Are you killing the goose that lays golden eggs? Yes, maybe. The metaphoric goose we’re talking about here is your CI/CD pipeline. CI/CD has slowly become the primary way of delivering software today. And as the software development world has moved away from monoliths to microservices and containers, the complexity of production has exponentially increased. You need a CI/CD pipeline to make DevOps work. Although a majority of developers are currently utilizing some kind of DevOps practice, according to the State of DevOps report, the software development community as a whole remains in the mid-maturity phase of adopting DevOps.
Having a better understanding of the pitfalls of the CI/CD pipeline and implementing best practices will be needed to improve software delivery in 2022. Let’s look at some of the pitfalls and best practices to keep in mind while implementing a CI/CD pipeline.
1. Not implementing pipeline modeling
In a CI/CD pipeline, multiple developers work on their individual services irrespective of other services being built simultaneously. The only place to find out how these various services impact each other and the subsequent issues that arise is in production. This ends up being a major problem. At this stage, locating, debugging, reproducing, and fixing an issue is time-consuming. Thus, feedback is very delayed. Consequently, developers tend to select their improvement initiatives beforehand without actually assessing what is actually needed. Therefore, improvements don’t end up addressing existing issues and do not have any meaningful impact on the end-to-end performance.
Best practice: Pipeline modeling
The above stated issue can be solved by pipeline modeling. Pipeline modeling helps identify bottlenecks in a pipeline in a systematic way by providing an end-to-end view of the pipeline. This view would show the progress of a release at each step, the time each step takes, and helps build an improvement checklist. As bottlenecks are constantly resolved, progress can be measured by comparing the end-to-end performance with the previous state.
2. Automating unwanted processes
When implementing CI/CD, teams try to automate anything and everything for maximum efficiency. Automating processes that don’t need automation can distract teams from essential processes in the workflow. For automation to speed up things successfully, there needs to be a clear strategy.
Best practice: Automate the important steps
Automate only those processes that are frequently repeated, are tediously long, require automation to be completely error-free, and are causing delays without automation. Also, eliminating essential manual processes using the CI/CD pipeline and breaking down the delivery process into measurable chunks makes the delivery process less complicated and exhausting.
3. Prioritizing speed over quality
Organizations tend to prioritize product delivery speed without focussing on product quality when starting to implement the CI/CD pipeline. This is like driving really fast, but going in the wrong direction. It’s futile, and will result in more clean-up later. Teams don’t have the luxury to spend a lot of time perfecting the quality of the product in a competitive market. This makes them compromise on quality to achieve good-looking release metrics on paper.
Best practice: Automate testing activities
DevOps should focus on achieving both speed and quality at the same time. A good way to do this is to invest in test automation. This ensures that quality improves as the CI/CD pipeline gets more complex.
4. Ignoring error types and discovering defects late
Most errors can be discovered and remedied only after a certain stage. If that stage is missed, the defects are found at a later stage. This leads to an anti-pattern of late discoveries thus delaying the release and negatively impacting the quality of production. This is far from continuous delivery.
Best practice: Get feedback faster
The CI/CD pipeline should be designed for fast feedback and immediate defect resolution. This feedback can be in the form of QA testing, monitoring metrics, or end-user feedback.
5. Confusing continuous deployment and continuous delivery
Continuous delivery is the entire process of taking code from the CI stage to production. It consists of both manual and automated processes. Continuous deployment, on the other hand, is a subset of continuous delivery where the focus is on automating the release of code into production. code is pushed to the production system after a compatibility check with other code, and this process is completely automated. Most organizations adopt continuous delivery but stop short at that without moving on to continuous deployment.
Best practice: Take baby steps towards continuous deployment
Continuous delivery is the right practice to start with and continuous deployment, but you need to graduate to continuous deployment as well. You can start with automating deployments to a sub-section of yoru application, and then expand from there. Just as your DevOps journey so far, it starts with a single step, and then you can move to higher levels of maturity.
The key aim of CI/CD is to bring consistency, predictability, quality, and speed across the software delivery process. Optimizing your pipeline to achieve maximum efficiency and benefit from your software development can be done by thinking about flow, and continuously removing bottlenecks, automating everything, and finding defects as soon as possible.
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