Continuous integration vs. continuous delivery: A quick explainer

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Continuous integration vs. continuous deliveryAs DevOps moves from a trend at born-on-the-web firms to a set of well-accepted best practices, many enterprises are embracing the approach. If you’re only getting started, terms like continuous integration and continuous delivery probably sound a lot alike. There are, however, some big differences that are important to understand.

What is continuous integration?

As the name suggests, continuous integration is a DevOps practice where each developer integrates their work with the main branch code multiple times a day. To ensure high-quality code, continuous integration also uses a build designed to automate testing.

Benefits of continuous integration

Integrating a development teams’ software the traditional way can take hours of painful code fixes that have famously become known as “integration hell.”

By frequently integrating code, continuous integration can not only prevent integration hell but also make software development more agile by helping large teams working on cross-technology components deliver software more easily.

All of this means that continuous integration has the potential to reduce risk and identify issues earlier in the software development lifecycle.

Continuous integration versus continuous delivery

Continuous delivery is another DevOps practice that focuses on delivering any changes to code — updates, bug fixes, even new features — to users as quickly and safely as possible. The idea is to be able release changes on demand at any point in the development lifecycle through a combination of automation and cultural changes.

Continuous integration is an excellent example of a key truism in tech: if it’s painful, do it more often and it won’t hurt. Big integration done infrequently is massively painful, while tiny integration done constantly is painless.

If done properly, it is an essential step toward continuous delivery because it provides a steady stream of new versions of services to deploy, test and release.

Benefits of continuous delivery

Continuous delivery can bring a huge number of benefits, including faster time to market, lower costs, improved products and better cooperation between teams. It has become a “must have” in modern software development.

Moving towards a continuous delivery model is one of the most important pieces of adopting DevOps, but it is not the only piece. DevOps represents larger cultural changes that can impact everything about the way an organization operates. DevOps means changes for people, not only processes.

To learn more about the road to DevOps adoption, download your free copy of DevOps for Dummies.

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