Modern Enterprise Software Engineering with CI/CD Pipelines

For modern enterprise software engineering, CI/CD pipelines are essential for optimizing development processes. mgm relies on standardized methods and environments throughout the entire development, build, and deployment process. These are specifically designed for operating containerized applications in modern cloud infrastructures.

Short & concise

  • Given the agile requirements and the development of microservices, traditional build management methods are no longer efficient.
  • Continuous Integration (CI) combines regular code integrations for early error detection in a central repository, while Continuous Delivery (CD) focuses on automated deployment and testing.
  • Continuous Deployment goes a step further by automatically deploying changes to the production environment, leading to accelerated development cycles and improved error detection.
  • Successful CI/CD implementation requires not only technical tools like Jenkins but also a collaborative corporate culture that emphasizes problem-solving and collective optimization.

Even before the advent of build and deployment pipelines, classic build processes often encountered typical errors. Manual execution of many steps and the use of build or shell scripts were common practices, often leading to distributed knowledge and communication bottlenecks. Coordinating releases required significant communication efforts, while the multitude of deployment environments and configurations posed a complex challenge. Additionally, the start of the entire build chain took a long time.

From Monolithic to Agile: Microservices Orchestration as a Transformation Factor

Today, traditional build management methods often fall short in efficiently transforming source code into functional software. The reason: Modern development environments are increasingly required to align with agile demands and deliver software in ever shorter cycles. Traditional monolithic architectures are consequently being replaced by scalable and flexibly deployable microservices. These consist of standalone functional services with independent codebases, enabling faster deployment and development. Due to their distributed nature, complex communication and data management, as well as challenges in deployment and testing, microservices require careful planning and implementation. Especially in large or growing projects with numerous microservices, things can quickly become intricate.

When build and integration processes are distributed across multiple stages in large numbers, traditional build tools reach their limits. The solution? Orchestration tools – they unite these many steps and tools into a harmonious interplay. With just a few clicks, the entire sequence unfolds before our eyes. Results are not only presented but also meaningfully archived. Even with complex build and scripting steps, a single click is enough to create and automatically test the end product in record time.

From this necessity, the two approaches of Continuous Integration (CI) and Continuous Delivery (CD) emerged. They have revolutionized the way software is developed, tested, and delivered.

CI/CD: Definition and Benefits

CI and CD are agile practices in software development. Agile here means quickly producing a functional IT product. Studies have shown that the effort for maintenance and further development of software now accounts for more than half of the total costs. This means that rapid product development combined with early error detection is more likely to lead to success.

This is where Continuous Integration comes in, a process where code changes are regularly integrated into a shared repository, a central storage for data, documents, programs, metadata, and data models. Developers integrate their changes multiple times a day to detect issues early. This avoids extensive code changes with long development cycles and delays, significantly shortening development time. This enables teams to respond to change requests and fulfill them more quickly.

While Continuous Delivery focuses on automated deployment and testing, Continuous Deployment goes a step further by also including automatic and direct transition to the production environment – the automated release process, where changes are transferred to live operations without human intervention.

This can further increase the speed of software delivery, but it also carries the potential for unintended errors or disruptions. Therefore, thorough automation and testing are essential for smooth Continuous Deployment. Overall, CI/CD practices enable much more agile and responsive software development than traditional build management.

How is CI/CD Implemented?

CI/CD automates the path from code integration to deployment through Test-Driven Development (TDD), which usually involves several stages. First, the resulting code finds its way into a version control system like Git. This not only enables tracking changes but also promotes collaboration among multiple developers and reverting to previous code states.

The next step, Continuous Integration (CI), is crucial. In this process, the code is automatically checked and tested on an integrated development server after each commit – a confirmation of a specific change or multiple changes. The goal is to detect errors early and ensure smooth integration into the existing code.

Automated tests play a central role in ensuring that the code works flawlessly and has no unintended side effects. These include various tests, from unit tests to integration tests to acceptance tests. After successful testing, the code is transformed into an executable format ready for delivery. Here, either Continuous Delivery (CD) or Continuous Deployment (CD) comes into play. With Continuous Delivery, the code is deployed to a production-like environment for final verification. In contrast, Continuous Deployment automatically transfers the code to the production environment after passing tests. During operation, the application is continuously monitored to ensure performance and stability. These metrics provide valuable feedback for the development process to make continuous improvements.

So, Continuous Delivery aims to keep the application in a state where it can be moved to production ‘with a few clicks’ at any time.

The Right Mindset: Collaborating in Unity

In this context, it’s important to understand that CI/CD is not just a technical strategy. Rather, it’s about the fundamental mindset of approaching these processes and understanding the driving force behind such a pipeline.

Most challenges related to CI/CD are more social than technical in nature. When implementing this process with CI/CD tools, it’s not just about technical aspects like using platforms such as Jenkins to create and build the pipeline. More important is the collective approach within the organization. Everyone must strive to optimize the pipeline. A culture of mutual support rather than blame is crucial. When an error occurs in the CI/CD chain, it’s not about who caused it but about finding solutions together.

Therefore, clear and understandable feedback is crucial in the CI/CD cycle. Similar to build management, there are indicators like traffic lights, sunshine, rain, and charts that display a traceable history of the entire Continuous Integration/Continuous Delivery pipeline. These visual elements show the process flow, where errors occurred, and make the process archivable and traceable.

The motivation of all involved in the CI/CD pipeline and the error culture in the organization play a central role. Ideally, no unresolved issues should be left behind. This idea, known as “no broken windows,” emphasizes that no conditions should be left that could jeopardize the entire production chain. The right attitude is crucial: collaborating as a team and investigating the error to understand why it occurred – and ensuring it doesn’t happen again. This becomes much easier when a successful CI/CD pipeline is in place.

CI/CD and Low Code Pipelines at mgm technology partners

mgm has developed its own tested build and deployment pipelines for the mgm A12 Low Code platform, which have been successfully used in numerous projects. A schematic overview illustrates the basic process flow.

The pipeline serves as a guide from the source code base to production-ready software – a development path from left to right. Each step is represented by marked sections representing various development stages. A notable aspect of this approach is the extensive automation of most steps, saving time and minimizing human errors.

The heart of this process is the Jenkins Build Server, a widely used open-source automation platform. It plays a central role in initiating and coordinating build and deployment jobs. This thoughtful approach ensures a smooth flow of the entire development process and guarantees top-notch software quality.

In the first two sections of the pipeline, the A12 models and source code are extracted from the Git source code repository and generated. After compiling, the generated results are stored in a container registry. From there, these images can be deployed to testing platforms in the following stages, where they are tested with specific testing tools like Selenium, JFunk, Perfload, and Cypress. If necessary, additional steps such as load tests using tools like Perfload are performed. After a successful build, the artifacts undergo static code analysis to automatically detect possible errors and defects. Finally, the last step in the pipeline is software deployment to a production system.

CI/CD – Conclusion, Trends, and Future

CI/CD is not just a method for optimizing code changes but also a method for optimizing collaboration among team members. Proactively addressing potential problems and continuously optimizing the code promote a dynamic, productive, and efficient development environment. In an era where innovation and speed take the lead, creating a development environment that not only keeps up with the latest technology but also leverages the strengths of each team member is invaluable.

The coming years promise exciting developments in Continuous Integration and Continuous Delivery. The integration of AI will enhance predictions, while security and compliance will be more integrated into the development cycle. Hybrid environments and container technologies require flexible deployment strategies. Infrastructure as Code and continuous monitoring ensure consistency. The DevOps culture remains crucial for seamless collaboration. CI/CD will make software development even more agile, secure, and efficient in the future.

Further Information:

Further Reading:

  • Continuous Delivery: Reliable Software Releases through Build, Test, and Deployment Automation, by David Farley, Jez Humble, Released July 2010, Publisher(s): Addison-Wesley Professional, ISBN: 978-0-321670-25-0
  • Jenkins: The Definitive Guide, by John Ferguson Smart, Released July 2011, Publisher(s): O’Reilly Media, Inc., ISBN: 978-1-449305-35-2
  • The Phoenix Project: A Novel about IT, DevOps, and Helping Your Business Win, by Gene Kim, Kevin Behr, George Spafford, Released 2018, Publisher(s): IT Revolution Press, ISBN: 978-1-942788-29-4