Difference between CI/CD, Agile and DevOps

Shreya Bose, Technical Content Writer at BrowserStack - December 18, 2019

CI/CD, Agile and DevOps are three of the most commonly used terms in software development and testing circles. However, to understand the difference between them, it is best to start with what these terms actually mean.

What is CI/CD?

CI/CD refers to practices for software engineering and deployment.

CI or Continuous Integration is an engineering practice in which members of a development team integrate their code at a very high frequency. Teams implementing CI aim to integrate code daily or, in some cases, even hourly.

Since integration has usually been a time and effort consuming activity, CI tactics depend on automation tools that execute build and testing. The point of CI is to establish a software-defined lifecycle that decreases the effort required for build and integration. Continuous integration also results in the detection of errors in code in the early stages.

CD or Continuous Delivery is the practice of ensuring that code is always in a deployable state. This means that all changes to code – new features, bug fixes, experiments, configuration changes – are always ready for deployment to a production environment.

The point of CD is to make deployments routine events that can occur at any moment on demand. It doesn’t matter if deployment involves a large-scale distributed system, an embedded system, or a complex prod environment.

CD can also mean Continuous Deployment – a practice in which all changes are automatically deployed into production. Unlike Continuous Delivery, there is no final manual approval step before releasing into production.

For both these practices, it is important to have the right CI/CD tools in place. No CI/CD pipeline can work without the optimal tools.

What is Agile?

In software development, the term agile refers to a set of frameworks and practices that follow the principles in the Manifesto for Agile Software Development. It denotes iterative and incremental methods such as Scrum, Kanban, Scaled Agile Framework (SAFe), Lean Development and Extreme Programming (XP).

More than anything else, it seeks to facilitate faster delivery times through intense collaboration, iterative feedback cycles and self-organizing cross-functional teams that focus on specific processes and tools tailored to specific tasks.

Agile development focuses most emphatically on collaboration and self-organization. Teams create solutions together and are, for the most part, cross-functional. This means there is no watertight division between teams. For example, testers are just as involved from the beginning as developers. Additionally, each development sprint takes user feedback into account.Agile testing is ideal for situations in which both business and technical requirements change as the project advances. Since that is how most projects work in the realm of dynamic digital users, agile is one of the most commonly followed development approaches in existence.

What is DevOps?

As agile developers became more effective at writing and pushing code, having a strict distinction between QA and Dev teams proved to be inefficient. To solve this, the DevOps approach was established.

DevOps primarily refers to a mindset that focuses on communication and collaboration between developers and testers. This was necessary because, in non-DevOps setups, devs are often unaware of QA and Ops roadblocks ( “It works fine on my machine”). Moreover, QAs and Ops personnel often lack context on the business requirement of any software since they work across multiple projects.

The point of DevOps is to ensure that developers and QAs are on the same page at all stages of a project. In a non-DevOps setup, devs throw code “over the wall” to QAs. QAs find bugs and bring them to devs to be debugged. Devs blame QAs and the testing environment for the bugs. When bugs are finally resolved, QA throws the code “over the wall” to Ops. Since Ops teams have to limit changes to their system, there is a high possibility of their system crashing when the code is released. Ops blames QAs and devs and the cycle continues.

The solution, as posited by the DevOps set up, is for teams to be cross-functional. Developers and IT and operations work together since collaboration must include everyone with a stake in the software delivery.

Successful DevOps implementation relies heavily on automation. It is of utmost importance to use the right test automation frameworks, established in the right toolchains that will automate large sections of the development and deployment pipeline. However, DevOps is not just about tools. It starts with a change in mindset amongst all parties involved and uses tools to execute that mindset in software creation and testing.

Differences between CI/CD, Agile and DevOps

There are no real differences except the levels at which each term operates.

  • Agile is a large framework that encompasses the other two practices. It is a philosophy of software development that is implemented in various methodologies – Scrum, Kanban, Scaled Agile Framework (SAFe), etc.
  • DevOps is an agile development practice and mindset that uses agile principles (collaboration, communication, utilizing the right tools) to streamline software building, testing, and release.
  • CI/CD is a DevOps tactic, which makes use of the right automated testing tools to implement agile development.

All three practices have the same objective – create better software in lesser time. There is no watertight difference between them since these practices overlap almost all the time. Any developer/QA/Ops who is acquainted with one practice will, almost inevitably, be acquainted with the others.

BrowserStack provides a number of tools that are essential to building a CI/CD and DevOps empowered testing pipeline. Firstly, it provides access to a real device cloud hosting 2000+ real browsers and devices for testing. Secondly, it offers a robust cloud Selenium grid with 99% uptime that enables test automation on the real browsers and devices. Additionally, BrowserStack offers integrations with all major CI/CD tools, thus simplifying testing protocols for QAs and developers alike.

Talk to a Solutions Expert

DevOps and CI/CD are considered two of the most useful and productive software development methods. When implemented accurately, they become instrumental in the creation of software that meets (and exceeds) user expectations every single time.

Source: BrowserStack

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