Optimize your pipelines with these CI/CD best practices

For engineering teams, CI/CD is the key to improving their development cycles. CircleCI is committed to helping our customers optimize their pipelines to streamline delivery to production.

If your team values speeding your time to market, commit to trying these 5 best practices. These are CircleCI’s recommendations for cutting your development cycle times and improving your CI/CD processes in general.

CI/CD best practices

  1. CI/CD is not a novelty - it’s a requirement for all developer teams
  2. Make the best use of precious developer time
  3. Secure your pipelines
  4. Maintain test coverage across pipelines
  5. Get popular orbs into your wheelhouse

CI/CD best practices

CI/CD best practice 1: CI/CD is not a novelty - it’s a requirement for all developer teams

Organizations are discovering how important their development cycle is for improving code production quality. In our 2022 State of Software Delivery report we saw that some organizations stood out: they were building at scale more quickly and successfully when compared to the rest of the industry. Through our analysis, we found these top-performing teams all tracked higher on 4 key benchmarks.

CI/CD best practice 2: Make the best use of precious developer time

Now that you know how to optimize your pipelines using metric benchmarks, our next recommendation is to best use precious developer time. You can do this by:

  • Reusing config
  • Using caching strategies
  • Implementing test-splitting

Reusing config

One great way to optimize is by never writing the same config twice. Use CircleCI’s orbs, reusable packages of YAML config, which automate repeated processes and speed up project setup.

Private orbs let you share configuration across multiple projects, within the constrict of your organization.

There are also many open-source orbs available:

  1. Developer Hub - Scan our public registry for open-source orbs, which are reusable packages of config that automate repeated processes and speed up project setup.
  2. Orb Development Kit - The orb development kit helps to streamline the entire orb authoring process for engineers looking to create their own orbs. Developers may now generate a full-featured orb sample project from the CLI.

Using caching strategies

An easy way to optimize project builds and workflows is by implementing specific caching strategies, allowing the reuse of existing data from previous builds and workflows. Caching is one of the most effective ways to make jobs faster, whether deciding between a package management application or manually improving your cache.

Learn more about how to optimize builds and workflows in our docs.

Implementing test-splitting

Finally, developers can speed up their project builds by utilizing test splitting. Auto-test splitting shortens the feedback loop by automatically splitting a suite of tests across multiple instances of the same job - or rather a range of test environments running in parallel.

Learn how to significantly reduce your test time specific to your application’s requirements here.

CI/CD best practice 3: Secure your pipelines

Using a CI/CD platform that meets industry-wide security standards is just as important as intentionally taking measures to secure your pipelines. This recommendation is all about making sure that you are securing your pipelines with added product security features we provide on the CircleCI platform:

Private environment

Private environment variables enable developers to store secrets safely even for their public projects. Secret masking adds another layer of security because it obscures your environment variables from projects and contexts in your job’s output.

Multiple-contexts per workflow

To further restrict access, having multiple-contexts per workflow allows developers to restrict access to environment variables by letting them include values in a particular domain, rather than a given workflow. This provides greater granularity when requiring access to a specific context in a workflow, improving your organization’s security.

Flexible admin controls

Flexible admin controls allow you to manage user access across your projects. By standardizing accessibility and usage of your CI platform across the org, you maintain your application’s security. Securing your pipelines is just as important as making sure your workflows are operating quickly.

To learn more about the CircleCI product features that provide you with increased application security, check out our Ultimate guide to CI/CD security and DevSecOps blog post.

CI/CD best practice 4: Maintain test coverage across your pipelines

Using CircleCI, developers can integrate with some of the best dev tools out there, in the form of partner orbs.

Orbs are reusable packages of config that help speed up project set up. CircleCI’s partners offer multiple categories of orbs, from code analysis to deployment, but we wanted to call out the ones that help maintain test coverage across your pipelines.

Consider using these popular partner orb integrations as part of your development cycle:

  1. Codecov Upload your coverage reports to Codecov without dealing with complex configurations. Get coverage results of your application quickly, so that you can breathe easier and commit your code with confidence.
  2. Cypress Record results on the Cypress Dashboard and load balance tests in parallel mode. Run end-to-end browser tests without spending time configuring CircleCI.
  3. Sonarcloud Detect bugs and vulnerabilities in your repository before they become an issue.
  4. Coveralls Posts your test suite’s LCOV coverage data to coveralls.io for analysis, change tracking, and notifications. When running on Pull Request builds, a comment will be added to the PR with details on how coverage will be affected if merged.
  5. Snyk Find, fix, and monitor known vulnerabilities in your app dependencies and Docker images.

CI/CD best practice 5: Get these popular orbs into your wheelhouse

We thought we’d save the best for last: our best CircleCI orbs. Including these orbs is a great way to enhance your CI/CD practice strategy:

  1. Node Easily install Node.js and its package managers (npm, yarn). Best of all, install your packages with caching enabled by default.
  2. Slack Implement event-based notifications across all your CI/CD pipelines. Utilizing built-in message templates or Slack’s visual Block-Kit builder, create and customize notifications specific to your organization’s needs. Speed that feedback loop for faster bug fixes and speedier delivery.
  3. AWS-CLI Install and configure the AWS command-line interface (awscli).
  4. Python Enable common CircleCI tasks for the Python programming language.
  5. Ruby Easily cache and install your Ruby Gems automatically, run parallel Rspec tests, or just install Ruby.

Read our 2022 State of Software Delivery report to find out what we’ve learned about best practices for building great software development teams, gleaned from more than 50,000 organizations across software, healthcare, retail, finance, real estate, and media worldwide.