The Challenges of Implementing CI/CD Pipelines

Continuous Integration (CI) and Continuous Delivery (CD) are software practices that allow organizations and teams to deliver code to customers quickly, safely, and repeatedly. Whether it’s to improve development, operations, or security, CI/CD pipelines give engineers and teams more time to work on things that matter and less time struggling with the risk, standards, and velocity of deployments. This blog post will share four common CI/CD challenges and how to solve them.

Accelerating Time to Market

Any software delivery team will involve tools, people, and processes. Time-to-Market is dependent on how we work with these three components. While we saw that teams had effective operational and communication tools like Jira and Slack, teams still spent on average 66 work hours to create a deployment pipeline for an application (from our Continuous Delivery Insights 2020 Report). If you’re having trouble debugging or troubleshooting failures in your CI/CD pipeline and it’s impacting your Time-to-Market, consider doing the following:

  • Orchestrating your pipelines and scripts with a CI/CD platform;
  • Introducing CI/CD templates and workflows for reuse across teams;
  • Documenting and managing service dependencies for deployments ahead of time.

We’ve seen organizations experience challenges around migrating to Kubernetes or the public cloud, creating at scale new CI/CD pipelines for new services or applications, and even increasing their developer velocity. You can improve all these things over time by focusing on key applications and services and building performant CI/CD pipelines for those applications, and then scaling these approaches across the entire organization. 

If you are working on microservices, I recommend this piece on succeeding with microservices, which goes into detail about some of the pitfalls of delivering and developing microservices. If you are migrating to the public cloud, I recommend this case study on how to accelerate Kubernetes migrations.

Controlling Governance, Risk, and Compliance

CI/CD pipelines aren’t only around for developer and engineering velocity. Governance, risk management, and compliance (GRC) is an umbrella term covering an organization’s approach across these three practices: governance, risk management, and compliance. For many organizations, it’s not about how fast we can deliver, but more importantly, how we ensure that organizational standards are met and understood by application teams who deploy and release their software. 

An important part of pipeline governance is that developers are aware of the risks of a deployment at each stage of the CI/CD pipeline. If you have challenges around pipeline governance, I recommend introducing or evaluating your processes for:

  • Secrets management in your CI/CD pipeline;
  • Role-Based Access Control (RBAC) enforced CI/CD;
  • Creating policy enforced pipelines and or attesting artifacts;
  • Auditing and increasing visibility into pipeline changes.
Harness provides auditing of events for Harness resources including accounts, applications, and application components. Harness Continuous Delivery Audit Trail enables you to track and review all events in one place.

Governance is a CI/CD pain point for solutions that provide features for organizations to make better-informed risk decisions. A crucial part of addressing this pain point is how you enforce and control these decisions.

Ensuring Uptime, Service Quality, and Performance 

A big challenge of CI/CD today is how we deliver our work without degrading service performance or quality. Every deployment has a certain risk associated with it, and so organizations need effective means for controlling and reducing those risks. Some symptoms of challenges in this area include high change failure rates and a risk-averse attitude towards managing or taking on CI/CD responsibilities.  Sometimes risks are also introduced through tight deadlines and release schedules.

Successful CI and CD depends on the hardened practices of developers and engineers. The best reccomendation for improving your process is to looking at how your delivery team handles unit test or integration test results, broken builds, vulnerabilities, and incidents. Contributors to deployment risk can involve inadequate testing, inadequate solutions for configuration management, non-reproducible environments, and environments that are not well defined, controlled, or maintained. 

If your challenges lie within application change or developer workflows, I recommend focusing on CI improvements and best practices. Otherwise, it’s worth looking into infrastructure as code best practices to better understand and control your environment infrastructure. Finally, enabling the feedback loop between developers and operations can help drive CI/CD innovation and better processes for software delivery.

Sustaining Delivery and Keeping Efficiency High 

There’s a cost associated with the software. We need people, processes, and tools to develop, test, run, and deploy our applications. And so, the majority of costs associated with software delivery are recurring. Keeping costs low and efficiency high is about improving over time and leveraging our tools to drive data-informed decisions about anything related to our software delivery process.

If you struggle with the cost or resource management, I recommend taking a look at this guide on reducing cloud costs or considering a cloud cost management solution, like Cloud Cost Management. There are also other blog posts on how Harness has reduced operating costs, for example by right-sizing our CI server and optimizing logging.  

CI/CD Challenges
Harness Cloud Cost Management cost explorer dashboard.

Focusing on right-sizing your cloud resources and spending your budget where it makes the most difference makes a lasting impact on engineering productivity, team morale, and the longevity of your applications and services. 

Avoid Common CI/CD Pipeline Challenges with Harness

Software delivery is not easy. It requires the right people, process, and technology. With the right resources and guidance, it’s possible to address and solve these key challenges. This blog post shares four CI/CD challenges and provides resources to help remedy these pain points. If you are looking to solve any of these pain points and would like to try Harness’ CI/CD solution, get your free trial now.

Here’s to simplifying and scaling better software delivery! 

Tiffany