Traditional software development methods don’t suggest how frequently or regularly you integrate the entire source on a project. Programmers can work separately for hours, days, or even weeks on the same source without realizing how many conflicts / defects they have introduced.
However, in today’s world of agile adaptations for software delivery, Continuous Integration (CI) is becoming the norm. If organizations really care about the benefits of having shorter release cycles, then they should have CI as a part of their development process and IT organization.
CI implements continuous processes of applying quality control over small pieces of effort, applied frequently to the code base. This typically replaces the quality control steps applied after completing all development tasks. CI involves providing a clean build of the system several times per day, usually with tools such as Jenkins, Cruise Control, etc., which uses Ant / Maven and source-control tools such as SVN, Clearcase, GIThub, etc.
CI refers to both, the continuous compiling and building of a project workspace, and also the continuous testing, releasing and quality control.
A CI system is usually configured to include automated compilation, unit test execution and source control integration. Sometimes CI also includes automatic execution of automated functional regression tests and acceptance tests developed using automation tools.
The advantages of CI for organizations in this digital era are…
- Captures regression issues early on in the development phase i.e. at the system testing phase itself
- Early warning of conflicting changes, broken / incompatible code – avoiding last-minute chaos at code freeze dates
- Constant availability of ‘Green, Current & Stable’ builds for testing, demo or release purposes
- Helps reduce build and deployment cycle times
- Facilitates immediate unit testing of all changes
- Provides spontaneous and continuous feedback to developers / testers on the quality, functionality, or system-wide impact of the code they are writing
- Enables quick turnaround on RED builds
To conclude, moving to Continuous Integration & deployments, and optimizing the process progressively is the key to sustain shorter release cycles. It helps the agile teams to be more productive and leads to a more stable and better product continuously. Once set up, teams can then reap the benefits of deploying new versions several times a day and have access to the latest and stable build at all times.