feedback loops throughout the software delivery life cycle, allowing development teams to deliver smaller chunks of releases within a shorter time.
The CI/CD pipeline is now mainstream among software companies, and it has become the backbone of the modern DevOps environment. While DevOps lays principles and standards related to the culture aspect, CI/CD focuses on the automation, flow, process and tools. CI/CD scenario has changed with the introduction of containerization and microservices. Now, every cloud vendor has support and integration with tools such as Docker and Kubernetes that help the CI/CD pipeline to scale.
Stages of the Continuous Delivery Pipeline
- Test Automation and CI: This is the important stage where the new features and prototypes are prepared, coding is done and then the code is integrated with the base. With the use of a CI server, the unit tests and packaging is done.
- Build Automation: This is the stage where the artifacts are pushed by developers (i.e., Dependencies, Docker image) to the registry (i.e., Amazon ECR or Docker hub or any container registry).
- Alpha Deployments: In this stage, developer checks-in changes. It is the place for developers to carefully see the changes they’ve made and how they interact with each other and affect other systems. Also, here developers can be able to see if they broke anything in the master branch.
- Beta Deployments: This is the stage where testers carry out manual testing. Manual testing is still required to see the perfection of CI tools. This gives the DevOps team the guarantee that the condition of the application is good and will work definitely as desired when deployed.
- Production Deployments: Here comes the final stage, where the app goes live.
What Is the Market Saying About CI/CD?
- The search volume has gradually increased in the world for the keyword “CI CD Pipeline” on Google.
- When Mabl, a test automation company surveyed 500 software testers, 53% of the people said their team uses continuous integration, while 38% embrace continuous delivery and only 29% have adopted continuous deployment.
- A DevOps related survey from Codefresh showed that a third of companies had automated more than half of their workloads, but only 1% were all the way there. Almost no one has automated the entire CI/CD process. A plurality of engineering teams have automated less than 10% of the process.
- The iOS Developer Community Survey is the largest survey of Apple platform developers ever undertaken, where 2,290 people filled in the questionnaire in which CI/CD questions were also a part of the survey.
Below are the results that showed a majority of developers are practicing CI/CD when it comes to business apps.
- The way forward: Companies will not be able to fully take advantage of containers and DevOps unless they embrace the use of a proper deployment pipeline. Companies will start offering pre-built pipelines to customers, something like JFrog pipelines. There is a need for a unified platform that has all the tools needed to support a CI/CD system — automation (Pipelines), binary repository management (Artifactory), security (Xray), release/deployment (Distribution), etc. JFrog provides a unified platform.
- Codefresh conducted a survey and published the results of the survey of 130 developers at the KubeCon + CloudNativeCon Europe 2019 conference — and the results were a bit shocking. It showed that nearly a third (32%) don’t use any continuous integration or continuous delivery (CI/CD) platform at all. Sixty percent of the survey respondents said their organization has yet to take full advantage of automation to accelerate software development and deployment.
- The Market Radar Report by GigaOm is a recent research on the enterprise CI/CD solutions where the author compares the leading CI/CD solutions in the industry and rates them depending on different valuation criteria. According to the results, JFrog, Codefresh and GitLab are outperformers as shown below.
The CI/CD solutions considered were AWS, CircleCI, CloudBees, CodeFresh, GitLab, IBM, JFrog, Micro Focus, Microsoft, Red Hat and Xebia Labs. You can download the free analyst comparison report here: GigaOm Radar For Enterprise CI/CD.
CI/CD is one of the DevOps best practices because it ensures proper alignment between developers and operations. While it enhances automation, developers can push code changes more reliably and frequently. At the same time, the operations team can see greater stability because environments have standard configurations, and rollback procedures are automated. To win the CI/CD game, both dev and ops teams need to develop consensus on the right tools and approaches that are beneficial for the business growth in the long run.
Cloud and DevOps Go Hand in Hand
You can’t do DevOps without the cloud. DevOps won’t have much value without it, and the cloud won’t do much without DevOps.
Cloud computing has many definitions, the fundamental explanation of the cloud can be defined as a system that enables and supports the provisioning of infrastructure. Thus, it allows it to be described as code or templates, facilitating the creation of repeatable processes. That is also the basic principle of DevOps, automating the processes/tasks in the software development life cycle to the fullest extent.
One of the biggest benefits of cloud for CI/CD is the dynamic nature of cloud infrastructure. This is perfect for the ephemeral and bursty nature of CI/CD workloads. Cloud resources can automatically scale up and down based on CI/CD workloads. This allows huge management and cost benefits for enterprises. Enterprise companies don’t need to have their own servers to maintain, they need to increase these servers as CI/CD workloads increase or waste server resources when they are idle.
Regardless of how your organization defines the cloud technologies and, despite which DevOps routes you travel to achieve digital transformation with the cloud integration, the aesthetics of cloud technologies and services can be easily amalgamated in the DevOps dictionary because they radically complement DevOps principles and processes.
For DevOps implementation, Agile principles serve as a driver, as there are shorter release cycles and automation to deliver fast and achieve the deadlines. To implement continuous practices, cloud computing is a great facilitator, since resources are available quickly for all the activities involved in development and application lifecycle management. Agile principles, along with cloud computing and DevOps practices, enable high developer productivity and faster growth in organizations.
With secured cloud gateways, users get the ability to access enterprise resources easily from anywhere and with any device, without compromising on the security of the network. Letting users access your network from their devices might sometimes seem scary, but the modern cloud platforms have much more to offer, they come with built-in security stacks to help provide administrators with the tools they need to manage and support security.
DevOps coupled with cloud tech has enormous benefits for businesses employing them:
- Increased developer productivity and collaboration.
- Faster time to market through quick and easy access to development environments.
- Help to automate different repetitive tasks so that developers can focus on the tasks that matter.
- Cloud complexity and system maintenance can be incredibly reduced by automation and infrastructure as code approaches.
- Increase security with modern cloud platforms and principles that serve to eliminate the manual error.
- Help to eliminate downtime through cloud-based continuous business operations. Developers can build stateless applications with automation, which will increase the availability and failover ability, along with increasing business reliability and improved customer satisfaction.
- Scale to new heights — one of the main reasons businesses employ cloud and DevOps is to scale their infrastructure and applications as and when needed.
Cloud Deployment Models
When the cloud provider entirely hosts organization’s applications and data, it is a public cloud. With just having an internet connection, the employees of the company employing public cloud can access the applications.
A private cloud is when the resources of an organization such as storage, compute and networking resources exist in a provider’s data center. Companies prefer private cloud mainly because of security and for storing highly sensitive data when it comes to running applications.
One more modern approach is the hybrid cloud; it is a combination of private and public cloud services. According to the traffic and demand considerations, organizations can make the change. Some customers may have on-prem CI/CD systems. Some of these CI/CD systems can expand their workloads to the cloud in a hybrid setup. This can allow them to realize the benefits of cloud now and not have to do a complete migration.
Mainly, when there is high demand, workloads can be run in the public cloud, and then when things get back to normal, return to the private cloud. This approach reduces the overhead cost spent on cloud resources. Additionally, the key point is, sensitive information, data and critical applications can be kept in the private cloud. In contrast, less-sensitive data and applications can be stored and run in the public cloud.
Choosing DevOps Cloud Solutions
If cloud is like an instrument, then DevOps is the musician who plays it.
Cloud computing and DevOps play a vital role and are interlocking parts of the IT strategy. Together, cloud and DevOps help IT shift its emphasis from “How far and long can we go without an outage?” to “How often we can deliver new and stable functionality/feature?” or “How fast/quickly can we deploy a new service?”
Businesses today are looking for ways to digital transformation with the help of the cloud, DevOps and automation practices. Considering the competition in the cloud space, it is overwhelming to see so many vendors and get confused on what to choose.
Here, in the State of DevOps Cloud Solutions 2020, you can see a high-level overview of the cloud DevOps platform solutions available today, and what you should expect from vendors in your cloud DevOps journey.