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Tips for Choosing the Right CI/CD Tools


CI/CD enables DevOps teams to go from development to production while tackling unexpected glitches. But, choosing the right CI/CD tool is always a challenge. In this blog, we have covered the tips that will help you select the right CI/CD tool for your team.

A few years ago, it was nearly impossible to find a software development shop that wasn't deploying their code using some sort of Continuous Integration and Continuous Delivery (CI/CD) tool. The benefits of CI are clear: with automated testing in place, new builds can always be tested and deployed quickly. This means you need less time for manual QA and can roll out updates faster without breaking anything too badly.

But now, according to recent research by Gartner, "the percentage of organizations not using CI has grown from 8% to 10%, while 31% have scaled back on the use of CI because they feel that it is no longer relevant." What gave? According to Forrester's analysis, there are three main reasons for this: The impact of deployments are underestimated and cannot be predicted for all applications.

This is a problem when the deployment-related work (and side effects) need to be planned during off-hours or on weekends. Under these conditions, most engineers would rather just not bother with it at all if they can avoid it. The solution often given by CI/CD systems is "You don't have to worry about any of that if you really don't want to!"

This leads us directly into our second problem: CI/CD tools fail to support nonfunctional requirements such as security, performance and risk management.

In other words, your developers aren't so much rejecting the concept of automated tests but rather objecting to being forced to use the same tools that QA will be using for their testing, full stop. What's worse is you can't really blame them either: let's say you're developing a messaging system – how on earth do all your tests contribute to security or performance?

CI/CD tools don't have the ability to customize and extend their capabilities. What happens when half of your team uses one CI tool while the other half another? Naturally, those two teams are going to have plenty of trouble with communication and sharing ideas; this also significantly increases error rates.

And if there were improvements that could benefit both groups, would they ever know about it? The increase in integration complexity isn't worth it simply for having automated tests.

1. Prioritize your Needs

Take a good look at the needs and goals of your organization. What are you trying to improve? Ideally, try to see how each tool measures up in terms of features that address those goals. For example, if one CI/CD system has better test definition tools while another is better at build customization or easier to scale horizontally, then you'll need to decide which feature is more important to you.

2. Find An Open-Source Solution

Many companies today are turning to open-source solutions for their software development needs; after all, they're less expensive, more flexible and in many cases just as good (if not better) than their proprietary competitors. There's also a chance that someone out there has already made the scripts or plugins you need; if so, then find them first before considering either buying another solution or trying to create it yourself – odds are pretty high somebody else has gone through the exact same process before you!

Also remember that if you choose to go down this route, you'll need to know exactly what your scripting language and the underlying libraries are capable of. This isn't as hard as it sounds; start with a list of all the plugins and extensions that you think might be useful. If there's anything that looks remotely applicable to your project, add it.

And then get your hands dirty – try making an example plugin or setting up an instance of the application locally (don't forget to test on different operating systems) so you have some idea how everything works before going through with any commitments on commercial solutions that may end up being too difficult for you to work with.

3. Find Your "Sweet Spot" for What Tools to Pick

Some organizations use many different kinds of tools – some specifically designed for CI/CD while others were not made with such tasks in mind; that is why some people are suggesting using throwaway test frameworks so they can get started immediately without having to worry about all the complexities involved with setting up a really good CI/CD environment.

For example, there are many different tools to choose from in the market today. The question is where you should start with your automation project. If you're starting off with a brand new application that has never been tested before, it would make more sense for you to build up the test framework first and then move on towards automating your deployment processes (which might happen later down the road). This will allow you to get an early handle on how well-automated testing can help your team improve their development practices.

4. Start With Small Tasks and Problems First

Once your developers have found themselves in pain points when working together, it's time to see which of those problems will be easy to solve quickly with the tools you have.

Setting up CI/CD is not only about tool selection. You also need a good strategy and everything should work together seamlessly. It might take time, but making sure all these different components are configured properly from the start will make it easier for you in the long run, especially when scaling horizontally becomes a priority for your team.

5. Choose Tools That Scale Easily (Horizontally)

One of the biggest challenges with setting up CI/CD pipelines is ensuring that they can scale as more and more developers or QA members join your team. There's many ways to do this depending on what kind of hosting solution you're going with; if your company already has its own dedicated on-premise machines available, it would be easy to handle scaling scenarios effectively by putting in more servers as needed.

6. Setting Up CI/CD Is Never Complete

It's not enough just to have the controls in place. You also need a good reason behind having them – that is, you need to constantly educate your team about why they're important and actually use them whenever possible. It will take time before everyone can adjust their behavior accordingly; hence the importance of setting up CI/CD tools in small steps while making sure they all work well together.

It's not easy to have everything set up and ready for use in a single day but that is what it takes if you want your teams to be as productive as possible. The first thing you need to do, however, is establish good communication with your team members; make sure everyone knows who will handle which project (and how) from the very start.

7. Don't Forget About Security Controls

Just because most of the CI/CD tools available today are open source doesn't mean they aren't secure enough for professional use. In fact, some of them even come with security controls built-in so you have less work to do on your end when developing or deploying new applications.

If there aren't any specific security controls available yet, you can still help your team transition towards CI/CD processes by making sure everyone knows how to protect their machines – and each other's – from malicious attacks or other forms of security breaches.

For example: If you're working on a new backend server, make sure it only gets access to databases relevant for its tasks as well as any services that it might need. Other than that, there are also instructions available online in the form of tutorials if you get stuck at some point.

8. Practice Makes Perfect

Creating good automation frameworks doesn't happen overnight. And even when they do work correctly for some time, there may be unforeseen problems such as failures during deployments (and so on) that could leave all your work in peril if you're not careful enough. Don't be afraid to practice, practice and then practice some more.

9. Give Your Bugs a Home

Everybody makes mistakes – especially developers and QA engineers who are new to the CI/CD processes. It's important for them to have a place where they can submit all their bugs so that other members of your team can come up with solutions (and patches) accordingly. This allows your company's development efforts to go smoothly without causing too much disruption along the way. There is also specific software available on the Internet that helps you handle bug tracking automatically; it even integrates well into many existing control framework tools such as Travis CI or CircleCI.

10. Have an On-Site Mentor

Confidence is good. Overconfidence, however, can lead to nothing but trouble down the line when it comes to CI/CD automation. That's why you want to have an on-site mentor – someone who can guide your team effectively through each and every step of the process. Having someone from outside your company with a fresh perspective will also help push things forward if you find yourself stuck or overwhelmed by technical challenges at any point along the way. This may seem like overkill for smaller teams working on projects that aren't too complicated but trust us: You'll be glad it's there when you need it most.

11. You Don't Need Perfection Right Away

It's important not to rush into anything and end up with a bad quality product. Start off by automating the most important parts of your development process; then, slowly but surely, you can start moving on to more complicated components. Doing this will allow you to learn from your mistakes as well as build up confidence in newer CI/CD tools while also helping them do their job properly.

12. Keep Your Eye on the Prize

It may be tempting at some point to automate certain things that seem like it would help streamline your processes further. But doing this without first assessing whether or not they're actually necessary for all projects (or even just one) – and, worse yet, making sure they work correctly with all CI/CD tools involved – isn't a great idea. Again, you don't want to jeopardize your team's work nor do you want to waste time and effort on things that may not matter in the end.

13. Communicate With Your team Thoroughly

Now it's time to take a step back and evaluate what went right (and wrong) throughout your entire CI/CD automation process. Make sure everyone is clear about their job responsibilities and respective roles – including both individuals who are new to the team and those who have been with your company for some time already. This should ensure that there aren't any communication or leadership problems in the future when it comes down to deploying new software applications. Again, make sure that there's always someone ready to provide guidance as needed and you should be good to go.

14. Keep Your Framework Up-To-Date

Finally, don't forget to update your CI/CD framework from time to time. How often you do it will depend on how frequently new software updates are released; but needless to say, the faster the update cycle, the more important it is for you to keep pace. Even doing this once every six months or so should work well enough. You'll also want to make sure that everyone knows about these changes (or at least those who are directly involved); otherwise, they might not know what they're supposed to do when things break down somewhere along the line.

CI/CD tools can be a daunting task to choose from. There are plenty of different options, so it's important that you consider your needs and the capabilities of each CI/CD tool before making any final decisions. This article will provide you with some tips for choosing the right CI/CD tools which should help cut down on time spent researching various products, allowing you to focus instead on how best to use these tools in order to automate development efforts without sacrificing quality or efficiency.

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Squadcast is a cloud-based software designed around Site Reliability Engineering (SRE) practices with best-of-breed Incident Management & On-call Scheduling capabilities.
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