DevOps is a way of work involving people, technologies, and processes to meet, if not exceed customer expectations. In a DevOps lifecycle, teams are focused on delivering value in a safe, quick, and repeatable manner, aided by Continuous Integration and Continuous Delivery (CI/CD) best practices. This process helps cross-functional teams in the enterprise by providing automation, governance, and security to the entire software delivery process.  

What are the Best Practices of DevOps CI/CD? 

8 DevOps CI/CD Best Practices

DevOps CI/CD best practices make the process of building, testing, and releasing software efficient and deliver more quickly. DevOps CI/CD services involve delivering and getting timely feedback on the latest changes and therefore it pays to analyze your feedback data to refine your process.  

Here, you have CI/CD best practices that will help align DevOps with your business goals.  

    1. Commit early and commit often
    2. Keep the builds green
    3. Build only once
    4. Streamlined tests
    5. Clean your environment
    6. CI/ CD pipeline is the only way to go
    7. Monitoring and measuring your pipeline
    8. Make it a team effort

1. Commit early and commit often 

As a first step, you will need to ensure that your source code, configuration files, scripts, libraries, and executables are in source control before implementing continuous integration. Continuous integration makes integrating changes from different contributors easy as they share small updates frequently. Each one triggers a set of automated tests to provide prompt feedback on the change. Therefore, regular committing facilitates collaboration and reduces the merge conflicts when you integrate more complex changes. Working together to break tasks down into smaller, discrete chunks can make it easier to adopt this practice. 

2. Keep the builds green 

When the CI/CD pipeline provides rapid feedback to developers about changes, it prevents building on a flawed foundation and keeps the code in a constantly releasable state. It is a more efficient way to address issues immediately, making it possible to roll out a fix quickly. 

If a build fails, the team’s first order of priority should be to get it working. It would be helpful if the team works together to address a failing build and understand the causes of failure. When the pressure builds up among the group of developers, the DevOps culture becomes essential. 

It is also an exercise in continuous improvement all around. The best way to circumvent such failures is to do a build and an initial set of tests locally before sharing the changes. It will be ideal if you use the same scripts as the CI/CD system to avoid duplicating. 

3. Build only once 

You do not need a new build for each stage. Rebuilding the software for different environments can lead to inconsistencies leaving you in doubt about the previously run tests. Instead, it would be best to promote the same build artifact through each CI/CD pipeline stage. Therefore, the build needs to be environment-agnostic. Variables, configuration files, authentication parameters, configuration files, or scripts must be called by the deployment script instead of getting incorporated into the build itself. 

In this way, the same build can be deployed to each environment for testing. It builds confidence among the team members in each artifact. 

While it is good to keep the configuration files, the build script, and deployment scripts in one source control system with the application code, it doesn’t apply to the build artifact itself. The build doesn’t belong in source control. It needs to be versioned and stored in a central artifact repository, from where you can take it and deploy it to each environment. 

4. Streamlined tests 

Although CI/CD depends on automated testing, you must ensure testing for all eventualities. The purpose of the DevOps CI/CD pipeline is to provide rapid feedback and deliver quality software to users at a faster pace. Therefore, it is imperative to have a balance between test coverage and performance. You can first run the tests that complete quickest and get feedback just as quickly before moving on to running lengthier tests.  

You can use the first layer of automated unit tests to provide broad coverage and alert you to any obvious glitches introduced during the latest change. Once you have completed the unit tests, you can add automated integration or component tests to test the interactions between different parts of the code. 

Other tests to be performed include more complex automated tests such as GUI tests, performance and load tests, or security tests before the final manual exploratory and acceptance tests.  

5. Clean your environment 

It is always best to clean up the pre-production environments after each deployment. When environments remain running for a long time, it becomes hard to keep track of all the changes and updates applied to each environment.  

Over time, the environments may also diverge from the original setup and from each other, which means that the test results may not be the same each time.  

Maintaining static environments can slow down the testing process, delay release dates, and increase maintenance costs. On the other hand, using containers to host environments with an infrastructure-as-code approach can ensure consistency and allow you to scale environments more easily to test multiple builds parallelly. 

6. CI/ CD pipeline is the only way to go 

Once you’ve built a fast, reliable, and secure CI/CD pipeline, nothing must undermine that process. Typically, the request to take a shortcut is made because of only minor changes or because it is urgent. Both reasons may seem valid but are not enough to dilute the process.  

Skipping any of the stages of automated testing can bring up avoidable issues, making reproducing and debugging issues much harder as the build is not readily available to deploy to a testing environment. It is better to communicate the CI/ CD benefits to bring stakeholders on board. 

7. Monitoring and measuring your pipeline 

As a part of setting up your CI/CD pipeline, you are probably already monitoring the production environment for signs of trouble as early as possible. So, your CI/CD pipeline will also benefit from a feedback loop. You can analyze the metrics collected by your CI/CD tool and identify areas that need improvement. 

When you compare the number of builds triggered per week, day, or hour, you will get detailed insight into how your pipeline infrastructure is used, whether it needs to be scaled up or down, and whether it is time to invest in performance optimizations. Statistics derived from automated tests help determine areas that would benefit from parallelization. Regular reviewing of test results can help streamline the test coverage. 

8. Make it a team effort 

Building an effective DevOps CI/CD pipeline stems from the team and organizational culture as much as from tools and processes. CI/CD best practices help the breakdown of silos and encourage collaboration. The silos, when broken down, give the team greater visibility and an opportunity to collaborate and benefit from different areas of expertise, creating a sense of shared responsibility for the DevOps CI/ CD services. 

Conclusion 

The adoption of best practices of any kind is to achieve the goals of the enterprise most efficiently and effectively. The same is true of developing new products or delivering DevOps CI/ CD services to customers. It is safe to say that enterprises that have implemented CI/ CD best practices show more significant results and perfectly align with the organization’s business goals. 

Therefore, it is better to take every opportunity to improve your CI/CD practices and make them more robust and effective while creating a virtuous circle of continuous improvement. 

Aspire Systems’ also offers integrated DevOps Services with state-of-the-art tools, technologies, and processes. 

 

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Sriram Sundaresan