What Is CI/CD and Should You Be Employing It?

CI/CD pipeline

Your business probably employs a team of developers that build the software to help you deliver products, services, and information to consumers and clients. Without those developers doing their thing, your company would find itself up against a mountainous climb, one that would have you falling profoundly behind your competition.

However, even if you have developers working tirelessly on those applications and services, you might still be falling behind. Why? The answer to that question lies in the delivery model your developers follow. If your software engineers work with a traditional model, chances are good you’re already behind. If, however, they follow a more modern CI/CD model, you’re probably already ahead of the curve.

Let’s discover what this new model is and why you should be employing it.

What is the traditional development model?

The traditional development model has been going on for quite some time and is still used today. When applied to consumer-grade software, this model works well. What is it? Simply put, the traditional development model uses a linear approach to software, where everything is broken into stages and completed in sequential order. The stages of the traditional model are:

  1. Information gathering and documentation
  2. System design
  3. Code and unit testing
  4. System testing
  5. User acceptance testing
  6. Bug fixes
  7. Product delivery

In some instances, that model can be truncated like so:

  1. Requirements analysis
  2. Design
  3. Implementation
  4. Coding and Testing
  5. Maintenance

Each step in the above model has specific deliverables before the next step can be iterated. This model also insists that you can’t reverse the order or shift any steps, as each step depends on the previous to be completed. If you’ve not gathered all relevant information (such as goals, concept, languages to be used, market, and target audience) you can’t begin the system design phase. You can’t start coding until you’ve designed the system.

This model is easy to work with and can be applied if you’re a single developer or a team working with an offshore software development company (such as BairesDev). The traditional model is best suited for when the requirements for a project are well defined and understood.

The benefit of the traditional development model is that it’s not only simple to use, it typically results in solid software that is more than ready for consumers once the final steps are complete.

The biggest downfall of the traditional method is that it’s slow. In the world of agile business, where every second to delivery counts, the traditional method can’t keep up with the demands placed by consumers and progress. Every company needs to be able to produce products and services quickly and be able to pivot at a moment’s notice. Unfortunately, the traditional model doesn’t lend itself to quick shifts.

Another caveat to the traditional model is that it isn’t flexible. Once the process is defined, it can’t be changed. Because of this, the requirements for the project must be well-defined during the initial phase, without the prospect of them changing at any point of the development. Should this occur it could disrupt the entire process.

What is CI/CD

CI/CD stands for Continuous Integration/Continuous Deployment (or Delivery). This method is based on incremental code changes that can be quickly (and automatically) deployed. With CI/CD your development process makes use of ongoing automation to ensure the deployment of those incremental changes happens almost immediately.

Let’s break the term down a bit.

CI stands for Continuous Integration. What this means is that developers merge incremental changes to an application into a repository that houses the code. By employing the right software versioning system (such as Git), a developer team can continually update and merge code to that repository 24/7.

That means your software and services can be in a perpetual state of improvement and evolution.

CD stands for either Continuous Delivery or Continuous Deployment. This is the next step in the process, as it deploys the code that has been continuously integrated (merged) into the code housed within the repository.

In order to make this happen effectively, a company must use the right software tools such that the updates merged to that repository are automatically checked, tested, and deployed. This, of course, requires integrating Artificial Intelligence into the mix. Why? Because a human (or team of humans) would take far too long to check, test, and deploy the code.

The key here is efficiency.

Why you should be using CI/CD

Now we get to the good part, the “why?”. Outside of agility, speed, and reliability, one of the main reasons why enterprise businesses use a CI/CD development model is security. In a traditional model, changes are slow. Developers have to have issues reported to them, they then have to edit the code, test their changes, and finally deploy those changes — all the while, adhering to the unidirectional steps in the model.

This slower process means security fixes take time. In the enterprise, companies can’t put the security of their pipeline, their data, or their customers in jeopardy. Instead, enterprise-grade businesses must rely on the continuous delivery of upgrades, patches, and changes to their software and services. The only model that can live up to that demand is CI/CD. The traditional model doesn’t come close.

Along with those coding changes comes the assurance that they’ve been properly tested by AI. Of course, that does add a layer of complexity into the mix that you won’t have with the traditional model. But when speed, reliability, and security are the most important metrics in your decision-making process, the only model that makes sense is CI/CD.

Conclusion

The process of migrating from a traditional software development model to CI/CD can be daunting. There are a lot of moving pieces involved in this more modern approach. However, the benefits far outweigh the time and money you’ll spend implementing the process.

I’m a tech writer, IT enthusiast, and business development manager living in Miami.