How continuous integration has transformed system development

Continuous integration (CI) is a software development practice which ensures reliability, speed, and stability and which has transformed system development. This system allows teams to identify problems at an early stage, ensuring they will not become leading issues.

Martin Fowler, a recognized CI authority, describes the process as the practice of integrating code into a common repository, usually using programmed check-ins, which validate builds to identify potential issues.

There are multiple benefits of continuous integration, but they can be ultimately summed up in a single word: Quality.

The programming environment is very dynamic nowadays and software development is becoming more and more complex. For instance, today’s systems built on settled languages could easily become out of date in a few years. By definition, IT teams must always stay at the forefront of software development best practices, not just by assuring that the programs and systems that serve in the short term perform as expected, but also delivering results for the future. As we can see, teams that embrace CI can easily assure continuity.

By adopting CI, development teams can regularly integrate and adjust code within a common repository, several times a day. A built-in piece of software verifies any check-in, which grants development teams the ability to distinguish problems earlier. This is a crucial step to reduce the cost of adjusting anomalies, and expanding build quality.

The technique that sustains CI is a combination between continually developing the code and adding to a code base or a code source control system. Previously, most developer teams relied on a daily build. Now, it is at least once a day and with each significant change. This helps developer teams to get constant feedback on the software’s situation and anomalies are easier to handle.

There are 7 basic principles which contribute to the key benefits cpontinuous integration can deliver a business:

  1. Use a single repository for source code control: This is the developer team’s fail-safe and hub for automation [1].
  2. Self-test the builds: Have a suite of automated tests to examine the code base for bugs regularly [2].
  3. Validate each commit: Select and stick to a consistent coding standard. Regularly monitor the repository for oversights and check each commit [3].
  4. Commit often: Team members need to commit regularly within an agreed timeframe to reduce the likelihood of conflict changes [4].
  5. Test accurately: A realistic test environment that reflects the production environment can impact the quality of the final build [5].
  6. Efficient and transparent processes: Having good API documentation with robust processes can ensure that everyone, including customers, are in-sync with the build to avoid needless and costly rebuilds [6].
  7. Deployment strategy: When the business is ready, use a script to deploy the application into production via an automated live test server that’s accessible to key stakeholders [7].

Obviously, some projects are more difficult than others. Extended projects require adjustments, usually in the course of the development lifecycle and this is where CI aids R Systems in bringing exceptional results faster.

Download our latest “Continuous Integration” whitepaper to deepen best practices methodology for CI and the benefits it delivers, while taking a closer look at R Systems’ practical approach, our experience and conclusions from real-life projects.

[1] Martin Fowler blog, [2] Martin Fowler blog, [3] Paul Jones, Why Coding Standards Matter, [4] Seth Robertson, Blog, [5] John Overbaugh, TechTarget, [6] David Flanders and Malcolm Ramsey, Joint Information Systems Committee, [7] Eric Reiss, Radar

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