What is Continuous Integration (CI)? Put simply, it is the process by which software engineers continuously update working copies of code to a shared location several times a day. The benefits of CI cannot be understated. When CI is used during the software development process, you can expect to realize stability, speed and reliability since teams of people are all working on the same product in real-time. By using CI, developers are able to spot and resolve any coding problems early on in the development process and correct them before they become major issues downstream. This process reduces the costs associated with bad code in the long term.
In today’s constantly evolving technology environment, the goal posts are always being moved — whether it is what the consumer expects or what the newest and most in-demand coding language is. There are potentially dozens of coding languages that developers are able to use, but what is accepted as the best practice today can easily become outdated in just a few short years or even months. This poses a problem for companies because if a language falls out of use, it can affect product maintenance and support negatively. Teams that are able to adopt CI are better equipped to continuously integrate and modify code as the process moves along, and can adapt better to changes in coding standards and best practices.
Before the widespread adoption of CI, development teams were bogged down in unnecessary and time-consuming testing processes. Because so much time was wasted on these tasks, there would be an eventual delay in getting the product to market. An automated pipeline of continuous development ensures that only high-quality code makes it into the end product. Automation plays a key role in CI and helps to build a full-bodied development workflow where constant improvement is the goal.
Continuous Integration has a considerable impact on the amount of time spent on QA testing. If CI is not used, QA testers could be spending upwards of 50% of their time running minor tests instead of looking for larger issues. With CI, because developers are constantly reviewing and editing previous code, they are able to head off many of the smaller bugs that QA would normally find. This allows testers to delve deeper and focus on more important problems, and test more use scenarios.
In the CI framework, code is constantly checked and tested — in most cases several times a day — and because of this, risk is significantly reduced. CI has been described by some as being akin to having a smoke detector in your home. It won’t fix the problem, but it will alert you right away when something goes wrong.
Another added benefit to development teams using CI is the creativity in coding that it is able to foster. Because continuous development is inherently flexible, developers are able to quickly and easily make changes to the code without running the risk of regressions.
Any firm that isn’t at least investigating continuous integration is going to be left behind. The benefits highlighted here are only beginning to scratch the surface of what CI can do for your company.
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