Continuous Integration is the process of integrating changes to the computer code of a software project on a continuous basis, in order to immediately detect and correct possible errors. Discover the precise definition and benefits of this practice.
Software development is a journey full of pitfalls. However, certain practices and methodologies make the experience less tedious. This is the case of Continuous Integration.
This practice aims to avoid integration problemswhich can quickly become infernal for developers. Find out everything you need to know about it.
Continuous integration: what is it?
Continuous integration is a practice of integrate changes to a project on an ongoing basisand test them at least once a day or more. As a general rule, each member of a team integrates his or her work at least once a day. Thus, every day, many integrations are carried out.
Each integration is checked and tested by an automated build, in order to detect integration errors as quickly as possible. This approach generally allows to reduce the number of integration problemsand allows a team to develop its software faster.
Indeed, the automation of the build, test and deployment processes greatly simplifies development. Integrating changes more frequently also makes it possible to detect errors fasterThe purpose of this is to avoid unpleasant surprises that may occur because of an error made several months earlier.
Continuous Integration: What are the benefits?
Continuous Integration has many advantages. First of all, it reduces the risks associated with integration. This is because many people often work on separate tasks within a project. However, the more people working on the same project, the riskier the integration becomes. If there are problems, debugging and resolution can be very difficult and require many changes in the code. By incorporating changes daily or even more frequently, the risk is minimized.
Another advantage of this practice is that it allows for improve the quality of the code. Developers no longer have to worry about problems and can concentrate more on making the code work. This improves the quality of the finished product.
On the other hand, if one of the team members makes a mistake that “breaks” the build, the whole team shall be notified immediately and the problem is solved before anyone else uses that corrupted code.
By extension, Continuous Integration allows you to reduce tensions and quarrels between members of a team. It also increases the level of confidence of developers, who are no longer afraid to “break” code and can therefore be more productive and enthusiastic. Newcomers will also find it easier to get started in the project.
For its part, the QA team is able to isolate and track bugs more efficiently thanks to the different versions and builds of the code. Finally, Continuous Integration also allows projects to be deployed more quickly thanks to automation.
What is Continuous Deployment and Continuous Delivery?
Continuous Deployment and Continuous Delivery are practices directly related to continuous integration. The delivery continues to automate the process of “releasing” changes brought to the software from the users. It is possible to choose to deliver changes on a daily, weekly, or other frequency depending on the specific needs of the company and its clientele.
The continuous deployment goes even furtherand consists of delivering each software change to the customer. In this case, there is no human intervention. The only changes that are not deployed are those that fail a test. This practice speeds up the feedback loop, and also allows developers to better focus on software development since there is no more “release date” to anticipate.
Jenkins, TeamCity, Travis CI… the best tools and software for continuous integration
It there are many tools and software dedicated to continuous integratione. One of the most popular solutions is Jenkins: an open source continuous integration tool written in Java. The main advantage of Jenkins is its flexibility in extending its functionality through various plugins. In addition, this tool allows you to distribute builds and test loads to multiple machines.
Among the other reputable continuous integration solutionswe also count Team City. However, this complex and expensive solution is more reserved for companies. Other well-known CI tools include Travis CI, Go CD, Bamboo, GitLab CI, Circle CI, Codeship and Codefresh.