6 Sure Benefits of a Robust Continuous Integration with GitLab

4 min read

Continuous Integration (CI) and Continuous Deployment (CD) are the development practices that replace the manual code-writing job through automated builds and tests. If done right, CI and CD dramatically reduce the code release times.

GitLab keeps CI and CD fundamentals in one environment without switching between various tools in the long building, testing, and product deployment chain.

Let’s figure out what is CI and CD

Continuous Integration (CI) and Continuous Delivery (CD) are principles and practices that enable developers to deploy software changes more frequently and reliably. CI/CD is one of the DevOps practices. It is also regarded as an agile practice. 

We expedited the development process four times, which you can find in one of our previous publications

Continuous Integration brings minor changes to the code with frequent commits. Since now most applications are developed using various platforms and tools, there must be a single point to take a record of all of them. It is called an integration mechanism. 

From a technical standpoint, the goal of CI is to provide a consistent and automated way to build, wrap and test applications. With a well-established CI, developers are more likely to contribute frequent commits, which in turn will improve communication and software quality. Most teams stick to the rule of making git commits at least daily. Minor changes make it easier to identify defects and various problems. Also, short commit cycles don’t let developers change the same code. 

CI not only wraps all software components and databases but also automatically performs unit tests and other types of testing. Such testing allows developers to ensure these changes have not broken anything. 

Continuous Deployment delivers the artifact to the environment, such as QA, staging, or production. Continuous Deployment implies that all pipeline steps are automatic without the manual intervention of DevOps. 

Why choose GitLab as a CI/CD platform?

Let’s first dig into CI/CD tools to answer this question. The main task of the CI/CD tool is to coordinate the activities of many systems: version control systems, build tools, automated testing frameworks, dependency managers, bug trackers, and containerization platforms. 

Each tool has its purposes and specifications. So, to ensure a smooth CI/CD process, teams add various tools to the pipeline that close our tasks one by one. For example, SonarQube is utilized for test coverage; Docker is used to build a Docker image, etc. These tools cover a specific part of the CI/CD process. 

GitLab CI was one of the first platforms that approached an “All-in-One” principle. GitLab CI is not just a repository of source code but a full-fledged DevOps platform where you can manage projects with tasks and boards, monitor environments’ statuses, store all kinds of artifacts, use an integrated storage container, and much more. 

Due to its stability, accessibility, and strong community support, GitLab CI has become one of the significant tools supporting continuous methodologies. The platform has undergone many updates to transform into a flexible, feature-rich CI system that facilitates a consistent CI/CD pipeline. Another benefit of using GitLab is that it can be installed locally and in the cloud.

Benefits of using CI/CD

(1) By bringing automation now, you ensure further development through process automation. 

If processes are automated, a project can quickly and seamlessly scale up. If automation is not a priority from the beginning, it will become a hindrance as the project progresses.

(2) CI/CD helps to reduce Lead Time, enhance stability, increase the speed of releases, and achieve more transparency

One of the primary reasons businesses implement CI/CD is the possibility of cutting Lead Time. This crucial metric describes the time from ideation to the final delivery and readiness of the product. CI/CD helps reduce Lead Time, enhance the stability and speed of releases, and achieve overall project transparency by visualizing the flow.

(3) Reduced risk of bugs

The approach eliminates some errors on the way to production. The price of mistakes in the code is high, and often, they are caused by a human factor. Manual testing scenarios require a lot of repetition and heightened concentration. Even the most responsible QA can get distracted and repeat the same steps with a slight difference. The central part of any CI/CD pipeline is a set of automated tests. Test automation ensures that tests are accurate and the results are reliable.

The continuous methods also allow for faster bug rectification. CI/CD keeps a history of builds over some time. If necessary, one can see when a specific change took place and roll it back. The earlier a bug is discovered, the cheaper it is to fix it. Firstly, a developer is still working on the same part of the code and does not need to switch between contexts, so changes are done on the fly. Secondly, the code forks haven’t become a part of new releases, and you do not have to edit the same bug in several places.

(4) Improved code quality

CI/CD automates the launch of many test routines, such as unit testing and integration testing. This advantage allows developers to focus on programming and code rather than wasting time analyzing incidents and their causes. 

(5) Bridges the gap between development and operations

CI/CD is a single point of communication, bringing together software development and integration. Through the CI/CD, you achieve transparency in the development process and collaboration of specialists engaged in product development.

(6) Increased feature velocity

New features are released faster because the workflow happens in a single and simple interface while all development teams work on different parts of the project simultaneously. Each team builds and deploys the part of services it owns without interfering with the work of other groups.


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Solving the problems above, CI/CD streamlines the workflow and communication between the business and IT parts. A CI/CD pipeline makes the software development and release process more efficient and understandable.

Configuring GitLab Pipelines for Automated Testing

GitLab pipelines enable teams to automate the build, test, and deployment processes. Pipelines are defined in a YAML file, which specifies the tasks to be executed and the order in which they should be performed. Here’s an example of a simple pipeline for NodeJS application that includes unit tests, integration tests, and code coverage reporting:

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In this pipeline, the build stage installs the necessary dependencies and builds the application. The test stage runs both unit tests and integration tests. The coverage option specifies a regular expression that matches the code coverage report generated by the tests. Finally, the deploy stage deploys the application to a staging environment.

Automated Deployment Processes

Automated deployment processes are another critical component of CI/CD. GitLab provides several application deployment options, including Kubernetes, AWS, and Heroku. Here’s an example of a simple deployment process using Kubernetes:

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In this example, the deploy stage uses the docker image to deploy the application using Kubernetes. The image option specifies the Docker image for running the deployment script. The script option specifies the commands to be executed during the deployment process. Finally, the environment option specifies the name and URL of the staging environment.

Best Practices for Ensuring Code Quality

Ensuring code quality is essential for achieving reliable and bug-free software releases. Here are some best practices for ensuring code quality using GitLab’s CI/CD capabilities:

  • Maximize test coverage: Use automated testing to achieve maximum test coverage and reduce the risk of bugs and other issues. This step involves implementing unit tests, integration tests, and regression tests.
  • Streamline the release cycle: Use GitLab‘s CI/CD capabilities to streamline the release cycle and achieve faster, more reliable software releases. This stage implies automating the build, test, and deployment processes and ensuring all team members work on the same codebase.
  • Ensure code consistency: Use code linting and formatting tools to ensure code consistency and reduce the risk of bugs and other issues. Teams usually use tools such as ESLint, Prettier, and RuboCop to enforce code style and formatting standards at this step.
  • Implement code reviews: Use code reviews to ensure that code changes are thoroughly reviewed and validated. To implement the code review, use GitLab’s merge request functionality and collect feedback from other team members. This ensures that code changes meet the team’s standards.

Conclusion

It is essential to understand that implementing CI/CD practices does not provide immediate tangible results. However, they push businesses to grow and develop faster through process automation in the long run. At the same time, CI/CD methods require professional support throughout the entire process.

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