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How to Create DevOps Pipelines That Work

DevOpsDevOps is a software development practice that combines development and operations teams. When organizations use DevOps, they typically also use agile methodologies for managing and completing projects. The combination of DevOps and agile practices enables teams to build software faster and more efficiently. 

One of the primary tools of DevOps is the continuous integration/continuous delivery (CI/CD) pipeline. This pipeline is made of a variety of tooling, used to streamline and standardize development processes through automation. In this article, you’ll learn how to create CI/CD pipelines, and how to use your CI/CD pipeline in a DevOps environment. 

Benefits of Implementing CI/CD

CI/CD pipelines enable DevOps teams to produce and deliver software more reliably and quickly than is possible with traditional workflows. These tools handle the repetitive, tedious tasks involved in development and enable developers to focus on producing high-quality code.

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There are several benefits of using CI/CD pipelines, including:

  • Faster feedback—whenever code is submitted for inclusion in the codebase, it is automatically tested for compatibility and quality. Any issues that are found are immediately reported back to the developer so they can fix their code.
  • Greater visibility—pipelines are continuously monitored and events logged. This enables DevOps teams to analyze functioning and productivity and to identify any issues or conflicts that may occur.
  • Early bug detection—new code is submitted frequently and tested immediately. This makes it easier and faster to test and helps identify bugs earlier in the process. When bugs are found early on, developers can fix issues before code is integrated, becoming harder to correct. 

Four Stages of a CI/CD Pipeline 

You can build CI/CD pipelines using a variety of tools and including a variety of processes, but all pipelines include the same basic stages:

1. Commit

During the commit stage, new code is submitted to your version control system. Unit and sanity tests are performed on code and feedback is provided for any issues found.

2. Build

Provided code passes the tests run in the commit phase, it is passed to the build phase. In this phase, compatibility is tested and passing code is incorporated into the codebase and built so functionality can be tested.

3. Test

Once code is built, it is deployed to test environments and run through a series of tests verifying security, performance, and usability. As long as all automated tests pass successfully, builds are also typically manually checked for user experience or functionality issues.

4. Deliver/Deploy

Passing builds are delivered to pre-production, pending manual deployment, or are deployed directly to production. Your codebase is also updated to reflect the new base from which developers need to work. 

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How to Implement Your DevOps Pipeline Successfully

Successfully building a pipeline requires the right tools and an understanding of how to best organize and automate your workflows. It is not something that can be created once and then ignored. Rather, you should test and refine your pipeline as you go. The following best practices can help you with this refinement.

Develop a Clear DevOps Strategy

If you are newly implementing DevOps, you need to clearly define your goals, resources, and limitations. DevOps requires a significant cultural and process shift from traditional methods and is likely to fail if you don’t plan thoroughly. 

You need to get feedback from both your development and operations teams to understand what tools and processes they are already using. This will help you determine what can be automated in a pipeline and how. You also need to help teams understand each other’s workflows and gain their agreement to work collaboratively. If teams do not work together, you cannot work efficiently or effectively.

Do Continuous Everything

Continuous processes are the basis of successful DevOps. These processes require teams to break work into manageable chunks to be processed iteratively. This ensures that work is not wasted or duplicated as everyone is working from the same codebase at all times. 

Continuous processes also ensure that software is readily available for release. This helps ensure that customers get new features and updates as quickly as possible. Since the goal in DevOps is quick release, a typical pipeline doesn’t include security. However, if you want to protect your users you can introduce continuous security measures like EDR cyber security.

Monitor Your Pipelines

Once your pipeline is in place, you should monitor and evaluate it consistently. Monitoring ensures that your scripts and tools are operating as expected and helps you identify areas where you can improve performance. You should find it insightful to create and track metrics for your pipeline.

Some useful metrics include:

  • Deployment frequency—the number of deployments in a given period.
  • Change lead time—the amount of time it takes between when a change is planned and completed.
  • Mean time to recovery (MTTR)—the average amount of time it takes to restore your application after failure.
  • Change fail rate—the number of times that changes cause a deployment failure compared to the total number of deployments.

Use Microservices

You can apply microservices in your pipeline and to your development methods. Using microservices in your tooling helps you ensure that pipelines stay available and active. These services can also be easier to swap out when you want to change or update tooling. This makes your pipeline more agile and scalable.

Using microservices in your development means creating applications composed of microservices. Developing applications as sets of microservices can enable you to make more flexible applications. It also enables you to make applications more quickly since you can reuse services in multiple applications.

Pause Between Deployments and Releases

You may benefit from adding a manual step between your deployment and release stages. Deployment is when a build is pushed to an environment, such as pre-production or production. A release is when it is made available to your users.

Adding a pause enables you to perform additional testing, to space releases according to need, or to get customer approval. It also provides greater control over deployments. For example, enabling you to manually specify how traffic is shifted in blue-green deployments. 

Conclusion

A DevOps pipeline should be designed in a continual loop that promotes collaboration and fast product release. The CI/CD pipeline is a popular model for DevOps due to the importance it places on automation, which delegates repetitive tasks to the machine. However, automation does not take care of all the work, so be sure to design a DevOps pipeline that suits the needs and skillsets of key team members, if not all. 

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