What is CI/CD?

Continuous integration (CI) and continuous delivery (CD), also known as CI/CD, embodies a culture, operating principles, and a set of practices that application development teams use to deliver code changes more frequently and reliably.

CI/CD is a best practice for devops teams. It is also a best practice in agile methodology. By automating integration and delivery, CI/CD lets software development teams focus on meeting business requirements while ensuring code quality and software security.

CI/CD defined

Continuous integration is a coding philosophy and set of practices that drive development teams to frequently implement small code changes and check them in to a version control repository. Most modern applications require developing code using a variety of platforms and tools, so teams need a consistent mechanism to integrate and validate changes. Continuous integration establishes an automated way to build, package, and test their applications. Having a consistent integration process encourages developers to commit code changes more frequently, which leads to better collaboration and code quality.

Continuous delivery picks up where continuous integration ends, and automates application delivery to selected environments, including production, development, and testing environments. Continuous delivery is an automated way to push code changes to these environments.

Automating the CI/CD pipeline

CI/CD tools help store the environment-specific parameters that must be packaged with each delivery. CI/CD automation then makes any necessary service calls to web servers, databases, and other services that need restarting. It can also execute other procedures following deployment.

Because the objective is to deliver quality code and applications, CI/CD also requires continuous testing. In continuous testing, a set of automated regression, performance, and other tests are executed in the CI/CD pipeline.

A mature devops team with a robust CI/CD pipeline can also implement continuous deployment, where application changes run through the CI/CD pipeline and passing builds are deployed directly to the production environment. Some teams practicing continuous deployment elect to deploy daily or even hourly to production, though continuous deployment isn’t optimal for every business application.