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DevOps, CI/CD Pipelines and Agile: What unites them?

Global demand for excellence has always driven the software development industry's evolution. Over time, the emergence of Waterfall, Agile, and DevOps methodologies is evidence of this, as development companies constantly adapt their delivery methods to satiate the market.

Right now, the industry is predominantly Agile, but DevOps is catching up fast and becoming the methodology of choice for a lot of companies as they look for ways to speed up the software development process and improve its business outcomes.

Growing DevOps adoption has cleared a path for best practices in software development and delivery methods to enhance the process even further, namely continuous integration, continuous delivery, and continuous deployment.

So, how can companies tell the difference between Devops vs agile and CI/CD, and what does it take to get from one to the other? In this article, we'll attempt to answer these questions, and more.

How Did Agile Emerge in the First Place?

The core idea behind Agile was to break the software development process down into bite-sized jobs, giving teams the ability to work more efficiently and deliver value more regularly—it's all about streamlining processes, improving feedback loops, and driving fast-paced innovation.

While this was great for increasing the efficiency of software development teams, it was usually a different story with testing and deployment. As soon as software hit these parts of the chain, the process would slow down significantly, effectively undoing the speedy delivery of the Agile team.

As new automation technologies and streamlining processes began to crop up (particularly continuous integration), this bottleneck got even worse, with a growing stream of releases putting more strain on operations and testing teams.

Once companies began to realize that the entire software development lifecycle was best addressed as a single process—much of which could be automated—the idea arose to break down the silos stalling the process and merge development teams with operations, which brings us to the emergence of DevOps. 

[Related Topics: Adopting Devops | Fail Fast and Try Again]

So, DevOps is Really an Evolution of Agile?

To a certain extent! Like we said at the beginning, demand for excellence drives evolution in the software development industry. As demand for software increased and organizations began to realize the value of their Agile initiatives, the logical response was to unblock anything that held up the process of speedy delivery, and ultimately business value.

Where Does CI/CD Fit Into This Evolution?

Let's start with continuous integration as its roots are in Agile. CI is a practice of integrating code into a shared repository at regular intervals, usually a few times a day. It allows developers to detect integration bugs quickly before the code reaches production, as well as giving testers a chance to check for functionality issues.

Continuous delivery is the implementation process of choice for DevOps teams because it involves automating the software delivery process into production. CD happens right after CI and involves ensuring that integrated changes and features are bug-free before automatically moving the code into a live environment.

Finally, you have continuous deployment (another CD), which is the pinnacle of the automated software development process. With CD, each new build is automatically deployed whenever any significant changes are made to the code. CD removes the need for any manual intervention after the initial writing of the code and before its delivery into production.

These three stages are important contributors to the success and advancement of DevOps methodologies and the breaking down of silos. They allow for simultaneous testing, faster feedback loops, greater transparency into test results, and early bug detection, essentially speeding up the software delivery process while improving the quality of the end product.

How Do We Get from Agile to DevOps to CI/CD? 

Many clients, even many software development practitioners, find it difficult to gauge whether DevOps is simply a fad or whether it's truly useful in developing more relevant software in less time and with less money. To be honest, the same was true with Agile, and that has been hugely impactful on the way companies approach software development.

Even so, the decision to adopt DevOps or implement CI/CD really comes down to the business's needs and objectives. For instance, with continuous deployment, the act of automatically sending tested code to production might not be right for every company. If it's important that engineers have the final say on whether or not the code is ready to be deployed, it's best to stick with continuous delivery.

The most logical course of action, if coming from an Agile-only environment, is to start by incorporating continuous integration into the pipeline. As your agile team begins to improve its efficiency and capacity for delivering new iterations, look out for bottlenecks further downstream, particularly with the operations team. 

If operations are struggling to keep up with the development team, it's a great time to break down each of their silos and implement DevOps. We've written about the common barriers to DevOps adoption in the past, as well as how to overcome them. Read all about it here.

Once the teams are functioning successfully within a DevOps culture, it becomes easier to introduce continuous delivery tools and ramp up automation throughout the pipeline. With CI already in place, the implementation of CD will generate positive results much faster.

Again, it all comes down to whether or not your business really needs DevOps and the CI/CD pipeline, so be sure to measure the necessity and the value before "fixing" a team or process that wasn't broken in the first place. 

While programming languages are fairly standard across the board, software development methodologies like Agile and DevOps can be riddled with complexities, but they're just as vital to grasp as the coding itself.

There are many software development groups out there that hire great engineers to produce solid architecture, yet fail miserably at deploying high-quality products, on time, with the right functionality, all within a reasonable cost.

At PSL, we believe a project's success hinges on its method and coordination—that is what truly defines whether it sinks or swims. Our mastery of Agile, DevOps, and CI/CD pipelines enables us to consistently produce high-quality enterprise applications quickly, efficiently, and to a world-class standard.

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