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What Is Continuous Integration?

DevOps is a transformational way of thinking about software development, converting a slow, cumbersome, long-term process to an agile, nimble, responsive one. As DevOps is adopted and accepted worldwide, language and terms specific to DevOps are being used more as well. However, for people new to DevOps – and even those that are familiar with it – it can be difficult to understand exactly what these DevOps terms refer to.

What is continuous integration?

DevOps is founded on the idea of making small, frequent changes to code as opposed to creating large-scale, infrequent, multi-factor software packages. Continuous integration is the first step in a larger, long-term DevOps adoption process which includes Continuous Delivery.

In this way, continuous integration is a fundamental principle of DevOps. It is a restructuring of the software development and delivery cycle to support many small changes as opposed to a few large ones. Continuous integration means that a number of developers can work on a project concurrently, each building, testing, integrating and delivering changes to a main branch or code repository several times per day.

How does continuous integration work?

Continuous integration (CI) requires that large, bundled projects be broken down to discrete parts. This is critical, as it represents a distinctly different method of understanding the software delivery lifecycle. Once a process is unbundled, the CI process can begin.

software deliverySource code version control.

For effective CI, it is essential that centralized source control management is available to manage code. Source code management tools form a centralized repository where code is uploaded and used to work on concurrent versions of the source code and resolve any conflicts between code that is submitted from different developers.

Automated testing.

Once small, discrete changes are uploaded frequently, these changes must be tested to ensure that they work as intended and do not affect the larger system or any integrated solutions in an unintended way.

 Testing has traditionally been the bottleneck that delays software delivery, extending the pipeline and slowing the cycle. Even if developers are delivering small, frequent changes to software and uploading to a centralized repository, without automated testing a company can still experience a lengthy overall process.

Benefits of continuous integration

Continuous integration, when implemented correctly, is one of the first steps to DevOps adoption and provides a number of benefits, including:

  • Rapid integration
  • Improved visibility
  • Coordination and communication
  • Fast resolution of issues
  • Channeling resources to strategic objectives
  • Reduction of errors

(See more benefits of continuous integration for businesses and IT teams.)

Finding the tools that can support your DevOps journey from implementation to maturity is the best way to set a foundation for success. It is critical to understand the needs of the organization and to create a strategy for long-term success by finding a comprehensive toolkit that is flexible, robust, and can support the organization’s entire DevOps journey.

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