Software development projects are complex, with multiple contributors working simultaneously. Developers often work on large projects asynchronously, in separate places, and in different time zones. For this reason, they need a standardized process for updating source code and testing for errors. Continuous integration (CI) is a DevOps best practice designed to make this style of workflow possible.
Cloud-based continuous integration tools are designed to smoothly automate synchronization processes, keeping all team members updated on code changes and allowing developers to devote more time to core development tasks. When combined with continuous delivery (CD), a similar automated process for rapidly releasing software to end users, the CI/CD pipeline results in significant gains in end-to-end efficiency.
What Is Continuous Integration?
Continuous integration is a highly automated process responsible for integrating code into a shared repository. When multiple developers are working on a project, continuous integration allows each one to add their code changes to the project automatically. Newly added code released into staging is vigorously tested to ensure it is error-free before being added into the shared codebase. Continuous integration features a source code version control system that allows each stage of the build to be stored separately, enabling developers to easily replicate the build from any point in time.
Why Use Continuous Integration?
Continuous integration has become standard best practice for software development projects. It automates complex code integration and error-checking processes and streamlines communication between the developers themselves and related teams such as product development. Here are three valuable benefits of continuous integration.
Continuous integration offers organizations the flexibility to easily scale the size of the development team and codebase to best fit the needs of individual projects. The highly automated processes at the core of continuous integration improve communication and eliminate much of the administrative burden associated with software development. Individual developers can take ownership of a single feature, owning it from start to finish, and have confidence that their end product can be successfully merged into the rest of the codebase.
Improve the feedback loop
Automating workflows, frequently testing and debugging code, and testing updates result in more agile and responsive product development. Continuous integration enables developers to work more efficiently, responding quickly to release product updates and fixes. As a result, teams can deliver higher-quality products that can be updated and improved much more quickly.
Another significant benefit is the ability to integrate pull requests as part of the continuous integration workflows. Pull requests allow any member of the development team to view code from another developer and provide feedback. This feature keeps developers more connected to the overall scope of the project and allows them to work together on feature branches.
What Is the CI/CD Pipeline?
A CI/CD pipeline builds on the foundation of continuous integration workflows by deploying all code changes from the build stage directly into a testing or production environment. This software design or engineering process combines automated code building and testing with deployment. A CI/CD pipeline creates a highly efficient, agile end-to-end system of software development and release. The end goal of a CI/CD pipeline is the safe deployment of new or updated software. CI/CD pipelines are essential components of DataOps, an automated methodology that aims to improve data analytics quality while reducing cycle times.
Although the structure of a CI/CD pipeline may vary from one organization to another, most CI/CD pipelines consist of related groups of subtasks, or stages, to form a continuous process. The first stage in the CI/CD pipeline is the build stage, where the application is compiled. During the next stage, testing, the code is checked for errors and debugged. Once testing is completed, the application is delivered to a repository, where it is then deployed to production. The CI/CD pipeline concludes with validating the application and ensuring it meets the compliance standards unique to each organization’s requirements.
What to Look for in a Continuous Integration Tool
Continuous integration relies on modern tools to automate processes that would otherwise be required to be completed manually. The software development and deployment needs of each organization will vary based on individual needs, but effective integration tools share a few common traits.
Security and compliance
Any cloud-based CI/CD software solutions should adhere to industry security and compliance standards such as SOC 1 Type II and ISO/IEC 27001.
Cloud-based CI/CD tools should be easy to integrate into your existing technology infrastructure. Some CI/CD tools are designed to integrate directly with your source code management tool. This option can save time and technical headaches down the road. One of the main benefits of choosing a cloud-based solution is that it alleviates the need to provision and manage the physical infrastructure needed to maintain standalone CI/CD pipelines.
Simple setup and configuration
As a general rule, cloud-based CI/CD tools are much easier to set up and configure than traditional standalone tools and don’t require massive amounts of resources to maintain and update.
A high-quality CI/CD tool should make collaboration between team members simple. An easy-to-navigate layout that allows for quick access to relevant information boosts the development team’s productivity and innovation.
The best CI/CD tools are flexible enough to customize to the unique workflow of individual teams while automatically enforcing security and compliance requirements.
Scalability and performance
Cloud-based CI/CD tools should easily scale to meet the needs of each project. A tool should be capable of maintaining a high level of performance and speed even when supporting large-scale projects with multiple teams working in parallel.
Snowflake and Continuous Integration
The Snowflake Data Cloud is an ideal environment for DevOps, including CI/CD. With virtually no limits on performance, concurrency, and scale, Snowflake allows teams to work efficiently. Many capabilities built into the Snowflake Data Cloud help simplify DevOps processes for developers building data applications, and the robust ecosystem of partners that work with Snowflake ensures that teams can easily integrate the tools they need to implement end-to-end DevOps processes.