Over the years as the demand for delivering higher quality software at a quicker rate has increased, the employment of continuous integration/continuous delivery (CI/CD) practises has risen sharply. Delivering changes quickly and efficiently is important whether you are an enterprise or a small/medium-sized business.
CI/CD brings automation into your workflow reducing deployment timelines significantly. Previously you could expect to deliver software updates in monthly or quarterly releases whereas now with the rise of CI/CD, daily and weekly releases are the norm. Although incorporating CI/CD pipelines may mean a major reform to previous development practises and working habits which may make you apprehensive of incorporating them, the benefits outweigh the costs. In the long-run, employing CI/CD pipelines provides the potential of increasing revenue.
Whilst the choice to incorporate CI/CD pipelines seems a straightforward decision, the choice of which CI/CD tooling brings up other issues for consideration. When it comes to choosing the right CI/CD tooling for your business you need to account for: budget, team expertise and deployment timelines.
Two tooling categories
Tooling is split into two categories. The first is managed CI/CD services which are accessed through a provider and the second is the self-managed route where you set up the CI/CD services and manage them yourself.
With the rise of cloud and managed solutions, there is a growing trend of shifting the burden of infrastructure management away from your business. There are a number of providers who provide managed CI/CD services, for example, the cloud native Circle CI as well as the major cloud providers offering their own managed CI/CD services.
On the self-hosted side, there are numerous tools with the popular ones being TeamCity and Jenkins.
Depending on various factors that can constrain your business the choice of CI/CD tooling can have a significant impact. If abiding by strict timelines is a key priority then opting for managed CI/CD services can help you meet your objectives. This is because managed services eliminates the burden of infrastructure management from your team allowing them to focus elsewhere. This can shorten the timeline for deployment and help to implement changes quickly.
If your business is sensitive to downtime and delays, then opting for self-hosting CI/CD systems may not be a viable option. Self-hosting means you are responsible for server maintenance, if the servers go down it delays the rollout of new features. Experiencing prolonged downtime can affect team productivity and negatively impact your business.
Security is integral to any business which may make you apprehensive of using managed CI/CD services. Outsourcing your security responsibilities to a third party can be seen as a potential risk. The third-party provider will have access to your codebase which can introduce a slew of vulnerabilities. Other security risks include reliance on the provider to patch high-risk vulnerabilities in order to protect work.
Outsourcing security requires a high level of trust in your provider as you are limited in implementing your own security mechanisms unless it is supported by the provider. By self-hosting your CI/CD services you have full control of the security mechanisms that are put in place and will require in-house expertise from your team.
Onto the issue of cost, which is one of the biggest factors that sways a business’s decision to either opt for self-hosted or managed CI/CD services. A managed CI/CD service can cost more since you are hiring an external organisation to take care of some of the CI/CD work for you, even if your project scales down at some point. If you do not ever anticipate your project growing in size and you already have a team in place that has the required expertise to carry out the CI/CD work then opting for managed CI/CD services may not be a feasible solution.
However, if you envisage your project growing then a managed CI/CD service can end up being the cheaper option. This is because as your project grows you will need to scale-up the internal team that is responsible for the testing and deployment which increases costs. This also brings opportunity costs which could affect the business in the long run as these individuals will be focusing on managing your CI/CD systems instead of working on product features that could add value to the business. These factors coupled with the more attractive pricing that some providers offer for managed CI/CD services means most businesses choose managed CI/CD services.
Previously, incorporating CI/CD pipelines into your workflows meant you had to self-install and manage a CI/CD server such as Jenkins. With the growing trend of managed solutions and the number of options available out there for managed CI/CD solutions, businesses are being relieved of the pains that come with managing self-hosted CI/CD servers.
A recent survey found that 58% of respondents were using continuous integration, with that figure being much lower for smaller companies. This could be due to the time and expertise required to employ CI/CD pipelines which smaller companies just don’t have. This is just one of the scenarios where managed CI/CD providers can help. In the future as the competition for managed CI/CD providers increases and the cost decreases their appeal will grow for smaller companies too.
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