What is CI/CD?

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CI/CD explained

Ongoing digitization is leading to an ever-increasing pace of consumption. This presents software developers with ever-increasing challenges as users gain immediate fixes to bugs in applications and a higher frequency of updates than ever before. In response, new forms of organization or operations such as DevOps have emerged. One of the most important of these is CI/CD. We explain what the terms are all about and why these methods are so important for software developers.

CI/CD for modern companies

CI/CD refers to a method in which large parts of an app's development and update cycle are automated and significantly shortened. CI/CD has proven to be one of the most effective tools for DevOps teams to avoid the problems of traditional enterprise structures, such as integration hell and collaboration between Development and Operations.

CI/CD has come to stand for three terms:

  • Continuous Integration
  • Continuous Delivery
  • Continuous Deployment

These three terms describe different sections of a developer pipeline, but they merge seamlessly. Continuous Integration refers to the continued and automated integration of newly developed codes into a common repository.

Continuous Delivery refers to the next stage in which these new, merged codes are automatically tested. The codes are then made available to the operations team in a form that provides immediate integration into the production environment. Finally, Continuous Deployment means the automatic release of the new codes into the production environment.

The integration hell

CI/CD solves several problems for DevOps teams. One of the most important of these is certainly the so-called integration hell. This term refers to an environment or point in time when developers of a team try to merge their individual codes into a common project. This process is often very labor-intensive and time-consuming in day-to-day business.

Because the various developers have only worked on the codes individually over a long period of time, several hours or even days must now be spent on ensuring that they can be integrated with each other. This means that countless hours of work are wasted on subsequent integration.

CI and CD explained

As mentioned earlier, CI/CD stands for three different terms, which we will explain in more detail in the following sections. It is important to understand that their own sections flow into each other and cannot be considered independently. In addition, the Continuous Deployment section is sometimes terminologically equated with Continuous Delivery, or it is assumed that Continuous Deployment is a component of Continuous Delivery.

Continuous Integration

Continuous Integration refers to the first automated stage of the developer pipeline and includes developing, testing and merging the new codes. To avoid problems like developer hell, developers are encouraged to upload new code to the shared system as often as possible, which is often daily or even hourly.

The Continuous Integration application then automatically tests this new code and verifies that all parts can be automatically integrated into the existing program. If this is the case, the code is also automatically integrated without the need for a developer to take action. If an error occurs, it is automatically noticed and then reported to the developers, allowing these errors to be fixed much faster.

Continuous Delivery

After the code is automatically merged through Continuous Integration, Continuous Delivery automatically uploads these updates to a shared repository. After the updates or changes are checked for bugs there again automatically and without the need for manual commands, the application makes the new update available to the operations team.

Once again, all the steps necessary for the new update to be immediately integrated into a live production environment are automated. This means that the Operations Team itself no longer has to make any changes, but simply releases the update. A DevOps team using CI/CD can thus avoid the typical communication problems between Development and Operations.

Continuous Deployment

Continuous Deployment pushes the principle of CI/CD a little further by automating even the last step of the pipeline. This means that once the update is made available in a repository through Continuous Delivery, it also goes live automatically.

In practice, this means that an update can become active in the live production environment within minutes of completion. Therefore, Continuous Deployment is the ideal answer to the user's desire for quick solutions to problems in the application. Continuous integration of user feedback thus becomes a reality.

Advantages and disadvantages of CI/CD

The advantages of the CI/CD method are fairly obvious. For example, Continuous Integration not only allows programs to go through updates much faster, but also allows them to be developed much faster. Eliminating manual intervention in the Continuous Delivery and Continuous Deployment steps provides greater transparency, shorter update cycles, and improved communication between Development and Operations.

As always, however, the elimination of manual control also means that significantly more time and effort must be put into building the automated systems. After all, these are the last control instance, so to speak. However, this effort is quickly compensated for by the significantly reduced time and effort required during the application of the CI/CD systems. In summary, CI/CD is an incredibly effective tool as an answer to the problems faced by today's development teams.

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