How Continuous Integration Enhances Productivity and Visibility
19 Jun. 2017 Software Development
Continuous Integration (CI) is a software development approach of merging all code working copies to a shared repository several times a day. The goal of this practice to avoid integration problems, referred to as “integration hell” in the theory of extreme programming (XP). Each integration can be verified by an automated build and automated tests. Automated testing is not a core part of CI but it is typically implied. Continuous Integration helps in reducing bugs during the deployment process. Moreover, it reduces code complexity and enhances transparency and clarity within each module.
Continuous Integration Plan
Integrating regularly allows you to detect errors quickly, and find them more easily. Since you are integrating so regularly it reduces the amount of back-tracking to trace the defect. Pinpointing particular changes that introduced the defect becomes easier and faster. Therefore you can focus your time and efforts on building and developing features.
In recent times, CI has evolved as best practice for software development and is governed by a set of key principles. These are revision control, build automation and automated testing.
Not following a continuous approach leads to longer periods between integrations. The longer the gaps, the more time-consuming and difficult it is to find and fix problems. The delays and rework can knock a product off-schedule or cause it to fail.
There are several advantages of Continuous Integration:
- No more lengthy and tense integrations
- Enhanced productivity and visibility
- Locate defects early and fix them fast
- First time right approach allowing more time for adding features
- Building a robust application
- No guesswork or delay in finding if the code is going to work
- Reduces Application Integration problems and lets you deliver software more quickly.
It is evident that the concept of CI was introduced to resolve integration problems – which have caused enough project nightmares and delays in the past. In extreme programming, CI is meant to be used in combination with automated unit tests written through the practices of test-based development. This helps in avoiding development whack-a-mole –when one developer’s work-in-progress breaks another developer’s code.
But Continuous Integration is more than a process. The concept is backed by several tenets and procedures.
- Maintain a single code repository: Use a revision control system for the project’s source code. All artifacts required for the project need to be placed in the repository.
- Automate the build: Automation of the build means automating the integration, which often includes deployment into a production-like environment.
- Make your build self-testing: After the build is completed, all tests should confirm that it behaves as it should.
- Every commit should build on an Integration machine: The system should build commits to the current working version to verify that they integrate correctly.
- Keep the build fast: If the build is slow, then there is an issue with the integration.
- Test in a clone of the production environment: Test environment sometimes differ greatly from the production environment. Thus, the test environment, or a separate staging environment should be built to be a scalable version of the live environment.
- Make it easy for anyone to get the latest executable version: Providing easy access to stakeholders and testers for review can eliminate or reduce the amount of redundant work or rebuilding features that have not met the mark.
- Everyone can see what’s happening: It should be clear and easy to trace where the build breaks and who made the changes that caused it.
- Automate deployment: The entire build can be automated by injecting scripts into the continuous integration system.
There are many popular tools for implementing CI including:
- Go CD
- Travis CI
- GitLab CI
CI tools are very easy to use and provide available plugins so that you can integrate it with your version controlling system software and automating your build processes. Continuous Integration helps in saving both time and money over the life span of a project by detecting problems in the early stages when it is easier to nip them in the bud. There are no nasty surprises, last-minute delays or chaos. In case of unit test failure, only a small portion of build is lost because integration happens frequently and you can trace it back to the bug-free state immediately. The policy of frequent code check-in disciplines developers to create more modular and simple code. If you have any questions regarding the implementation of this process, feel free to get in touch with us.