What is Continuous Integration (CI)?

Continuous Integration (CI) is one of the most popular development practices that is used to help with automated testing. Developers will want to incorporate automated testing into their development life cycles in an effort to reduce bugs, time between update deployment and improve customer satisfaction.

Let’s take a deeper look at CI (continuos integration) and how it works in a live environment.

What is Continuous Integration?

Digging deeper into what CI is and how it works, this is a practice that programmers use to test their coding using automated tests. Usability testing services may integrate this practice so that when new code changes are made, they’re shared with a repository daily.

The sharing of the code is done multiple times per day.

When the code is integrated into the repo, automation is used to conduct all of the testing.

How Does Continuous Integration Work?

CI integrations reside in the background, updated often, while additional code is run on the server to check for new iterations. When a new code iteration is found, the server will automate the build and start running automated testing.

Of course, automated testing can occur outside of CI and often does.

Using version control, via a shared repository, allows members of a team to commit changes and allow for CI to validate these changes. The way this works is simple:

While this coding practice may not be a requirement for the single coder that is building their own systems without help, the practice becomes invaluable when there are multiple team members involved in developing the software or product.

Continuous Integration vs Continuous Deployment

You’ll find a lot of developers use both terms:

  1. Continuous Integration
  2. Continuous Deployment

Both of these practices are very similar in that once a build is committed, they go through a similar cycle:

Where the two are different is in how they deploy to production. If you’re opting to use CI, this means that your deployment to production will be 100% manual. This allows for greater control over the build and ensures there’s little risk that a botched build is able to be deployed to the production server.

Continuos deployment will automatically deploy the build to production.

There are obvious benefits to the deployment option because the user is always using the most recent build. If a team has to make continual tweaks, the changes are made automatically, allowing for a highly secure product.

When opting for continuous delivery, there’s one main concern: testing.

Since the product will be going right to production, there needs to be:

The idea behind continuous deployment is that the developers need to make small, incremental changes for it to work properly. You’ll save a lot of time without needing to deploy builds manually.

If a new feature is going to be added, the integral algorithms may be deployed over time until the feature is ready for the end user.

When deployment is automatic, this provides several key benefits:

A lot of development teams tend to move from continuous integration to continuous deployment, but the main concern is that for deployment automation to be a success, small changes are ideal.

The product needs to be well along before teams can confidently use continuous deployment to their advantage.

Any time a team decides to use continuous measures, this allows for:

There’s also continuous delivery, which doesn’t get committed to the production server.

Benefits of Using Continuous Integration in Development

CI is a powerful practice, and it is a practice that can benefit developers greatly when more than one developer is involved. The key benefits that are provided include:

When stronger teams are in place and the proper coding standards are followed, it’s possible to increase coding standards while also providing a better product for the consumer.

When to Use Continuous Integration

There is no wrong time to integrate CI into your development lifecycle. But you’ll find that the practice is best used in agile development. Teams that do the following can use CI properly with fewer issues and overhead:

The time that is best for implementing a system like CI is when teams start dividing tasks among multiple developers. These developers will begin to work on code changes on their own, and when they do, these changes will become more difficult to merge together.

CI allows for code to be rapidly merged with fewer issues.

The dozen or more changes that can be made in a day are all committed automatically, tested and all without merge issues. It’s the ideal option for teams and allows for better control over the entirety of a project.

A lone developer is unlikely to benefit from CI, although there’s no harm in using CI on your own.

Any time that you can automate testing or deployment, it’s beneficial.

Integrating CI Into a Current Project

Getting started with CI is a delicate process. You’ll want to use tools, many which are outlined below, that will allow you to put CI in place more efficiently. The tools that are used can help you deploy these iterations to the version control system that you choose.

A lot of developers opt to use the version control system that they already use for CI.

Common options are:

Now it’s time to automate the testing. You need to spend time and money to create tests, but this initial overhead will quickly be countered with lower future production costs. During this time, it’s important for managers and team leaders to get together to determine:

Tools will play an important role in utilizing CI. If you choose the right tools, you’ll have a better chance of initial issues when integrating CI into the development lifecycle.

Here’s The 4 Most Popular Continuous Integration Tools

1. Jenkins

Jenkins is an open source automation server that allows for developers to work on:

Jenkins has hundreds of plugins that will assist with testing, too. What’s great about Jenkins is that there’s a large base of users that will be able to assist with any questions you or your team have.

Key features involving continuos integration include:

Since the platform is open source, it’s a great option for teams on a tight budget that want to leverage the power of this practice.

2. Travis

Travis CI enables you to sync and test code in minutes. Quick and easy to integrate into GitHub, you can quickly begin using this platform with the leading version control system on the market today.

Travis is one of the world’s most popular continuos integration tools because it’s used by some of the biggest names in the software industry:

When using Travis, your team is able to benefit from key features for continuos integration that include:

Travis is free for open source repos, but you can sign up for the enterprise version if you want to use a private repo.

Support is available for bilingual code, too.

3. TeamCity

Created by Jetbrains, TeamCity is a feature-rich tool aimed specifically at developers. TeamCity supports most software stacks, and the in-built installers make it quick and easy to get started.

The key features of this continuos integration platform include:

TeamCity allows you to run up to three builds simultaneously and define 100 build configurations.

4. CircleCI

The CircleCI platform allows teams to release their code through test and build automation.

CircleCI’s key features for continuos integration include:

A free version is available, but you can also update to a premium version for better support and larger projects.

Continuous integration is one of the best practices for an agile development team. As you continue to use the practice, you’ll strengthen your code and be better suited to build a robust product.

The time and resources that it takes to implement CI will be offset by the time savings and lower overhead provided by automated testing.

Continuous Improvement in a Continuos Integration environment

The sprints and user stories found in a continuous improvement environment are much smaller and are developed in rapid iterations using small, more manageable code segments.

Team members in a CI/CD environment would ideally be looking for ways to improve things like user story or requirements tracking, the code check-in process, unit testing, automated build processes, test environment management or automated deployments, in rapid succession for each sprint or story.

There are a number of tools that are used throughout the application delivery process. The challenge is to find a solution that can work with each of those tools that you already use in your organization, without complicating or breaking the process and workflow. To find out more about types of continuous improvement tools to help drive your business growth, see this post.

Thanks for reading this post. Just so you know – Tallyfy can help you document a process once and run it a thousand times, perfectly. If you make continuos integration recipes as a developer – think of Tallyfy as CI recipes for workflows between people (not between machines).

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