How and why to automate continuous integration
Large software builds are no longer the norm for teams, and as such, developers and testers alike must understand how to keep up in this fast-paced environment. Continuous activities have emerged under the agile testing methodologies and development practices to ensure that programs are constantly being updated. This is obviously a major challenge for any team and requires the best strategies to support effectively. Continuous integration in particular is becoming a significant asset to teams, and they may find it beneficial to automate this effort. Let's take a closer look at how and why your team should automate continuous integration.
Why automation is a good fit
Before going any deeper, it's important to first define what exactly CI is. CI integrates code into a shared repository on a constant basis. According to Puppet, this enables teams to catch errors while they're still small and manageable, giving the confidence to ship code frequently. However, integrating and testing this code manually is just not feasible. There are fast changes that need to happen, and lots of people involved with making these adjustment. This creates significant risks related to inadequate testing and introducing errors.
Automation eliminates much of the danger that comes with CI. Pairing CI with automation enables teams to easily test every new code iteration and reduces the opportunity for team members to add errors. Because automation focuses on repeatable processes, staff will see a boost in reliability, efficiency and faster time to market, all of which are essential to user satisfaction and software success.
"With the risk threshold lowered, it becomes much easier to test frequently," Puppet stated. "Some organizations get to the point where they're testing and deploying many times per day, resulting in cleaner code — and ultimately, faster release to customers."
How to bridge CI and automation
Automating CI sounds good, but many teams may have challenges when it comes to executing these processes. Organizations must understand what each practice entails and how to utilize them together for the best results possible. According to ThoughtWorks, developers can commit changes to the shared repository. From there, CI server monitors adjustments as they occur, builds the system, assigns a build label and runs a variety of tests on the system. It will be important to automate deployment and make it easy for anyone to have access to the latest executable to ensure everyone is on the same page.
Test automation helps to test items more thoroughly and build an environment that's suitable for users. It's up to teams to ensure that their code isn't broken or untested, as well as to check-in when a build is broken. Alongside CI, teams can adopt continuous deployment, which releases software into production once it passes automated tests. In this case, automation is essential for constantly pushing out deliverables and patches to ensure that users always have functionality.
"By adopting both Continuous Integration and Continuous Deployment, you not only reduce risks and catch bugs quickly, but also move rapidly to working software," ThoughtWorks stated. "With low-risk releases, you can quickly adapt to business requirements and user needs. This allows for greater collaboration between ops and delivery, fueling real change in your organization, and turning your release process into a business advantage."
Automating CI is an essential step to ensuring that teams are fully evaluating code and that they can achieve a faster time to market. With quality test management tools, teams can meet these objectives while pairing with automation solutions to schedule, assign and maintain automated scripts. If your team is agile, it will important to pair these solutions together to achieve goals and deliver better software.