HomeArchitectureThe evolution of CI/CD pipelines in the Kubernetes era

The evolution of CI/CD pipelines in the Kubernetes era

CI/CD is a development practice that allows for quick and efficient build and deployment of code. The move towards a containerization architecture is on the rise, allowing software to be environment agnostic while ensuring consistent behavior across environments. Kubernetes is an open-source container orchestration platform that automates containerized application deployment, scaling and management. 

Using Kubernetes in CI/CD pipelines makes sense as they share a similar goal. While the CI/CD pipeline automates many steps from code development to deployment, Kubernetes deploys containers across various environments with efficient resource utilization. Both can ensure a more streamlined Software Development Lifecycle (SDLC) and robust deployments.

10 ways in which CI/CD has evolved in the Kubernetes era

1. Continuous integration(CI)

Continuous integration (CI) is the software build pipeline and includes all the stages a developer takes, from building code to testing. CI paired with automated tests helps developers recognize and correct any issues related to code quality. In the era of ​​Kubernetes, Git has become a prominent piece of the CI process. Code and all its configuration is stored in Git repositories, and this has become the origin for the entire SDLC process.

2. Continuous deployment (CD)

Continuous deployment (CD) is the software release pipeline. The aim is to validate desired code functionality across various environments. Once the code passes these automated functionality tests, it is deployed to the production environment. Here again, Kubernetes has led to the rise of automated releases. Tools like Flux and ArgoCD are enabling last-mile automation that wasn’t possible before Kubernetes.

3. The DevOps model

CI/CD pipelines sit at the heart of the DevOps model. The DevOps model emphasizes collaboration between the Development and the Operations team. The Operations team manages resources and compliance, Infrastructure, and the actual CI/CD pipeline, while the development team focuses on building code. This collaboration ensures a smooth SDLC from build to deployment. After Kubernetes, the DevOps model has been tweaked to ensure better separation of concerns. There is the emergence of the platform team that manages the infrastructure and all tooling and resources used by application developers. 

4. Containerized applications 

Containers have become the standard way to package application code. They provide developers with a way to package software with their dependencies and configuration files into a container image. Containers are lightweight, portable, and easily deployable, with consistent behavior across different environments. CI/CD pipelines have evolved to integrate with Kubernetes tooling to orchestrate these containers seamlessly. 

5. Infrastructure as Code (IaC)

Infrastructure as Code (IaC) further streamlines infrastructure management and enhances pipelines. Managing infrastructure configurations along with application code in version control systems provides the opportunity to ensure repeatability, consistency, and auditability for the whole SDLC. Kubernetes allows teams to define infrastructure components as code and allows for testing and deployment in a repeatable and consistent manner. Infrastructure management is more streamlined now with Kubernetes. 

6. Immutable structure 

It has become common practice to treat infrastructure components like containers, pods, and services as immutable objects that can be changed only when a new version is deployed. This reduces configuration drift and ensures consistency, making managing and deploying infrastructure easier. This declarative approach to infrastructure reduces configuration drift and ensures that the original defined state is the actual state of infrastructure in production. 

7. Automated tests

Automated tests are an important part of CI/CD pipelines as they create a constant feedback loop that allows for a secure product. Some automated tests in the pipeline are unit tests that validate individual code units so that they all functions as expected. Integration tests ensure that several different pieces of code can work together to provide the functionality required. Kubernetes has made it easier to spin up and down infrastructure for testing purposes. This has proved to be a big boost for test automation.

8. Strategic deployments 

Rolling updates at the end of the pipeline can be configured so that there is little to no impact on the end user. Kubernetes provides the required setup and the option to roll back to a previous version in case of an issue with the update, thus reducing downtime and user impact. This process is called progressive delivery, and involves approaches such as blue-green deployments, canary releasing, and more. 

9. Monitoring and observability

Continuous monitoring and observability can be beneficial in making required changes to reduce downtime. Kubernetes provides built-in tools that allow for continuous monitoring, collection, and analysis of data on how the software performs in real time. With this in place, teams can make informed decisions to reduce user impact and deal with issues before they become critical. Tools like Prometheus and Jaeger are enabling this new era of monitoring where teams are equipped with more monitoring information in real-time than ever before.

10. Multicloud/Hybrid cloud strategies

As organizations move towards Multicloud/Hybrid-cloud strategies, CI/CD pipelines have also evolved to manage deployments across diverse environments. With Kubernetes, teams can build once and deploy to on-premises and multi-cloud environments. This enables teams to run applications in hybrid environments where some parts are on-premises and some on the cloud, providing the best of both worlds. This approach also increases flexibility and reduces vendor lock-in.

CI/CD pipelines are an integral part of the DevOps model. With the move towards containerized applications and Kubernetes for managing these containers, CI/CD pipelines have become more streamlined, functional, and efficient. Integrating the benefits of containerized applications and Kubernetes with the CI/CD pipelines can ensure a smooth SDLC which produces robust code with minimal issues, allows for strategic rollouts of updates, provides the benefit of monitoring these containers, and provides a way to move towards hybrid deployments.


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