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In days past, there was one sure-fire, always-working plan for building software: start the build, then go get some coffee, or even lunch. Sometimes, building even meant it was time to go home for the day. But in a world now dominated by continuous integration, cloud-based hosting and real-time application monitoring, building and deploying software has become its own discipline.
Credit DevOps. Thanks to the newfound combination of developers and operations teams, building and deploying a critical application can now be a group affair. Or even better, an automated affair. No matter how it has evolved in your organization, build and deploy-time software and tools are key enablers for velocity, and it is velocity that has driven both the agile and DevOps movements.
Anders Wallgren, CTO of Electric Cloud, said that new technologies like cloud hosting and virtualization have allowed the full promise of continuous integration to be realized in ways that weren't possible just five years ago. “A lot of that has to do with virtualized environments. It is, in some ways, harking back to what CI originally wanted to be about, which was just to be continuously ready to ship your product, and always have it ready to go,” he said.
In fact, this newfound focus on the same overall goal could be seen as being the whole reason for the DevOps movement. In days past, operations and development had entirely different goals: Developers were always racing to meet business application needs and repair bugs, while operations was in charge of making sure no one from development (or anywhere else) harmed the integrity of the core systems being hosted. This is why operations, traditionally, acted as the gatekeeper to new servers and application deployment.
Today, however, continuous integration practices dictate that developers focus on adding features as fast as possible, and operations' main job is to maintain the infrastructure that allows developers to create self-service, fast-moving deployments. Everyone is worried about the speed of change, and everyone wants to go faster.
“IT is getting more involved,” said Wallgren. “That depends on how you define IT, but if you think of it as operations, those barriers are getting broken down quite a bit. I think the DevOps movement is doing for development and operations what agile did for development and QA: making them work much more closer together. CI takes down the barrier between development and operations. You don't just chuck the code over the fence, and off they go working on their problem: Everyone is looking at it as one single problem, and you have to work on it together.”
Lothar Schubert, senior director of product marketing at CollabNet, said, “The underpinning of DevOps is continuous integration. CI is not driving the need for DevOps, but it is the underpinning of DevOps. DevOps without continuous integration or continuous deployment is hard to do.”
Laurence Sweeney, vice president of enterprise transformation at CollabNet, said the agile movement pushed developers to go faster, but it’s the technology that has enabled them to deploy every day. “You've got agile, which arguably began in 2000 with the Agile Manifesto formalizing things we did in the late 1990s. As software developers, we went from a point where we were going to be building and releasing once a quarter, to building and releasing once a month. There were teams that thought they were doing well by building once a week, or once a month in some cases.”
But even once a week isn't fast enough for most businesses these days. With business needs changing almost daily, and new products launching all the time, any company could benefit from continuous integration and build. In fact, velocity is so powerful that many companies who implement CI would never be able to return to a waterfall process.
“Continuous integration is one of those things that, when you experience it, you don't want to stop doing it,” said Sweeney. “It really is the only way to build software these days. Most people have internalized the fact that you have to do CI.”