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8 minutes

DevOps is a set of practices that aims to make the software development life cycle faster while keeping the quality. To make DevOps successful, it takes continuous integration, continuous delivery, and continuous deployment. 

Continuous integration (CI) and continuous delivery (CD) automate a big part of all manual work necessary to get the new code into production. With a CI/CD pipeline, developers can add changes to their code that automatically tests it and speeds up the delivery and deployment process. 

For teams wanting to automate the software delivery process, the pipeline helps build code, run various tests, and deploy new application versions faster. Since manual errors are reduced to a minimum, it becomes possible to enable product iterations more quickly.

CI/CD, DevOps and Agile

There have been many attempts to explain CI/CD in the context of DevOps and Agile. They are different approaches, but they can work together to improve the software development and delivery process.

DevOps is a blend of cultural principles, techniques, and tools that enhances an organization's capability to deliver software quickly. It emphasizes collaboration and communication between software developers and IT professionals, with the goal of improving the speed and efficiency of the software development and delivery process. DevOps practices often involve the use of automation tools and continuous delivery techniques to streamline the process of building, testing, and deploying software.

CI/CD, or Continuous Integration/Continuous Delivery, is a software engineering practice that involves continuously integrating code changes from individual team members into a shared repository, and then automatically building and testing the code to ensure that it is functional and meets the necessary quality standards. The goal of CI/CD is to minimize the time it takes to deliver software to end users by automating as much of the software development process as possible.

Agile methodologies, on the other hand, are a set of principles and practices that prioritize flexibility and collaboration in the software development process. Agile approaches are characterized by their focus on iterative and incremental delivery, with an emphasis on rapid prototyping and delivering small, usable increments of software on a frequent basis.

While DevOps, CI/CD, and Agile are distinct approaches, they are often used together in a complementary manner to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of the software development and delivery process. For example, a team may use Agile methodologies to plan and execute their software development work, while utilizing CI/CD pipelines as part of DevOps practices to automate the build, test, and deployment process.

Continuous Integration (CI), Continuous Deployment (CD) and Continuous Delivery (CD)

Continuous Integration (CI), Continuous Deployment (CD) and Continuous Delivery are three practices that are commonly used in the software development process to improve the quality and speed of software delivery. While CI refers to the practice of regularly integrating code changes into a shared repository, CD, on the other hand, is the practice of automatically deploying code changes to production as soon as they pass all of the tests. Together, they can help to improve the overall quality of software by catching issues early and quickly delivering new features and bug fixes to users.

Continuous Integration (CI) is the practice of integrating all code changes into the main branch of a shared source code repository early and often. Continuous integration is the process of treating all code changes into a shared source of code and automatically testing as soon as the code is merged. 

With continuous integration, bugs and security problems are quickly identified and resolved in comparison to a regular software development cycle. Plus, it includes infrastructure provisioning and deployment that are fully automated and visible to the entire team.

There are eight essential elements that ensure the efficiency of continuous integration for the whole development lifecycle. 

  1. Single source repository
  2. Frequent check-ins to the main branch
  3. Automated builds
  4. Self-testing builds
  5. Frequent iterations
  6. Stable testing environments
  7. Maximum visibility
  8. Predictable deployment anytime

With continuous integration, errors and security issues can be identified and fixed more quickly in the early stages of the development cycle. By using the strategy of frequent merges and automatic triggers developers can minimize the possibility of any issue or code conflict during the mid and late stages of the project.

Typical code validation process: 

  1. Static code analysis that verifies the quality of code
  2. Automated CI routines package
  3. Code compilation
  4. Version control system for tracking changes

CI/CD pipeline stages visual representation including build, test, deploy, and monitor

Continuous Delivery (CD) allows organizations to eliminate the need for human intervention in the deployment process. With CD DevOps, teams are able to set the essential criteria for code releases ahead of time, and when those criteria are met, the code is deployed into production. This way, developing and getting the features from production to the end user is quicker than ever.

Once code is tested and developed as a part of the CI process, continuous delivery takes over. This process ensures developers can deploy the code at any time. Deployments can be automated to additionally speed up the process and lessen the human labor load. 

Continuous Deployment (CD) is a software development practice that involves automatically delivering/deploying code changes to production as soon as they pass all of the tests. This means that every change that is committed to the codebase is automatically built, tested, and deployed to production, without the need for manual intervention. In that regard, Continuous deployment (CD) is very similar to Continuous delivery to the production environment. 

CI-CD-agile-devops flow diagram showing the progression of software development from integration to delivery

What is a CI/CD Pipeline?

CI/CD has an automated pipeline for software delivery. We recommend that to ensure you’re maximizing the efficiency of the CI/CD process, you use a pipeline. 

A CI/CD pipeline is a brilliant modern practice because it enables a DevOps team to deliver high-quality and bug-free software in a shorter amount of time. The pipeline requires that a product is run through four specified steps, to make sure that every developer knows what needs to be done to deliver a new version of a software product. 

The main high-level stages of a standard CI/CD pipeline are: 

  1. Source stage
  2. Build stage
  3. Testing stage
  4. Deployment stage

Stage One - Source 

Usually, the use of the pipeline is triggered by a source code repository. A change in the code sends a notification to the CI/CD tool which starts the pipeline. Besides a change in the code, the pipeline can also be triggered by automatically scheduled workflows or from the end results of other pipelines. 

Stage Two - Build

In this stage, the source code and its dependencies are used to build a new part of the product itself. If the project cannot pass this stage, it means that there is a fundamental problem in its configuration. Only after the problem is addressed can the project move on to the third stage. 

Stage Three - Testing

At this stage, automated tests are run to validate the quality of the code and check how it behaves. Depending on the project size and complexity, this stage can last from just a few minutes to several hours. Since large-scale projects have to run tests in multiple stages, it can take time to expose potential problems. To continue to the next stage of the pipeline, the developers must understand and solve the problem that was identified by the tests.

Stage Four - Deployment

As soon as there is successfully running software that passes all the predefined tests of the pipeline - it’s ready to be deployed. There are often various deployment environments, especially for agile teams. 

CI/CD Pipeline’s Benefits

Even though CI/CD, Agile and DevOps are different, ultimately, they all support one another in achieving a common goal - to deliver high-quality software. CI/CD pipelines are the key component of this process as they focus on incorporating software engineering practices that allow teams to integrate their work deliverables more frequently. The implementation of CI/CD pipelines can have a number of benefits as it allows more efficient collaboration, quicker resolutions of issues and faster delivery of software to end users. 

The benefits of using a CI/CD pipeline include:

  • Efficient software development. Using smaller steps in development, it’s easier to test code more often and find bugs as well as evaluate new product features.
  • Adaptability to changing product requirements. Unlike the traditional development process that can take months, CI/CD pipelines help companies to quickly adapt and implement changes faster to ensure their product can reach the market sooner. 
  • Experimentation. CI/CD pipeline cyclical development enables developers to use new technologies and approaches. Even if an idea doesn’t succeed, it can be undone in the next iteration. 
  • Improved maintenance. A regular software development process can take weeks to fix a bug. However, when there’s a constant flow of a CI/CD pipeline, it becomes easier to address issues. In the long run, it leads to a more stable and reliable product. 
  • Higher Quality Code. CI/CD pipeline helps with fixing errors in code faster to ensure the higher quality of the product. 

Despite the benefits, CI/CD pipelines can come with potential drawbacks: 

  • High learning curve. To ensure the same level of code quality, it has to rely on an established toolset and work in mature environments. For some teams, this requires a lot of learning and readjusting to create optimal conditions within an organization. 
  • Value dependent on project goals. For a CI/CD process to bring the most value to the business, it needs to constantly generate, test, and deploy new software. If there are few updates or new features to add, it may not be worth the trouble to implement.

CI-CD pipeline flow diagram showing the stages of continuous integration and continuous delivery

How to Implement a CI/CD Pipeline?

There is more than one way to set up a CI/CD pipeline. The number of steps varies due to the tools and processes required for the development but most of them stay the same. However, we typically advise our clients to apply the following steps to their CI/CD process: 

1. Decide on the version control system to maintain all code repositories.

When building software, it's essential to maintain a clear history of changes and collaborate with other developers. A version control system (VCS) like Git is a powerful tool for keeping track of code repositories. In this step, we need to decide on which VCS to use for our project, and set it up for all code repositories. 

2. Create repositories to house application source code and pipelines. 

After deciding on the VCS, we need to create repositories to store the application's source code, as well as any pipelines that will be used to build and test the software. This step is critical as it allows all team members to access and contribute to the codebase.

3. Determine what you will build. 

Before beginning development, it's important to understand what the software will do and what features it will have. This step involves creating a detailed plan and design for the application, including user stories, use cases, and acceptance criteria.

4. Implement a task in the pipeline and generate Docker images. 

With a clear plan in place, we can now begin to implement the application's features. This step involves writing code, testing it, and generating Docker images that can be used to deploy the software.

5. Run basic tests on the code. 

After writing the code, it's essential to run basic tests to ensure that it functions as expected. This step involves writing automated tests and manually testing the application to catch any bugs or errors.

6. The build will generate artifacts.

As the pipeline runs, it will generate artifacts such as compiled code, packaged software, and other files. These artifacts will be used to deploy the software to different environments.

7. Initiate further testing. 

Once the basic tests are passed, further testing is done to ensure that the software is ready for production. This step involves running more rigorous tests, such as performance and security testing, to identify any remaining issues. If the software passes all tests, it's ready for final production and deployment. 


Implementing an effective CI/CD pipeline brings a lot of benefits to the table. This approach works well for small teams with limited resources as it accelerates product release and increases the overall productivity of any team. 

We have guided many clients in creating and setting up their own CI/CD processes, as well as supporting their tech stack. If you are interested in creating your own continuous implementation and continual development pipeline - Softjourn can help.