When a company adopts a continuous delivery approach, development processes need to change. That’s the case for the Cambridge, UK company i2 Group, which builds intelligence analysis software to combat criminal and terrorist activity.
“We’re on a journey to shift from a few project releases per year to continuous delivery,” says Anthony Carr-Smith, software development manager for i2’s platform team. “We have a lot of dependencies within our organization, and it’s essential to improve our time to value. By adopting CI/CD, we’ve been able to automate much of our quality testing.”
Carr-Smith’s team manages the third-party systems used for software development, and in particular i2’s journey into SaaS product offerings. The company’s R&D teams all work according to a two-week scrum agile
A game-changer for CI/CD and test times
i2 was using Jenkins for CI/CD, but costs and maintenance were both running high. “We hosted all the Jenkins infrastructure ourselves, and struggled to reliably spin up executors on demand,” Carr-Smith says. “We desperately needed to modernize our builds. We wanted to move to a product that we didn’t have to worry about maintaining, leaving us to focus on the important stuff.”
The company swapped out Jenkins for CircleCI after a successful small test project. Following the project, i2 moved its Web and Server components to CircleCI.
“We opted not to do a lift and shift,” Carr-Smith says, choosing instead to review builds and optimize as developers converted to CircleCI. Engineers made use of CircleCI’s default mode to reliably work in parallel.
“CircleCI’s default mode was a game changer for us,” Carr-Smith says. “As a result, some of our processes have improved from nearly 24 hours to 1 hour!”
Carr-Smith and his colleagues made extensive use of CircleCI’s premium support. “Slack and regular syncs were very useful,” Carr-Smith says. “Having access to Premium Support did allow us to escalate issues more quickly.”
In addition, developers rely on parallelism, caching, and orbs with CircleCI. “All of our new CircleCI workflows try to use these fundamental features,” Carr-Smith says. “As an organization, we’re interested in faster, more reliable builds, but with costs kept to a sensible level. Caching plays a big part in that as well as parallelism.”
“CircleCI’s default mode was a game changer for us. As a result, some of our processes have improved from nearly 24 hours to 1 hour!”
Software Development Manager at i2
Renewed focus on quality builds
Since i2 developers began using CircleCI, they’ve been able to significantly reduce the number of days spent on build maintenance, such as managing custom images or security patches.
“We’ve seen a very positive reaction to CircleCI,” Carr-Smith says. “It’s been an opportunity to challenge the processes we’ve used for so many years. With CircleCI’s features, our builds are faster and more reliable. Our team is shifting focus from ‘keeping the lights on’ to ‘building something new and better.’”
i2 developers prefer faster, leaner builds such as the kind they can create with CircleCI. “The private and public CircleCI Orbs have helped improve quality and code reuse,” Carr-Smith says. “Once the basics and terminology are learned, it’s a pretty easy product for us to get value out of.”
For example, one of the platform team’s automated test suites typically needed 18 to 24 hours to run – but after optimizing development with CircleCI, developers can run the same tests in just one hour.
“When we started sharing that statistic, the value and benefits of our transformation journey became clear to everyone – from developers to executives,” Carr-Smith says. “Another highlight is that all executors spin up in a few seconds because of CircleCI’s predictive demand process. This is particularly beneficial with Windows executors, where we were previously used to waiting 15-30 minutes.”
Benefits of using CircleCI:
- Significant reduction in time needed for automated test suites
- Rapid escalation with premium support
- Reduced maintenance helps modernize builds
- Caching and parallelism reduce cost
CircleCI features used:
- Insights dashboard
About i2 Group
i2 Group is a world leader in intelligence analysis software. For more than 30 years, the company has empowered intelligence analysts and investigators to discover, create, and exploit actionable intelligence to identify the perpetrators of criminal activity.