As software development gets increasingly complex, team sizes are getting bigger and bigger. Integrating the efforts of individual developers working on different aspects from different locations and time-zones as early and frequently as possible is critical to ensure quick and efficient delivery.
Continuous Integration (CI) allows developers to integrate code into a shared repository – several times a day – so multiple contributors can easily make code changes. Through efficient orchestration, it helps bridge silos, streamlines processes, and automate repetitive tasks so that IT departments can move quickly and efficiently.
The Key Benefits of CI
CI brings the work products of different developers into a central repository, setting the stage for better collaboration, early detection of bugs, and, eventually, a better-quality product.
- By making the process of integration a simple, easily repeatable everyday task, CI unearths early insight into integration challenges, helping teams resolve conflicts quickly and cost-effectively.
- Because bugs and issues are detected and resolved early in the life cycle, CI helps bring down overall build costs and reveal defects early in the cycle.
- It also helps overcome the problem of slower code releases as well as bring down the higher rate of failure – especially as teams grow, and code sizes increase.
- Since code is automatically integrated into a common repository, it saves developers the stress of manually coordinating and communicating code changes to the end product.
- Since it improves communication between product and engineering teams, they have a better idea about the time needed to integrate new changes – enabling them to better estimate the time regarding delivery on requests.
Introduction to CI Orchestrator Tools
CI tools help overcome several challenges common to software development such as insufficient testing, manual QA, slow-release processes, and more.
Using the right CI tools can help teams deal with inflexible codebases, project delays, and high maintenance costs – thus delivering real value and improving customer satisfaction.
Some of the Popular CI tools include:
- Jenkins offers an easy way to set up a CI/CD environment. The tool can be extended as a simple CI server to integrate the entire chain of build, test, and deployment tools
- TeamCity offers powerful CI capabilities that enable teams to create templates, define build configurations, and set up CI/CD pipelines in code.
- Travis CI allows teams to leverage pre-installed databases and services to quickly set up a CI environment, view builds in real-time, and ensure every pull request is tested before it is merged.
- Cruise Control, a CI tool, and extensible framework enables teams to create custom continuous build processes using its large selection of plugins, build technologies, and schemes.
- Circle CI allows teams to automate the development process by enabling faster builds, shorter feedback cycles, and simplified pipeline maintenance.
- Bamboo enables teams to create multi-stage build plans, set up triggers, and run automated tests to detect bugs easier and faster.
Evaluating the Right CI Tools – 11 Factors to Consider
Choosing the right CI tool is extremely important to smooth out the integration process, find and fix issues, and ensure regular working releases.
Companies looking to achieve the right results and ROI should consider these 11 factors while on the lookout for a CI tool:
- VCS Support: When it comes to choosing a CI tool, Version Control System (or VCS support) is a core pillar. VCS support is important to communicate and resolve conflicts that occur when multiple developers work on the same codebase. It helps teams track and manage every change that is made to the code, determine the corresponding risk, and mitigate it to minimize disruption.
- Build Tools: Since different projects have different requirements, a CI tool with build tools can provide the flexibility needed. Support across build tools like Make, Shell Scripts, Maven, etc. can help automate activities such as downloading dependencies, compiling and packaging code, running tests, and more.
- Notification: CI tools should also provide support for notifications across various integration stages. They need to notify teams about issues or challenges via Email or workplace communication tools like Slack or Campfire, so the right action can be taken to mitigate them at the right time and in the right manner.
- Reporting: Reporting is another key consideration while choosing a CI tool. In-built reporting capabilities make it easy for teams to build reports instantly using templates and unearth insights across different builds, issues, comparisons, and more. Reports can also throw light on how easy or challenging global configuration will be as well as how well or how badly third-party tools have been integrated.
- GUI: The CI tool should offer a robust and attractive GUI that makes it easy and stress-free for teams to verify build consoles, build configurations, and track pipelines. It should provide support for various views like pipeline view, job view, workflow view, etc. and also be easily accessible across the web, mobile, and desktops.
- Static Code Analysis: A CI tool with a static code analysis feature is important to overcome integration issues, meet coding and compliance standards, and improve the quality and timeliness of releases. Static code analysis can automatically debug code by analyzing it against a set of coding rules. Such analysis can help address issues that arise due to integration and minimize code vulnerabilities.
- Scalability: For products that experience immense growth and popularity, integrating new features and updates becomes essential. Therefore, the CI tool should offer high levels of scalability, so companies can constantly ensure seamless integration of new capabilities and meet the future needs of the business.
- Documentation: Choosing a CI tool with rich documentation can help teams refer to it for a deeper understanding of how the tool works, what problems it solves, what best practices to follow, and more. Documentation also helps teams in registering every change that is made to the product for easy future reference and perusal.
- Costing: There are several CI tools in the market that are either open-source or are offered via licenses. Irrespective of what type you choose, make sure the tool prevents you from getting locked into one type of CI server. Choose tools that are usually platform-agnostic and work seamlessly with the setup you choose today while allowing you to integrate with your evolving toolset in the distant future as well.
- Integration: When searching for a robust CI tool, make sure to choose one that offers seamless integration with the rest of your tech stack as well as work seamlessly with third-party plugins and add-ons. A tool that works well with project tracking software like Jira can ensure code expansions can be easily made and sprint status can automatically be updated when code is delivered.
- Handshake to Continuous Deployment: The CI tool should also be such that it provides an easy and seamless handshake to Continuous Deployment. This is to ensure code is accurately merged and timely feedback on whether a build and its deployment to the dev or other environments are done smoothly or not.
Why and when we recommend Bamboo
At Addteq, we have been enabling CI/CD pipelines for customers for several years now.
Of all the tools available in the market, Bamboo is an all-time favorite – despite Jenkins being a market leader. Bamboo helps us automate the release management process for the software applications we build while helping us create a continuous delivery pipeline.
We recommend using Bamboo when you
- Need a quick set up, easy-to-use interface, and professional technical support
- Are already using other Atlassian tools like Jira and Bitbucket (as it enables and ensures seamless integration)
- Need well-tested and bug-free plugins for easy customizations
- Are working on large enterprise projects with massive software systems with multiple versions
- Need an automated and reliable build and test process, so you can focus your effort on coding
- Want to manage builds that have different requirements or targets
- Want to automatically deploy your builds to UAT or even servers like the App Store or Google Play
- Don’t want your build and test process to be dependent on a specific local environment
- Want your builds and integration tests to get triggered automatically as soon as the developer commits code
- Want to leverage elastic resources to optimize the performance of your builds
In a world where customer demands are constantly evolving, changes or feature updates to code have to be frequently accommodated. Modern CI tools allow teams to build code and trigger unit and integration tests as soon as code is committed to the repository – so new changes integrate well into the existing codebase.
By providing early feedback on the quality of new changes, CI helps teams to work on different tasks in parallel and merge efforts into the end product reliably– thus ensuring a good-quality end product.