Definition “Continuous Integration and Delivery Pipeline” What is a CI/CD pipeline?
04.03.2022By Gedeon Rauch
With the CI/CD pipeline, software development and deployment can be optimized from early build to deployment via automated processes. All elements and development objects must pass through the pipeline.
The CI/CD pipeline is intended to ensure that code changes and innovations reach the user as quickly as possible.
From one software version to the next – this step can be extremely time-consuming for teams and many of the problems can be handled better in agile workflows. One of these workflows is the so-called CI/CD pipeline, which accompanies high-quality software from development to delivery.
How this works in practice is most understandable by looking at the steps individually.
What does the CI/CD pipeline framework include?
Continuous Integration, CI for short, pursues the approach of supplementing a stable code base with new code. So instead of initially completing new code and finally integrating it, the new code is continuously inserted into the base. This involves automated testing and problems can be identified and fixed earlier, so that problems are not noticed only in the vicinity of release versions.
Continuous delivery or CD describes a process that is deeply integrated into the everyday life of users due to the faster update cycles of modern apps. Continuous delivery is a process in which every change is release-capable. This means on the one hand stable, but on the other hand also documented.
Incremental changes in the code can also be published and run stably. This can only be done through a consistent pipeline where code goes through testing and production cycles.
Even though continuous Integration and continuous delivery are the namesake for the CI/CD pipeline, the framework is also based on other components:
In the software Development Life cycle, a continuous test cycle closes the gap between rapid development and a reliable user experience for users.
The manual collection and processing of feedback is not efficient and fast enough to ensure a high quality without gaps. Instead, automated scripts work on quality assurance in continuous testing by continuously accompanying the development process. This allows teams to be alerted to errors and gaps more quickly, which speeds up development.
In many cases, fast simulations can replace lengthy tests with users.
The last step in the CI/CD pipeline is continuous deployment, i.e. the continuous delivery of new software versions to the end users. Even if this is not absolutely necessary in practice, continuous deployment is now integrated into the everyday life of many users and is easily possible through automatic updates via app stores.
Continuous deployment requires a series of automatic tests that guarantee stable software. The biggest advantage lies in being able to offer users incremental updates at any time – this means that the increased value of an update is immediately received by the end users.
Differences between Continuous Delivery and Continuous Deployment
In the last step of the CI/CD pipeline, it is important to understand the difference between delivery and deployment, especially since the abbreviation CD can understandably cause ambiguity here.
Only in continuous deployment does the new code go through an automated testing process, which ends with an automated release. Deployment ends the CI/CD pipeline on the end devices and thus goes one step further than continuous delivery. However, deployment is not a mandatory requirement for describing a complete CI/CD pipeline.
Continuous delivery, on the other hand, simply means that new code is transferred to a production environment in which further test steps take place and a human quality assurance takes place. In order to actually deliver the code and the new software version, human intervention is required.
In practice, both forms of completing a CI/CD pipeline have their justification, depending on the needs of the developing teams and companies. Agile DevOps teams, for example, usually release software in shorter cycles, while other teams do not rely on frequent updates (for example, B2B software).
Overview of the phases of the CI/CD pipeline
Build: The code is written and compiled, teams can also interact and coordinate based on a common source code.
Test: In the test phase, the code goes through automated tests.
Delivery: After passing the test phase, the code is sent to a production environment.
Deployment: The delivery of the code can either be automated or it will be released after the approval of the team.
This is how the development benefits from more automation
Especially in agile software development, teams need a fast and economical approach to optimize software deployment. The CI/CD pipeline can be an important accelerator due to the shorter cycles between writing code and deployment.
In addition, continuous automatic testing is essential, especially for smaller teams, in order to be able to improve during the testing process without having to wait for human feedback. Errors can thus be detected earlier and treated better.
Of course, automation does not replace the human component, but it also allows smaller teams to develop software using the lever of automation, which would otherwise require much more complex (and more expensive) production.