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Continuous Integration / Continuous Delivery: Development and Deployment at Speed

The continuous integration/continuous delivery (CI/CD) process, also referred to as the CI/CD pipeline, assists in automating software development and delivery. CI/CD enables developers to build and deploy code safely and efficiently. In this article, we’ll explore the roles of continuous integration and continuous delivery in the CI/CD pipeline and how the framework that transformed software and app development is now transforming data engineering. 

The Roles of Continuous Integration and Continuous Delivery in the CI/CD Pipeline

The CI/CD pipeline consists of two parts: continuous integration and continuous delivery. Continuous integration describes the first part of the process where code changes from multiple contributors are automatically integrated into the software project. Before being integrated, the code is checked to ensure that errors are caught and corrected before becoming part of the main code base. 

Continuous delivery is the second stage of the pipeline. The goal of continuous delivery is to push code changes into production quickly and safely. The foundational principle of continuous delivery is that the code always remains in a deployable state, even when dispersed teams of contributors are making multiple, daily changes to the source code. With continuous delivery, automated building tools confirm that bug fixes, updated features, and configuration changes are packaged for production, ensuring the code remains ready to be released at any time. 

Together, continuous integration and delivery form a streamlined, end-to-end process for building, testing, and deploying software. By automating formerly manual processes, the CI/CD pipeline eliminates opportunities for manual errors, creates standardized feedback loops for developers, and enables faster, more efficient product iterations. 

CI/CD vs. Agile vs. DevOps

CI/CD, Agile, and DevOps are all commonly used frameworks for developing software products quickly and efficiently, but these terms aren’t synonyms. Each concept nests within the next, creating a tiered construct. 

Agile is the broadest framework as a collection of methodologies used to deliver small, working pieces of software that customers can evaluate and provide their feedback on at regular intervals. Developers using Agile operate in small, self-organizing teams that work in short, intense bursts to rapidly iterate the software product and adapt to changes in customer specifications as the project progresses. With a focus on rapid development and frequent customer input, Agile is less a step-by-step prescription than it is a way of thinking about team collaboration and highly efficient workflows. 

DevOps is a development methodology within Agile that tightly integrates the work of the development and quality assurance (QA) teams. DevOps relies heavily on automation to ensure development and QA tasks remain in lockstep through the entire development process. Its emphasis on cross-team collaboration between developers, operations, and IT shortens the systems development lifecycle and accelerates the delivery of high-quality software products. CI/CD is a DevOps tactic that automates the process of integrating, delivering, and deploying code. 

How Does CI/CD Accelerate Software and App Development?

The CI/CD pipeline offers many benefits. It empowers teams to move their products into production in less time, using fewer resources than less structured approaches. Here are seven ways continuous delivery and continuous integration move the development process forward.

Improved efficiency

When manual processes are automated, it’s possible to move much faster. Using a traditional phased approach to software delivery, the integration and testing/fixing phases can last for weeks or longer with teams getting bogged down in time-consuming and costly rework. With CI/CD, teams automate the build and deployment, environment provisioning, and regression testing, incorporating integrating and testing tasks into the daily workflow. 

Fewer errors

By their nature, manual processes are prone to mistakes. Although CI/CD pipelines don’t completely eliminate the possibility of human errors, they significantly reduce them. In addition, the emphasis on automated workflows and continuous testing make it easier to spot and fix errors early on. 

Rapid product delivery

Improved efficiency results in faster initial product delivery, allowing teams to move from initial concept to deployment much more quickly. Teams can build, test, and deliver features with very little manual intervention. The same process makes it possible to add new features and update the software more frequently. 

Improved testing and monitoring

With automated hooks at every stage, developers can detect regressions within minutes. Built-in automated quality assurance checks allow teams to dedicate their time to higher-level activities such as conducting usability, performance, and security testing. Continuous monitoring involves the use of software tools that enable operations teams to monitor the health of the application upon launch. 

Streamlined troubleshooting

With continual testing and monitoring performed throughout the development process, problems can be detected and resolved quickly. CI/CD shortens the feedback loop, allowing code changes to be pushed out quickly and assessed for effectiveness. In addition, more rapid and frequent feedback makes it possible to detect and correct bugs and other technical issues sooner.

Quick rollback of code changes

Even with more stringent testing and troubleshooting, mistakes can still find their way into code changes. If a coding error breaks a feature or general application, reverting to the older, more stable version can be done almost instantly. 

Cost efficiency

When efficiency increases, development costs decrease. Greater automation, less rework, and increased cross-team collaboration result in significant cost savings, allowing teams to work more efficiently. CI/CD pipelines eliminate organizational dependencies within a software development project, enabling developers to work independently on individual software features knowing their code can be merged seamlessly with the rest of the codebase once it's been completed.

Streamline Your CI/CD Pipeline with the Snowflake Data Cloud

The Snowflake Data Cloud offers virtually limitless on-demand computer and storage resources that can run your applications with no limitations on performance, concurrency, or scale. Spend less time managing infrastructure and more time on innovation. Snowflake handles all the infrastructure complexity so that application developers can focus on working faster, with more efficient development pipelines. The Snowflake Data Cloud provides the ideal environment for DataOps and DevOps, including CI/CD. Snowflake Snowpark allows developers to use Python, Java, or Scala with familiar DataFrame and custom function support to build powerful and efficient pipelines, machine learning (ML) workflows, and data applications.