Mastering CI: Tips for Team's Productivity and Code Security

Introduction

Continuous integration (CI) is the practice of automating the integration of code changes from multiple contributors into a single software project. It's essentially a pipeline where everything gets built and tested automatically. This approach encourages frequent code commits and quick feedback.

But how do you make your team more efficient and your code safer?

Well, here are a few tricks and tips you can add to your CI pipeline to make things easier and safer. So, get ready to level up your CI game and make your team's lives easier. Let's dive in!

Commit Messages Standardization

Git is awesome for keeping track of your code changes over time. But sometimes, when we're in a rush, we just blurt out whatever comes to mind in our commit messages. That's not cool, folks.

A good commit message should be clear, descriptive, and make sense to your team. It should give everyone a heads-up about what's been changed without having to dig through the code. That's where commit message standardization comes in handy.

Tools like Husky and CommitLint can help you out here.

Husky is like a guard dog for Git, stopping you from doing stuff you shouldn't do, like making a messy commit. It does this by using Git hooks, which are scripts that Git runs before or after certain events, like a commit or push.

On the other hand, CommitLint is like a grammar cop for your commit messages. It checks if your commit messages meet certain rules. You can integrate CommitLint with Husky to automatically check your commit messages whenever you make a commit. By default, it follows the Conventional Commits specification, but you can tweak it to suit your needs.

Secrets Scanner

Your app needs to talk to other services to function, right? And to do that, it needs to authenticate, which usually involves secrets.

But let's face it, mistakes happen! A developer might accidentally leak a secret in a repo, and before you know it, those secrets could be in the wrong hands. Here comes Gitleaks.

Gitleaks is a lifesaver. It's an open-source tool that's super fast at spotting secrets. Think passwords, API keys, tokens, private keys, suspicious file names, or file extensions like .id_rsa, .pem, and more. Once Gitleaks finds a secret, you can react quickly and fix the problem.

What's cool about Gitleaks is that it doesn't stop at the latest commit. It goes back to the beginning, scanning your whole repository history. That way, you're covered no matter when a secret was leaked.

So next time you're worried about secrets leaking from your repo, don't sweat it. Just let Gitleaks do its thing and keep your secrets safe.

Release Version

An indispensable step is the release of the software. You've got to bump up the app version, update the CHANGELOG.md, make a release commit and tag, and then push those changes to your project repo.

No fun, right? To help you in this task, Semantic Release is your bestie.

This tool automates the software versioning with Semantic Versions based on your git commit messages. By default, Semantic Release expects commit messages to be in the Conventional Commit format.

Subsequently, it will distribute the updated version to the platforms you have designated, such as GitHub Release, NPM, and so on.

So, whether you're feeling lazy or just want to save time, Semantic Release is worth checking out.

Container Vulnerability Scanner

Currently, the use of containers for deployment and application development is increasingly common. They're like a box that carries all the stuff your app needs to run properly on any computer. This includes libraries, binaries, config files, and frameworks. Basically, you're bundling everything into one neat, lightweight package.

But, those third-party libraries and binaries can introduce added vulnerabilities. So, it is very important to keep your container image secure. Trivy is an excellent tool for doing this. It can be easily used in your pipeline.

Trivy is an open-source cloud-native tool. It scans container images, file systems, operational systems, and remote repositories. This tool ensures that the artifacts don't contain any known security vulnerabilities.

And that's not all! Trivy also has some extra features like checking for misconfigurations and scanning for secrets. So, it's a pretty comprehensive solution for keeping your containerized apps secure.

Communication

A daily task is sending messages to your team or customers about a project. Whether it's an error message or a new release message, you can automate this in your CI pipeline.

You can integrate popular chat and message app, such as Slack and Microsoft Teams into your CI pipeline. Or, if you prefer, you can set up your CI pipeline to automatically create new issues in your project management tool, like Jira or Asana.

Just remember to check the integration reference of your chosen communication tool for more details.

Cache the dependencies

Caching is a big deal when it comes to CI pipelines. It basically acts as a speed booster, storing and reusing data from previous builds to speed up the build process. This is especially handy when dealing with large libraries that take ages to download and install.

Remember, each CI build runs on its own isolated virtual machine. This means a local cache isn't always available by default. So, if you're using isolated build environments, it's a good idea to configure a cache.

And guess what? Typically, you add a cache property in the CI stage of the pipeline specification to implement caching.

Group the jobs and run them in parallel

Running jobs in groups and going parallel in a CI pipeline can totally speed up your build processes. It's super handy when you've got lots of tasks that can run independently and don't rely on each other.

Just look at how you can group jobs and run them in parallel in the pipeline spec. It's pretty straightforward once you get the hang of it.

Conclusion

Continuous Integration (CI) is a game-changer in the software development world. It's like a magic trick that lets you merge code changes from all sorts of folks into one fantastic project.

But holding onto efficiency and keeping your code safe ain't easy. You need to have the right strategies and tools at your disposal.

This article is jam-packed with ideas and strategies to turbocharge your CI pipeline and make it safer and more efficient. So, don't just sit around twiddling your thumbs. Get out there and start making your CI pipeline the best it can be!

Have a great day, and as always, thanks for reading.

Yasmin Teles
Written by

Software engineer, content creator, open-source contributor, and lifelong learner.