Demand for greater commercial agility and faster time to market is driving service provider adoption of cloud-native architectures and best practices. Implementing cloud-native encompasses many essential elements, including Continuous Integration and Continuous Delivery/Deployment (CI/CD), which serves as a fundamental backbone for delivering new applications, features, and business configurations. The goal of CI/CD is to replace ridged development processes and cycles with iterative and continual methods to bring business value to market faster, more reliably, and with less effort.
At the heart of CI/CD is the use of open-source tooling to automate processes for development, testing, deployment, and operation. Enabling workflow automation significantly elevates the quality of each new feature by ensuring that well-defined processes, such as those for building and testing, are consistently executed every time a change is committed.
CI/CD also leverages the concept of immutable artifacts (i.e. deployable components) from each successful build. Once generated, these artifacts can then move unaltered along the CI/CD “pipeline” across different environments undergoing increasingly rigorous testing until ultimately reaching the production environment.
While speed and consistency are fundamental to service provider success, absent guarantees for security and reliability once in production, their value is constrained. CI/CD addresses these challenges by enabling a cohesive set of tools and processes that act to bridge development and operational organizations and their activities from the outset – supporting a joint practice referred to as DevOps.
Business Benefits of CI/CD
CI/CD is a key component for service providers looking to increase their business agility in responding to dynamic market conditions. Additionally, as service providers embrace the distributed networks that cloud-native architectures and 5G make possible, they will increasingly need the stability and reliability gains that CI/CD makes possible. Through a process-oriented approach to create speed, scale and reliability, CI/CD drives business benefits across the entire organization including:
- Commercial agility – allowing the service provider to bring offers to market faster and more accurately
- Customer agility – empowering both the customer and the service provider to align service paths and goals
- Operational agility – allowing the service provider to run the business faster, more efficiently and at lower cost
Every service provider can realize tangible and measurable business benefits by adopting CI/CD. The true beauty of adopting CI/CD is that it can begin adding value almost immediately – even before being fully realized. For example, creation of automated tests will speed the time for developers to detect and correct errors. Equally important, it allows developers to focus more of their core skills on developing new features and enhancements that once delivered, generate business value and customer satisfaction.
Getting started with CI/CD
The specific adoption paths for service providers will differ based on their scale, infrastructure strategy, and organizational structure – yet regardless of approach, they will share the same goal of becoming more nimble, automated and cost-effective enterprises. Some of the key activities on the road to adopting CI/CD include:
- Assessing Organizational Readiness – Moving to CI/CD impacts people, process, technology, and organizational ways of working – particularly in how business change is delivered. Evaluating the impacts and readiness is key to securing a successful start.
- Create a Coordinated DevOps approach – Implemented correctly, CI/CD can effectively bridge development and operational teams. Inclusion from both organizations at the outset is key to securing strong support, allowing the differing perspectives to jointly influence the choice of the tools and methodologies to implement.
- Define Infrastructure Strategy – Service provider workload deployment strategies (edge, private and public cloud, or hybrid options) will determine the CI/CD tools best suited for the environments. Defining and clarifying the infrastructure strategy is key to avoiding investments in insufficient or incorrect tools and processes.
- Start small and align with short term objectives – Implementation of CI/CD takes time, and nothing fails faster and harder than technology without business alignment. Service providers embarking on CI/CD should start small – and align the implementation with business owners and to clear objectives.
Service providers looking to extract the most value from their shift to cloud-native architectures, while maximizing the benefits of their 5G network investments, will need an infrastructure capable of adapting, expanding and evolving at web speed. By adopting CI/CD, service providers will be able to harness the speed, flexibility, and reliability they need to effectively compete.