What is Continuous Integration?
April 1, 2020

What Is Continuous Integration? CI Overview

CI/CD
Static Analysis

Continuous Integration is an important process to streamline software development. The processes used by your team have a direct impact on the efficiency of your software development workflow. 

In this blog, we explain what is Continuous Integration (CI), how continuous integration works, and how to successfully implement it.

Read along or jump ahead to the section that interests you the most:

What Is Continuous Integration?

Continuous Integration (CI) is the practice of automating the build and testing of code every time a change is made — and committing that code back to a central repository.

Continuous integration encourages breaking up development tasks into small bite-sized pieces that can be performed frequently by every developer on the team.

Each new code commit triggers a consistent, automated build and test process — often called a “pipeline” — to report any defects found during compilation or testing as quickly as possible. CI is one of the key components of DevOps automation.

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What Are the Benefits of Continuous Integration?

The benefits of CI are:

Making it Easier to Fix Bugs

Identifying issues sooner makes it easier for developers to fix errors, vulnerabilities, and defects in the code. What’s more, this helps to ensure that an issue will be fixed correctly. This results in a build that’s issue-free and working as quickly as possible. 

Reducing Project Risk

Encouraging small, modular changes to the code enables new functionality to be backed out of a release more quickly. You can even prevent it from entering the main code stream altogether. This minimizes the impact on other developers.

Improving Software Quality

Maximizing the value of CI means detecting as many issues as possible in each integration build, through automation. This increases the breadth, depth, and repeatability of the tests while avoiding manual testing.

Increasing Productivity

Automating these tasks frees up developers to focus on higher-value feature development.

What Is the Difference Between Continuous Integration and Continuous Delivery?

Continuous integration (CI) and continuous delivery (CD) are both software development practices. Having an effective CI/CD process is important.

While CI is used during the build and test phase, CD is used once changes are committed. The ultimate aim of CD is to always have validated and verified code in the code repository — or version control system — ready for release. 

Why Is Continuous Integration Important?

CI accelerates software development to avoid these common pitfalls of development:

  • Frequent code integration helps to eliminate code conflicts and code incompatibility.
  • Developers are encouraged to have the most up-to-date repository code when working.
  • Reduces the refactoring complexity.
  • Helps to identify issues, such as memory leaks.
  • Quality gates ensure only clean, working, and tested code makes it to the repository.
  • Reduces repository commit bottlenecks.

With a CI pipeline, every change is integrated, tested, and verified. This brings the commit closer to being a viable release candidate.

How Does Static Analysis Extend Continuous Integration?

Static code analysis is a natural addition to any continuous integration development process. A static analysis tool provides almost immediate feedback of new coding issues. These can be specific to the branch or commit containing them. You'll be able to use quality gates to prevent those issues from ever entering the main codestream — where they would need to be resolved later. This improves development efficiency.

Static analysis complements other verification and validation techniques, such as dynamic testing, because:

  • Static analysis provides coverage of all possible execution paths. 
  • Static analysis is very cost-efficient in terms of detecting bugs earlier in the lifecycle. It requires much less time to run.
  • Issues detected with static analysis, prior to dynamic tests being written, also saves downstream costs of rework. Most dynamic tests are quite dependent on the code itself. A change has an impact also on the tests.

The ideal static analysis tool for continuous integration:

  1. Processes only modified code and affected execution paths, rather than processing the entire codebase all the time.
  2. Reports the impact of those changes.

Static code analysis operates on source code and doesn’t have to actually execute the code. So, it can perform a complete analysis of the submitted code changes in a specific time frame. In addition, static code analysis doesn’t require specific test cases to be written.

To be effective in complementing continuous integration, a static code analysis tool must be fast, scalable, and automated.

How Klocwork Complements Continuous Integration

Klocwork for C, C++, C#, Java, and JavaScript integrates with build systems and continuous integration environments along with its unique differential analysis technology provides the fastest analysis results for CI pipelines. Learn more about how Klocwork can help. Sign up for our next live demo to see for yourself.

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