What is CI/CD?

Continuous integration (CI) and continuous delivery (CD) enable DevOps teams to increase the speed of sofware development and deliver better quality code, faster. Continuous integration works to integrate code from your team in a shared repository vastly improving your deployment pipeline. Developers share their new code in a Merge (Pull) Request, which triggers a pipeline to build, test, and validate the new code before merging the changes in your repository. Continuous delivery deploys CI-validated code to your application.

All code is tested throughout each stage, ensuring better quality builds and applications with fewer bugs. CI/CD pipelines can determine what happens when builds pass or fail these tests, meaning that errors are identified much faster. As code goes through each stage of the development process, it’s continually validated against many other changes in the repository happening concurrently, which ensures code integrity throughout the pipeline. Together, CI and CD accelerate how quickly your team delivers results for your customers and stakeholders.

Continuous Integration is the practice of integrating code into a shared repository and building/testing each change automatically, as early as possible – usually several times a day.
Continuous Delivery ensures CI-validated code can be released to production at any time.

Continuous delivery is often used interchangeably with a continuous deployment release process, but there is a subtle difference between the two. Continuous deployment means that all validated code deploys to production automatically, whereas continuous delivery means that this code *can* be deployed. The flexibility for code to be deployed at any time is what differentiates delivery from deployment, and practicing continuous deployment is possible when continuous delivery is already in place.

Benefits of CI/CD

CI/CD automates workflows and reduces error rates within a production environment, which can have far-reaching impacts on not just development teams but throughout a whole organization.

  • More time for innovation
  • Better retention rates
  • More revenue
  • Business efficiency

For example, a dev environment with less manual tasks means that engineers can spend more time on revenue-generating projects. With fewer errors, teams are more efficient and spend less time putting out fires. When processes, such as unit testing, are automated, engineers are happier and can focus on where they add the most value.

CI/CD brings automation into the DevOps lifecycle. With less manual work, DevOps teams work more efficiently and with greater speed. An automated workflow also reduces the chance of human error and improves handoffs, which improves overall operational efficiency. Organizations that implement CI/CD make better use of their resources and will have a competitive edge over those that don't use CI/CD.

CI/CD fundamentals

CI/CD is all about efficiency and is built around fundamental elements to make it effective.

A single source repository

Source code management (SCM) that houses all necessary files and scripts to create builds.

Automated builds

Scripts should include everything you need to build from a single command.

Builds should be self-testing

Testing scripts should ensure that the failure of a test should result in a failed build.

Frequent iterations

Multiple commits to the repository mean there are fewer places for conflicts to hide.

Stable testing environments

Code should be tested in a cloned version of the production environment.

Maximum visibility

Every developer should be able to access the latest executables and see any changes made to the repository.

Automated deployments

Code should be able to deploy into multiple environments easily.

Why Gitlab CI/CD?

In order to complete all the required fundamentals of CI/CD, many CI platforms rely on integrations with other tools to fulfill those needs. Many organizations have to maintain costly and complicated toolchains in order to have full CI/CD capabilities. This often means maintaining a separate SCM like Bitbucket or GitHub, connecting to a separate testing tool, that connects to their CI tool, that connects to a deployment tool like Chef or Puppet, that also connects to various security and monitoring tools.

Instead of just focusing on building great software, organizations have to also maintain and manage a complicated toolchain. GitLab is a single application for the entire DevOps lifecycle, meaning we fulfill all the fundamentals for CI/CD in one environment.

GitLab CI/CD rated #1

Build, test, deploy, and monitor your code from a single application.

We believe a single application that offers visibility across the entire SDLC is the best way to ensure that every development stage is included and optimized. When everything is under one roof, it’s easy to pinpoint workflow bottlenecks and evaluate the impact each element has on deployment speed. GitLab has CI/CD built right in, no plugins required.


Why Gitlab CI/CD

With GitLab’s out-of-the-box CI/CD, you can spend less time maintaining and more time creating.

Create a CI/CD pipeline blog post

A beginner's guide to continuous integration

Here's how to help everyone on your team, like designers and testers, get started with GitLab CI.

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5 teams that made the switch to GitLab

See what happened when these five teams moved on from old continuous integration and delivery solutions and switched to GitLab CI/CD.

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4 benefits of CI/CD

How to measure a successful CI/CD strategy.

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The business impact of CI/CD

How a good CI/CD strategy generates revenue and keeps developers happy.

GitLab & Kubernetes

How DevOps and GitLab CI/CD enhance a frontend workflow

The GitLab frontend team uses DevOps and CI/CD to ensure code consistency, fast delivery, and simple automation.



Here’s a list of resources on CI/CD that we find to be particularly helpful in understanding CI/CD and implementation. We would love to get your recommendations on books, blogs, videos, podcasts and other resources that tell a great CI/CD story or offer valuable insight on the definition or implementation of the practice.

Please share your favorites with us by tweeting us @GitLab!