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A brief overview of Continuous Integration

 Matthew House   
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Continuous Integration (CI) is a software development practice, which insures that changes to a project’s code base are built, tested, reported on, and rapidly made available to all parties after they are introduced. This framework frees developers from having to constantly create new builds for the Test and QA groups. Each subsequent build is established and promoted, then downloaded automatically for testing.

Continuous Integration has many advantages for software development companies and is useful for seamless, efficient, and cost effective software production. CI is relatively easy to integrate into an existing development environment and provides the development team with a high impact environment upgrade with minimal maintenance.

CI improves the efficiency and of the production team and keeps production running smoothly in several ways:

  • This process guarantees successfully compiled software, as each change is tested, reported on, and tracked for problems.
  • The production team is able to rapidly identify bugs or quickly push high quality change updates to testing, thus reducing development integration effort.
  • It improves development standards, consistencies and accountability by identifying who created bugs in the code and where they are, and helps to increase the amount of quality code produced by the team.

CI offers monetary benefits as well:

  • It can dramatically increase ROI because the efficiency of the entire production cycle is increased, meaning software production organizations pay less for time spent on development, for the same high quality products.
  • CI offers a low Total Cost of Ownership (TCO).

Perhaps the greatest advantage of Continuous Integration is that there really are no disadvantages. There is a cost for the hardware, software and the staff time needed to build the CI environment, but once it is ready, CI is well worth it.

A properly implemented CI process only has to be written once, and then tweaked a little over time, and it greatly reduces the time team members spend performing low-value tasks such as building, running unit tests and analyzing code, while increasing the quality of the finished product.

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