Continuous Integration (CI) – Benefits, Best Tools, and Practices


In the present software development environment a major practice that is getting a lot of buzz but it is still not very clear to many developers that ‘what Continuous Integration (CI) is?’.

Continuous Integration (CI) is a software development practice in which the developers are submitting their code into a single repository many times a day which as a whole can work together.

Let’s dive into it in detail.

To understand that ‘what continuous integration adds into the development process?’ it is necessary to understand ‘how development used to take place before it’s introduction?’.

In most software development teams there are 10 to 15 developers. Each of them used to work separately on different features of the software in their workspace without checking it’s compatibility with the rest of the developer’s code until they think they have done their part.

After many days or sometimes weeks when they merge all the codes, some developer’s code conflict with the other’s. This lead to a situation called merge conflict.

But when the number of developers and number of code files increases gets the situation worse known as ‘merge hell’. Because of this a lot of bugs arise and the cost and time required to find and fix those bugs increase significantly.

So Continuous Integration (CI) comes out to be as a solution. Here the developers are continuously submitting their code on a single repository. 

continuous intregration (ci)
Image source:: Semaphore CI

Whenever a change is done in the code the whole code repository gets to build and tested by the automation technology. It instantly informs the team if there is any bug so that it can be fixed as early as possible and the burden of dealing with a lot of bugs is prevented.

Benefits of Implementing CI

1. Since the code is built and tested daily so it prevents the situation called ‘merge hell’. Anything that went wrong gets fixed at the same time.

2. Because the code is already in the build state, so the software can be anytime taken for further high-level tests such as functionality test. 

3. CI improves the collaboration skills of the developers and the quality of the product they are working on.

4. Since the code is continuously monitored and reviewed by many developers at the same time so the quality of the code improves a lot.

5. It also increases the productivity of the developers as they are not writing a big code which does not work with the existing, rather they are writing small code which at the end of the day is a testable code.

6. It allows the frequent deployment of the code for production, and easier updates can be done in the existing product.

7. CI also helps in increasing the release speed and the product releases at the right time when the market is ready for it.

Continuous Integration (CI)
Image Source: eduCBA

Best CI Tools

CI Tools takes the responsibility of undertaking the repetitive task of building, testing and deployment of the code on its shoulder. It keeps the backlogs of the previous code so that anytime you can get back to it if anything went wrong.

Here are some of the best continuous integration (CI) tools.

1. Buddy

Buddy helps in SDLC by deploying the code directly from the well-known repositories like GitHub, GitLab and BitBucket. Along with that it also notifies the development team about the updates of deployment, regular reports and emergency notification when something wrong with the code is detected.

Features

  • Applied Docker images for testing environment.
  • It also detects errors, bugs and real-time changes.
  • Buddy also have preset templates for efficient team workflow, collaboration and communication.

2. Jenkins

Jenkins is a free platform where CI automation can be done.

Features

  • It allows cross-platform support
  • User-created plugin library
  • Multibuilds support
  • Project integration can be scheduled with Jenkins.
  • Developers are notified on the real-time basis about any build progress.

3. Circle CI

Continuous Integration (CI)
Image Source: CircleCI

Circle CI is one of the most preferred Continuous Integration (CI) automation platform that provides Dicker based services.

Features

  • It is designed with automatic debugging of the bugs detected.
  • The development team is notified by email about any progress and also provides smart insights for improving the CI process
  • Unlimited version of the project is supported by it.

4. Azure DevOps

Azure DevOps includes a complex set of tools in which each tool combine the functionality of a lot of tools. Those tools allow automation, testing, management and to support the software.

Features

  • Azure boards plan the management by continuously tracking the project’s progress.
  • It directly set up communication with the GitHub repository.
  • It also helps in planning, conducting, monitoring manual tests.
  • It has more than 1000 community curated apps.

5. Bamboo

With Bamboo, developers can automate the building process, but the build can be optimised and modified by the testers.

Features

  • Bamboo allows dozens of tests to take place altogether.
  • It has more 100 supported builds.
  • It automatically creates images that act as a container.
  • Self-created triggers inform about any changes made in the repository.

6. Build Bot

Continuous Integration (CI)
Image Source: buildnot.net

Multiple test cycles are supported by Build Bot. It automatically tests and compiles the whole repository when a code is added to the repository. It also notifies about any update in the project.

Features

  • It allows automation of the Integration process. It can manage the deployment of the project on the developers defined basis 
  • It supports multiple slave platforms that can ease the development process.
  • It builds the configuration using Python and C.
  • The development and testing process takes place simultaneously.

CI Best Practices

1. Build automation should be created to trigger the build process in just one command.

2. Maintaining the main code repository where all the production-ready codes are stored.

3. several tests can be done to ensure that the build created has changed in high quality, or dome better change can be done.

4. Any bug detected should be fixed on the same day.

5. The build process should be fast to detect any error quickly.

6. Build results should be published at a common site so that each team member can view them and take the required actions.

Continuous Integration (CI)
Image Source: s3cn-north-1.amazonaws.com.cn

So continuous integration (CI) believes in the idea of detecting and fixing issues on daily small patches rather than undergoing a hectic task of fixing a whole lot of code.