DevOps Tools for Each Stage of CI/CD Pipeline

August 23, 2022 • 1135 Views • 15 min read

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Tetiana Stoyko

CTO & Co-Founder

After considering what CI/CD Pipelines are, it is worth examining what tools we can use for this process. Clearly, it is possible just to make a list like “Top 100+ Tools for DevOps Pipelines”, etc. Yet, the main issue with such an approach is the fact that it can be hard to figure out what tool can be used for which purpose, and at which stage. This is why we have decided to deepen our previous article on this topic. For instance, we will consider the main stages of CI/CD Pipelines, which we have stated previously, but slightly expand this list, to make it more clear for those, who have no previous experience in the field of CI/CD Pipelines and may be confused by the number of tools.

Tools for Various CI/CD Pipeline Stages

Planning Stage

It is the first and the most common stage for any kind of work. During the planning stage, developers are considering all of the working aspects, the scale of work, calculating required resources, etc. Actually, there is no need for specialized software for this stage, for planning purposes the development team can use any messenger or planner.

However, it would be great to use reliable and proven CI/CD tools, that can help to secure the sketches or any other information about the potential product. Additionally, it would be a great bonus, if the tool, used for planning and communication within the team had some extra features for project management, tracking, etc. Therefore, probably the best possible tools for the planning stage of the CI/CD Pipeline are Trello, Jira, Slack, or any other similar app, developed for project management purposes.

Apparently, at this point, a further and detailed explanation of the listed examples isn't required, because most of them are similar and this choice will not affect the final result in any way. So, the best advice we can give you - is to choose the app that is most convenient for you and your team.

Source and Build

After you have planned all the aspects of the work, it is time to start implementing these plans. In other words, the next stage is building your project’s architecture. At this stage, you will have to choose the CI/CD tools, which you will use to create the production environment and as basic platforms for the main working processes.

In the case of CI/CD Pipelines, build is not about the actual software development process of the product. It is rather about creating the connections between various components and compiling source code. Therefore, instead of a single “Build” stage, we have to distinguish two substages:

The source is a stage when the developers are performing various code-related actions. It can be either regular coding, or editing and managing the code samples. Mostly, code sourcing is done with the use of various source code repositories. Probably, the most popular among them are GitHub and GitLab. In fact, source code repositories, known also as repos, are storage for code samples, where you can interact with the code components and save the changes. After the changes were done, the transformed code will replace its previous version automatically in the “build” substage. Also, it is worth mentioning, that source code repositories often support multiusage, when a few various developers can make changes and interact with the code simultaneously.

The build substage, as was mentioned before, is responsible for the code compilation. In other words, it allows automation of the update process, so the new code will replace the outdated one. However, it must be said, that some of the CI/CD tools for the Build substage may require additional actions as well.

For instance, if you choose Kubernetes or Docker, the development pipeline will be slightly different: these tools allow the creation of integrated development environments(IDEs), so each developer will have code on his device, then update it on the server-side, and only after the compilation can be done. Also, IDEs are language-dependent, based on a specific programming language.

In case, you are still interested in using source code repositories with further compilation, you can use Puppet, Terraform, Chef, or Docker as well. Actually, the difference between most of these tools is not as crucial as it may seem: they can provide different UI solutions, or have some additional features. The only important distinction is between the main architectural approach: whether it will be a server-based development environment, or will it exist as infrastructure-as-code.

Continuous Integration Testing

So, we already have a source code and the architecture, that allows automated replacement of an outdated code with the new one. However, if we are aiming to create a standalone pipeline, that will be able to work independently, we need to ensure it can test the updated code samples. This ability is also known as Continuous Integration.

In fact, at this stage, we need to choose the CI/CD tools, that will be used for checking the changes in the code and unit tests. In fact, such unit testing processes are performed a few times a day, due to the fact, that the number of changes and new integrations can vary and most likely won’t be done simultaneously.

Probably, the most convenient and trustworthy tools for the CI processes are Snyk, CircleCI, and SonarSource. However, probably the most powerful and advanced is Jenkins. It is commonly used for the CI/CD Pipelines because it supports not only Continuous Integration but can be used for CD, whether it is Continuous Delivery or Deployment.

Yet, it is important to understand that CI is not full-fledged testing of the whole structure. Mostly, it only checks the code for possible errors or mistakes, as well as the overall integration, code quality, and whether its components can or can’t interact with each other. This is why you will also need additional continuous testing phases and tools, at least if you are willing to develop a high-quality product, secure it from vulnerabilities, make sure of quality code, and that everything works as supposed to.

For these purposes, you can use mabl, SauceLabs, Zephyr, Selenium, Appium, Jest, or various plugins from all-in-one CI/CD pipeline solutions. After the automated testing and overall Continuous Integration process, we need to ensure the deployment of changed code.

Delivery and Deployment Processes

As we already explained, the CD has two slightly different meanings: Continuous Delivery or Continuous Deployment. The main difference between these two processes is simple: delivery is a basic stage when the code was already compiled, tested, and is ready to be deployed. However, Continuous Delivery is performed manually, so the developer has to start this process. Even though the activation is very simple, the process is still not fully automated. Alternatively, Continuous Deployment is a fully automated process, so as soon as the code is ready - it is deployed automatically.

Therefore, if you are willing to create a fully automated CI/CD pipeline, you should definitely choose Continuous Deployment. However, if you want to have more control of the process, you might consider Continuous Delivery.

Apart from all-in-one CI/CD solutions like Jenkins, for Continuous Delivery or Deployment purposes, you can use Octopus Deploy, AWS COdeDeploy, DeployBot, and many other similar tools.

Monitoring and Tracking

Actually, Deployment is still not the final stage. After the code was successfully integrated, tested, and deployed, the DevOps Team has to ensure that everything works after the deployment to the server.

In other words, the final stage of the CI/CD pipeline is server-side and application monitoring. So, instead of tracking local changes, it would be better to automate the overall monitoring as well. For instance, automated performance monitoring can help to save resources and time, alerting in case of critical changes.

For these monitoring, alert management, and observation goals you can use AppDynamics, splunk>, Datadog, NewRelic, Nagios, and many other alternatives. With the use of these tools, it is possible to track the occurred alerts, problems, or incidents. As a result, the DevOps team will be able to quickly respond and start fixing or debugging processes.

Feedback Analysis

Yet, we have to admit, that most likely, the DevOps team cannot track and fix all occurred issues, no matter how big or experienced it is. Also, some potential errors may be seen only on the final user side. So, to cover this possibility as well, it is important to let users send Feedback, and analyze the problems they have faced, as well as the overall customer experience. In this case, you can use GetFeedback, pendo, or simply readdress feedback to various Project Management platforms or messengers like Slack, Jira, Trello, etc.

All-In-One Solutions

Also, it is worth mentioning, that there are some advanced tools, that provide all-in-one solutions for developing CI/CD Pipelines. Mostly, these are complex applications or tools, that are providing tools and features for most of the previously mentioned stages.

For example, Jenkins is a free open-source tool, that is using a plugin architecture, meaning that the DevOps team can choose the needed plugins from the list and add them to the pipeline. Alternatively, Amazon Web Services infrastructure also can be considered as CI/CD tool, based on microservices architecture, that consists of various AWS DevOps tools like AWS CodeCommit. Alternatively, with the use of Azure DevOps Services and Azure Pipelines, it is possible to create a full-fledged CI/CD pipeline, that will be based on Azure DevOps Services. As a result, you will be able to work with any programming languages, platforms, operational systems, etc. Its main advantage is the possibility to cooperate with various technologies, software, and components.

As a result, it is possible to build a full-fledged CI/CD pipeline using only AWS DevOps tools for each stage.

In fact, most modern DevOps tools developers are trying to make these tools an all-in-one solution, because it's easier and more comfortable.

End Line

Eventually, it is hard to generate a complete list of DevOps tools for the CI/CD pipeline. Despite the fact, that most of the tools are similar, each of them has its own advantages and drawbacks. Therefore, each team has to choose tools, that will meet their specific requirements. Sometimes, even all-in-one solutions can be combined with other tools for specific stages.

Summing up all the above, it is possible to state that the DevOps tools list is highly customizable and the number of variations is enormous. Thus, each DevOps team has lots of possible tool combinations, depending on their needs and requests. Our approach at Incora is mostly described above. Basically, there is one thing we emphasize: DevOps services work best as a component of software development. So working with CI/CD,  do not separate these 2 processes, but make them running concurrently.

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