This is a guest article by Gabe Nelson from Semaphore CI
There are a lot of things that go into creating a functional Continuous Integration and Delivery pipeline. In order for the automated processes to work properly, a long chain of successful events has to take place. Unfortunately, it’s fairly likely that you will experience at least a few common issues when attempting to set up and work with a CI/CD pipeline.
The list of common issues is actually quite long. This has to do with how complex a CI/CD pipeline can be. There are a lot of things that can go wrong and it doesn’t take long for you to start experiencing one or more of them. A lot of people would probably agree that common issues are simple to fix, but it can be really tough to troubleshoot deceptive issues that are hidden in plain sight.
CI/CD pipelines have a lot of advantages for deploying software builds through an automated process. Unfortunately, a lot of cyber attackers will target CI/CD pipelines because there are usually some security vulnerabilities that are not addressed. A lot of sensitive information can be vulnerable within a CI/CD pipeline, which is why hackers will try to gain access to the pipeline through extreme measures.
It would theoretically be possible for a cyber hacker to break into the CI/CD pipeline by targeting certain components. A hacker might even try to manipulate the code within the software to find potential loopholes in the pipeline.
There are certainly some steps that you can take to reduce the chances of a hacker gaining access to sensitive information within the CI/CD pipeline. There are many common resources, tools, and tactics that can be used to enhance security.
One common practice that some developers have started to use is to lock down certain sections within the pipeline if an irregularity is detected. The sooner that a security threat is noticed, the more likely you will be able to defend your pipeline from the threat.
An effective monitoring system that focuses on every section of your pipeline can ensure that an effectual security level is always maintained. Other methods to improve security include reducing the amount of sensitive information that is transferred through code. In theory, you could also theoretically use a code analysis tool to replace vulnerable sections of code.
You should always attempt to monitor the access to all components within the pipeline to ensure that everything is as limited and secured as it could possibly be.
CI/CD pipelines were initially created and invented without security as the main focus. There are still dozens of important benefits that CI/CD pipelines can provide to developers, but security will always be slightly behind until new security methods are developed to protect the pipeline.
The goal of any CI/CD pipeline will likely be to deliver software and code updates as fast as possible through an automated process. The problem is that a lot of performance issues can make their way into the software if things are not done properly.
Some developers like the idea of implementing an automated testing system to check for possible performance issues. For example, if a batch of code is not performing at an efficient rate, a warning might be pushed back to the developers for additional evaluation. This can help create a defense system against the potential release of a poorly performing software build to customers.
Performance testing is one way to try and compare build performance in a simple and convenient way. This process can detect bottlenecks and other bugs that could create huge drops in performance.
You will also need to make sure that you conduct load simulation testing as a major part of your performance testing function. You will require a really solid collection of tools for this to be an effective method.
Performance issues can be frustrating if they pop up in a CI/CD pipeline. The good news is that there are many ways to stop performance issues before they even start. The most important thing to remember is to not cut corners and to implement the right methods to prevent performance issues from creating unexpected problems in your build deployments.
Flawed Automated Testing System
A flawed testing system could be a nightmare for developers that experience this problem within their CI/CD pipeline. The reason that pipelines use tests within their automated systems is to ensure that high-quality builds and code are deployed to the public. A lot of checks are typically done through a CI/CD pipeline before code can be deployed.
The problems start when a CI/CD pipeline has a flawed testing system. If just one test fails, you could be opening the door to the possibility of deploying faulty code. This also ties back to the performance topic. If you have a faulty or inaccurate performance load test within your CI/CD pipeline, then your software might be filled with performance vulnerabilities.
If you spend a little bit of time implementing the right tools and tests within your CI/CD pipeline, you will likely never have to worry about experiencing a flawed automated testing system. Approval processes will detect issues and immediately relay that information back to you.
Don’t ignore potential red flags from your testing system. This is one of the most common reasons that issues start to develop within a CI/CD pipeline. Take every test seriously, and only dismiss warnings if they are proven to not be seriously impacting the performance of your deployed build.
One way to prevent a flawed testing system from harming your pipeline is to ensure that your tests are completely up to date and adequate for the type of program that you are deploying.
You will most likely be working with quite a few other people if you are working within a CI/CD pipeline. You might even be broken up into different teams with varying responsibilities. Sometimes the biggest issue within a CI/CD is human communication. For example, if something fails during a software deployment, communication is going to be imperative to solving the issue in a timely manner.
It is plausible to assume that a scenario develops where an automated build test outputs an error and then fails to communicate that information to the appropriate developer, there could be some serious consequences. That is only one reason why communication is so important within this industry.
CI/CD pipelines will rely heavily on automation during each moment they are in action. There are a couple of factors that don’t rely on automation, and those include human communication, collaboration, and teamwork.
It will be extremely difficult to be successful without these three attributes. Optimizing communication and transparency is a major key if you want your CI/CD pipeline workflow to be a success.
A traditional CI/CD pipeline typically requires a lot of components, processes, and resources to be used. When you finally have your CI/CD pipeline working properly, all of your processes are likely functioning on a stable version. If even a single process gets updated unexpectedly, then your entire CI/CD pipeline deployment process could break.
Many development teams focus a lot of time on managing version control. Sometimes there are even specific job roles and departments that focus on maintaining version control within CI/CD pipelines.
One of the most frustrating possibilities that could occur is an automated update system kicking into gear and forcing a crucial process to be updated to a new version. If for some reason the new version of the process is no longer compatible with the CI/CD pipeline’s deployment process, then you would have to restructure the entire deployment process for the new version.
There are a couple of different ways to avoid this scenario. The first method is to completely disable auto-updates for all of the possible resources, processes, and components that are used within the automated deployment pipeline. Though a plausible solution in some cases, it is not possible for all.
Sometimes new versions of processes create glitches and bugs during the deployment process. Absolutely try to avoid this at all costs. The best solution is to stay with the most recent stable version of the process. You don’t always have to update to the latest version of a resource. If the newest version is unstable, it is highly recommended that you don’t update until it becomes stable.
If you face the version control conundrum without cutting corners, you will likely have far fewer issues in this category. It is recommended that you rely on high-quality tools because they could be extremely beneficial to your pipeline to help and maintain version control.
One possible setback for using a CI/CD pipeline is that some limitations exist. There really isn’t a ‘one-size-fits-all’ solution to a CI/CD pipeline, and that’s one of the reasons that security vulnerabilities exist to the extent that they do. The limitations are set at the design limits of CI/CD right now, but technology is progressing and new resources are always being developed.
This concept of limitations also connects with the version control scenario that was previously discussed. Some CI/CD pipelines may not be able to take advantage of new versions because the deployment process would have to be restructured. This could create a lot of limitations and prevent work production from improving in the future.
There are no real solutions to this problem right now, but there are a few compromises that can be made. Collaboration and teamwork with respective peers is probably the most effective way to get around the limitations that exist right now in CI/CD pipelines.
Now that we have uncovered seven of the most common issues with CI/CD, you should have a significantly better understanding of some of the challenges that could exist within the industry. Security vulnerabilities are among the most significant challenges that are continuously being addressed, but CI/CD technology was never invented with cybersecurity in mind.
As far as the other issues go, it might seem challenging to find solutions for every single one of those scenarios. Some might pop up and create some problems in your CI/CD pipeline, while others may never become an issue.
New solutions are always being developed to try and remedy these problems. The good news is that technology is rapidly improving and new ways to solve these CI/CD problems are being uncovered faster than ever before.
Regardless of your overall experience level and job role, you should always keep these issues in the back of your mind if you continue to work in the industry. The topics that were displayed within this post could be extremely helpful and provide you with some technical expectations for CI/CD technology.
Gabe Nelson is a content specialist of over 7 years of experience, currently working with Semaphoreci.com. Just out of high school he set off crab fishing on the Bering sea in Alaska. From there he went back home to finish his college degree at the University of Montana. He has a passion and keen understanding when it comes to programming inside and out. He has written hundreds of content pieces in numerous niches. Currently, he lives in Missouri with his wife and kids.
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Originally published at AltexSoft tech blog “7 Common Issues with CI/CD and How to Fix Them”