By investing in a CI/CD pipeline, it’s entirely possible to automate a large part of the software development life cycle – letting businesses deliver high-quality, high-efficiency outputs with a faster time to market.
But there are multiple elements to the CI/CD process, including the all-seeing eye that is continuous validation. So what exactly is continuous validation, and why should software developers bother to engage with it?
What Is Continuous Validation?
A coding philosophy? A DevOps best practice? The future of agile software development? In reality, it’s all of the above.
In a SaaS context, continuous validation is a method that lets you constantly monitor new code, testing it against criteria for functionality, security, and performance. It’s a vital way to screen out bugs, stop potential issues from reaching the main database, and ensure that rollouts go as smoothly as possible.
Usually, continuous validation consists of both white box and black box testing. And because it’s all working continuously in the background, the whole CI/CD pipeline allows for frequent, incremental application releases that minimize disruption.
Why Is Continuous Validation Important For Agile Software Development?
Done right, continuous validation means that teams will only ever receive stable, reliable code.
By implementing a continuous and automated process, validation can be done on a rolling schedule, at scale, across entire application life cycles. It therefore eliminates the need for manual checking, reduces risk and increases speed of deployment.
But most crucially, it lets you be sure that in a constantly changing landscape, your deliverables are still meeting current requirements. With the right continuous validation structure in place, AI and Machine Learning can even keep up to date with changing industry regulations to make sure all code is still compliant.
It is important to remember that continuous validation as a methodology can also function more broadly as a check-in tool for business strategy. It’s not just about validating lines of code, but rather ensuring that all efforts are steered towards answering the right questions at the right time.
By identifying issues, analyzing customer sentiment, and constantly reviewing your strategy, you can make sure your team, department, or even wider business is prioritizing the right problems to solve.
The Continuous Integration / Continuous Delivery (CI/CD) Pipeline
Continuous validation is just one element to a wider CI/CD workflow that allows businesses to increase automation and agility across the entire software development process. It’s seen as a best practice in Agile methodology, and for good reason.
Namely, automating DevOps processes can increase accuracy and efficiency while freeing up time for skilled teams to focus on value-add work.
Here’s a breakdown of some of the other steps in the CI/CD journey:
Continuous integration – the ‘CI’ part of CI/CD – is the idea of centralizing and releasing new code incrementally, as and when it is written by developers. This lets you introduce new features in a structured way.
This centralization is why continuous validation is so important, so all applications meet regulations and updates can be integrated seamlessly with old code in the main code base or central repository.
The other end of CI/CD is continuous delivery, which automates the deployment of code to the right place – whether that’s a production or testing environment.
Because the code has already gone through CI and validation, there’s less associated risk. And iterative delivery lets you make changes quickly without breaking any existing functionality.
There are other steps across the CI/CD workflow, though – including continuous testing. This is where code is deployed into secure testing environments for trial runs.
Applications can be tested throughout the entire software development life cycle, and as often as several times a day.
Despite the similar name, continuous deployment is not the same as continuous delivery. Continuous deployment is the full automation of the entire CI/CD pipeline. Human intervention is only necessary when there’s an issue or error.
Continuous deployment is the goal for development teams as it shifts the focus from big ‘release day’ deadlines to a more agile mindset.
Continuous Validation In DevOps
When continuous validation is deployed, DevOps teams don’t have to spend time manually monitoring dashboards and KPIs. As shown above, they can instead spend time on the skilled, valuable work they’ve spent their careers training for. Manual intervention is only needed if issues are detected.
Having said that, it’s still important for teams to work together to make sure that proper metrics and testing frameworks are in place. With these, a streamlined CI/CD pipeline can result in seamless software updates that the end customer doesn’t even notice as they don’t drastically interfere with functionality.
Continuous Validation and Reliability
Automating workflows like continuous validation is a win-win for business and customer, letting you meet customer expectations and service level agreements while also improving employee experiences. The CI/CD pipeline can increase reliability across the software development process.
And it’s not just about improved reliability, but resilience, too. Overall risk decreases, and a full view of the development processes means that teams can make informed decisions with their data.
Getting started with Continuous Validation
Here are some questions to ask yourself to help you get started on implementing a continuous validation framework:
- Do we know what the actual app requirements are? Remember, continuous validation is also about making sure you’re answering the right questions, and that new software is providing the right answers. Knowing that your developers are focusing on priority areas is a key starting point that affects the whole software development life cycle.
- Do we know what our metrics are? Verification only works if you have the right KPIs to measure against – and automated, continuous validation is only as good as the team that sets it up. Make sure you set specific and accurate metrics so you can easily analyze your code against them.
- Do we have the right test framework? A complete, end-to-end test scenario can help you to make sure the new application feature meets all the requirements that are set out at the start of the whole process.
- Do I have a plan in place for failed verification? You should have contingency workflows for when continuous validation identifies issues or errors.
- Do we know what the customer wants? Strategic validation is about identifying and meeting the needs of the customer.
- Where can I learn more about CI/CD workflows and my industry? Check out our industry pages for more information on how to improve service reliability using workflows.