Why Continuous Integration / Continuous Delivery is crucial for delivering high quality software products.

Why CI/CD is crucial for delivering high quality enterprise cloud software? 

Introduction

When cooperating with remote software dev teams efficient exchange of concepts, locally created solutions, external libraries and algorithms that are created concurrently is of high importance. All pieces that create solution need to be carefully combined in order to become reliable digital product. To achieve high efficiency in this process and benefit from collaborative work, software developers use tools of code versioning and integration, which allow for simultaneous work of many persons in the same project in the same time. 

How it works 

Modern approach to business software development of software assumes that digital product and improvements are delivered as fast as possible and without end-user interaction. End-users want that products they work are always stable, provide needed functions and work continuously. Moreover, clients expect that improvements to the software the use on everyday basis are delivered continuously and with no unnecessary delay. CI/CD is a strategy and a set of tools that allow to achieve this goal.  

Main basis of CI/CD workflow relies on the division of product development into to digital twin entities: 

  • Production server (PS) 
  • Development server (DS) 

The productions server is the main instance of digital product used by clients. It provides all essential functions that are tested and reliable. In general, the development server is a kind of copy of PS, which is continuously upgraded with new functionalities and modules developed by programmers. Usually, the Development server is not visible to end-user and its functionalities are continuously tested and repaired by internal vendor quality assurance (QA) team, before they are transferred to PS.  

When Project manager ensures that functionalities are tested and can be used by the end user the moment of transferring new functions from DS to PS comes – it is usually called Deployment. Deployment usually lasts 5-10 minutes and generally can be performed anytime. The common strategy is to perform deployment process when general workload is minimal i. e. on evenings, during weekends etc.  

 Main aspects

The whole process of CI/CD workflow is complicated and requires several persons to configure tools, platforms, systems, install necessary software, configure source versioning system and servers. However, except of all technical aspects, few issues should be outlined: 

1) Security & IPR protection 

While CI/CD pipeline significantly optimizes the software delivery process, the whole software exchange process must be secured. Proper CI/CD setup prevails development codes to be exposed to any third-party entities. This means that communication between source code repositories, developer servers and production servers during integration and deployment must be encrypted by asymmetric encryption SSH keys. Usually, tools that provide CI/CD pipeline (like GitLab and JIRA) usually have that type of functionalities in standard options. 

2) Continuity of business process 

Whenever the new updated version of the software is released, the system must maintain backward compatibility with all functions and data integrity of the end-user. It is up to software development company to configure CI/CD pipeline so it maintains database compliance with all the information that is processed by the end user. Software development companies usually have internal Quality Assurance (QA) policy in order to avoid that type of incidents.  

3) Urgent fixes 

CI/CD strategy is also very convenient for software vendors, because it also provides mechanisms of quick urgent software fixes – so called ‘hotfix’ patches. The term “hotfix” refers to software patches that are applied to systems which are currently running, mainly in production status. For the developer, a ‘hotfix’ implies that the change must be made quickly and outside normal development and testing processes. Once end-user reports serious malfunction (P1, P2 incident) of the software, the vendor company can quickly prepare local copy of development server, repair errors and deploy improvements on the development server immediately.  

 

Why is it important 

Continuous Integration and Continuous Delivery (CI/CD) is key aspect in providing reliable cloud software products tailored to specific needs. It is also worth to notice, is that though CI/CD refers mainly to cloud and web applications, it can also be applied to other types of software such Artificial intelligence solutions, local desktop applications, mobile apps and many others. CI/CD is a method of how developer teams works and delivers it’s result to the end user – it does not guarantee high quality of source code but significantly simplifies development process.  Finally, it enables fast focused on the end-user, transparent delivery of new versions of the software by the vendor.  

 

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