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Continuous Integration: Improving Software Quality and Reducing Risk [Paperback]

Paul M. Duvall , Steve Matyas , Andrew Glover
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Product Description

About the Author

Paul Duvall is the CEO of Stelligent, a firm that helps clients create production-ready software every day. A featured speaker at many leading software conferences, he has worked in virtually every role on software projects: developer, project manager, architect, and tester. He is the principal author of Continuous Integration: Improving Software Quality and Reducing Risk (Addison-Wesley, 2007), a 2008 Jolt Award Winner. Paul contributed to the UML 2 Toolkit (Wiley, 2003), writes a series for IBM developerWorks called Automation for the people, and contributed a chapter to No Fluff Just Stuff Anthology: The 2007 Edition (Pragmatic Programmers, 2007). He is passionate about automating software development and release processes and actively blogs on IntegrateButton.com and TestEarly.com.

Stephen M. Matyas III is vice president of AutomateIT, a service branch of 5AM Solutions. He has a varied background in applied software engineering, with much of his professional, hands-on experience being in the areas of enterprise Java and custom software development and services.

Andrew Glover, president of Stelligent Incorporated, is a frequent speaker at conferences throughout North America, as well as author and coauthor of many books and online articles.

Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.

Early in my career, I saw a full-page advertisement in a magazine that showed one keyboard key, similar to the Enter key, labeled with the word “Integrate.” The text below the key read, “If only it were this easy.” I am not sure who or what this ad was for, but it struck a chord with me. In considering software development, I thought, surely that would never be achievable because, on my project, we spent several days in “integration hell” attempting to cobble together the myriad software components at the end of most project milestones. But I liked the concept, so I cut out the ad and hung it on my wall. To me, it represented one of my chief goals in being an efficient software developer: to automate repetitive and error-prone processes. Furthermore, it embodied my belief in making software integration a “nonevent” (as Martin Fowler has called this) on a project—something that just happens as a matter of course. Continuous Integration (CI) can help make integration a nonevent on your project.

What Is This Book About?

Consider some of the more typical development processes on a software project: Code is compiled, and data is defined and manipulated via a database; testing occurs, code is reviewed, and ultimately, software is deployed. In addition, teams almost certainly need to communicate with one another regarding the status of the software. Imagine if you could perform these processes at the press of a single button.

This book demonstrates how to create a virtual Integrate button to automate many software development processes. What’s more, we describe how this Integrate button can be pressed continuously to reduce the risks that prevent you from creating deployable applications, such as the late discovery of defects and low-quality code. In creating a CI system, many of these processes are automated, and they run every time the software under development is changed.

What Is Continuous Integration?

The process of integrating software is not a new problem. Software integration may not be as much of an issue on a one-person project with few external system dependencies, but as the complexity of a project increases (even just adding one more person), there is a greater need to integrate and ensure that software components work together—early and often. Waiting until the end of a project to integrate leads to all sorts of software quality problems, which are costly and often lead to project delays. CI addresses these risks faster and in smaller increments.

In his popular “Continuous Integration” article, 1 Martin Fowler describes CI as:

. . . a software development practice where members of a team integrate their work frequently, usually each person integrates at least daily—leading to multiple integrations per day. Each integration is verified by an automated build (including test) to detect integration errors as quickly as possible. Many teams find that this approach leads to significantly reduced integration problems and allows a team to develop cohesive software more rapidly.

In my experience, this means that:

  • All developers run private builds 2 on their own workstations before committing their code to the version control repository to ensure that their changes don’t break the integration build.
  • Developers commit their code to a version control repository at least once a day.
  • Integration builds occur several times a day on a separate build machine.
  • 100% of tests must pass for every build.
  • A product is generated (e.g., WAR, assembly, executable, etc.) that can be functionally tested.
  • Fixing broken builds is of the highest priority.
  • Some developers review reports generated by the build, such as coding standards and dependency analysis reports, to seek areas for improvement.

This book discusses the automated aspects of CI because of the many benefits you receive from automating repetitive and error-prone processes; however, as Fowler identifies, CI is the process of integrating work frequently—and this need not be an automated process to qualify. We clearly believe that since there are many great tools that support CI as an automated process, using a CI server to automate your CI practices is an effective approach. Nevertheless, a manual approach to integration (using an automated build) may work well with your team.

Rapid Feedback
Continuous Integration increases your opportunities for feedback. Through it, you learn the state of the project several times a day. CI can be used to reduce the time between when a defect is introduced and when it is fixed, thus improving overall software quality.

A development team should not believe that because their CI system is automated, they are safe from integration problems. It is even less true if the group is using an automated tool for nothing more than compiling source code; some refer to this as a “build,” which it is not (see Chapter 1). The effective practice of CI involves much more than a tool. It includes the practices we outline in the book, such as frequent commits to a version control repository, fixing broken builds immediately, and using a separate integration build machine.

The practice of CI enables faster feedback. When using effective CI practices, you’ll know the overall health of software under development several times a day. What’s more, CI works well with practices like refactoring and test-driven development, because these practices are centered on the notion of making small changes. CI, in essence, provides a safety net to ensure that changes work with the rest of the software. At a higher level, CI increases the collective confidence of teams and lessens the amount of human activity needed on projects, because it’s often a hands-off process that runs whenever your software changes.

A Note on the Word “Continuous”
We use the term “continuous” in this book, but the usage is technically incorrect. “Continuous” implies that something kicks off once and never stops. This suggests that the process is constantly integrating, which is not the case in even the most intense CI environment. So, what we are describing in this book is more like “continual integration.”

Who Should Read This Book?

In our experience, there is a distinct difference between someone who treats software development as a job and someone who treats it as a profession. This book is for those who work at their profession and find themselves performing repetitive processes on a project (or we will help you realize just how often you are doing so). We describe the practices and benefits of CI and give you the knowledge to apply these practices so that you can direct your time and expertise to more important, challenging issues.

This book covers the major topics relating to CI, including how to implement CI using continuous feedback, testing, deployment, inspection, and database integration. No matter what your role in software development, you can incorporate CI into your own software development processes. If you are a software professional who wants to become increasingly effective—getting more done with your time and with more dependable results—you will gain much from this book.

Developers

If you have noticed that you’d rather be developing software for users than fiddling with software integration issues, this book will help you get there without much of the “pain” you thought would be involved. This book doesn’t ask you to spend more time integrating; it’s about making much of software integration a nonevent, leaving you to focus on doing what you love the most: developing software. The many practices and examples in this book demonstrate how to implement an effective CI system.

Build/Configuration/Release Management

If your job is to get working software out the door, you’ll find this book particularly interesting as we demonstrate that by running processes every time a change is applied to a version control repository, you can generate cohesive, working software. Many of you are managing builds while filling other roles on your project, such as development. CI will do some of the “thinking” for you, and instead of waiting until the end of the development lifecycle, it creates deployable and testable software several times a day.

Testers

CI offers a rapid feedback approach to software development, all but eliminating the traditional pain of reoccurring defects even after “fixes” were applied. Testers usually gain increased satisfaction and interest in their roles on a project using CI, since software to test is available more often and with smaller scopes. With a CI system in your development lifecycle, you test all along the way, rather than the typical feast or famine scenario where testers are either testing into the late hours or not testing at all.

Managers

This book can have great impact for you if you seek a higher level of confidence in your team’s capability to consistently and repeatedly deliver working software. You can manage scopes of time, cost, and quality much more effectively because you are basing your decisions on working software with actual feedback and metrics, not just task items on a project schedule.

Organization of This Book

This book is divided into two parts. Part I is an introduction to CI and examines the concept and its practices from the ground up. Part I is geared toward those readers not familiar with the core practices of CI. We do not feel the practice of CI is complete, however, without a Part II that naturally expands the core concepts into other effective p...

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