What is Continuous Integration?

Discover what Continuous Integration is, why it matters, how it is different from Continuous Delivery and Deployment

The typical steps leading up to, and including, continuous integration, in software development.

What is Continuous Integration?

Continuous Integration (CI) is the method where developers merge changes from the code base to the main branch as often as possible, ideally many times in any given day. These changes are validated by creating a build (artifact) and then running automated tests against the build. If the tests don’t pass, the changes aren’t merged, and developers avoid integration challenges.

Why Does Continuous Integration Matter?

Without the practice of Continuous Integration, organizations incur significant communication overhead, which quickly increases in cost, risk, and complexity as engineering teams and the size of the codebase increases. Non-CI methodology becomes an increasingly difficult exercise in synchronization and adds unnecessary organizational costs to projects. Miscommunication is almost a guarantee if you aren’t practicing CI, and with miscommunication comes costly mistakes.

Without CI, teams have slower code releases with greater failure rates and take up more mental bandwidth across the team due to the risky and manual nature.

Where Does CI Fit into the DevOps Lifecycle?

CI is the system that automates the integration of code modifications from multiple sources into a main branch/central repository of code.

CI is considered to be a best practice of DevOps and is table stakes for any technology organization that wants to be competitive. To remain competitive, engineering teams need to move quickly while simultaneously retaining high-quality standards that can be automatically checked.

While CI doesn’t completely eliminate bugs, it does mean fewer and smaller bugs being shipped to production. With CI, fewer and smaller errors are possible because engineering teams are making more frequent, and therefore smaller, merged changes. Consequently, the development and deployment processes become more consistent and reliable and bugs become much easier to find and remove.

What’s the Difference Between Continuous Integration and Continuous Deployment?

Continuous integration is one step in the development process where code is merged as developers complete it. Then the team can run automated builds and tests. Conversely, Continuous Deployment is the process of automatically moving software that has been built and tested successfully directly into production.

What Are the Benefits of CI?

Just like with Continuous Deployment, CI can make software development faster and easier, while producing higher-quality software for your customers’ experience. Continuous Integration ensures all code commits are automatically integrated into deployable code, and automatically ensures that all test suites that do not require deployment have run and passed. There may be additional manual validation in staging environments before the code is released. Additionally, while the feature has merged successfully, CI does not get the new feature into the hands of a customer immediately as Continuous Deployment does.

Why Choose Continuous Integration?

Continuous Integration produces fewer bugs to be shipped to production because it allows build issues to be caught early and integration issues to be solved before release. Simply put, it’s the automation of builds. If a build doesn’t pass tests, CI stops the build from progressing, and problems are avoided.

Commit. Deploy. Repeat.

Continuous Deployment at any scale, for all developers.