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CI/CD Pipeline

What Is CI/CD?

Organizations need the ability to deploy new versions of quality software to their production environments quickly. CI/CD is the process of using automation to build and deploy working software. 

Software developed using the CI/CD model typically presents no surprises once the code is committed to a live environment. CI/CD is a way of developing software that allows you to release updates at any time—instead of releasing a major version every six months—while being able to respond to changes in requirements quickly.  

Continuous Integration/Continuous Delivery (CI/CD) is a hot topic in the technology world, and with good reason. By automating your software delivery pipeline, you can improve the quality of the product, add agility to your development processes, accelerate time to market, and reduce costs. 

By integrating application security testing throughout the software development life cycle (SDLC), you can prevent vulnerabilities from being introduced into your application code—and ultimately, the finished product.

CI/CD Pipeline Meaning?

A DevOps CI/CD pipeline improves the software delivery process via automation, speeding up the development process and ensuring your application software has undergone rigorous testing and change control. It automates the process of building, testing, and releasing software. 

The components of an integrated CI/CD pipeline include a build toolchain, automated testing tools, and release-management tools. 

  1. Build toolchain: This enables you to combine compiled code into a working product. 
  2. Automated testing tools: You use tests to verify that a product meets specific requirements and identify bugs. 
  3. Release-management tools: These allow you to deploy your code to a target system. 

CI/CD Pipeline Security

Although CI/CD pipeline technology brings new opportunities, there are several associated security risks to keep in mind, including data loss, data theft, and various types of cyberattacks. If you are not careful about how your pipeline is configured and managed, these risks will cost you money or even damage your reputation.

Understanding what kinds of attacks are possible against your CI/CD pipeline is essential, so you can take the necessary steps to make sure CI/CD security is in place. For example, you should:

  1. Use proper authentication mechanisms for all access points in the pipeline, including external services 
  2. Monitor incoming traffic for signs of unauthorized activity, such as malware or viruses
  3. Have comprehensive backup strategies in case something goes wrong with the pipeline

Secure Your CI/CD Environment Using Layered Defense

You can secure your CI/CD pipeline using multiple security measures, also known as a layered defense. These measures should include restricting access to the code repository, encrypting data, and monitoring activity. 

Adopting strict security protocols helps protect your code from being stolen or modified by unauthorized users and also safeguards the data in your system against all possible threats. It is essential to use a combination of security strategies to ensure the Confidentiality, Integrity, and Availability—also known as the CIA triad—of your system.

Ensure the Appropriate Security Controls Are in Place

Integrating security into your DevOps processes is known as DevSecOps. This results in significant cost reductions and the ability to fix bugs earlier in the development process. 

Here are some DevOps security best practices to consider:

  1.  Ensure proper change management so that developed code is rigorously checked to prevent bugs or defective code from being released into the production environment.
  2.  Automate the security scanning of code, so that code found defective is rejected and not released into production.
  3. Configure access permissions to allow just enough rights to perform a role.
  4. Always maintain appropriate segregation between the development and production environments. Never allow developers direct access to any live environment.
  5. Train developers and administrators on secure software development practices.
  6.  Enforce strong access controls over DevOps platforms with identity and access management (IAM) tools so that only authorized personnel can access CI/CD environments. 
  7. Track, audit, and monitor all access credentials for all personal and service accounts.
  8. Maintain comprehensive logs of all actions across CI/CD environments so that security analysts can investigate breaches quickly and identify attack vectors.
  9. Limit the scope for continuous integration to only the most-critical code changes, and limit the duration and frequency of continuous integration cycles to help reduce the attack surface of your environment.

What Are the Differences Between Continuous Integration (CI), Continuous Delivery (CD), and Continuous Deployment (CD)?

There are differences between Continuous Integration, Delivery, and Deployment:

  1. Continuous Integration (CI): A process of building and testing code together as it is being developed, instead of waiting for the entire project to be complete before testing. It means integrating code into the main development branch constantly throughout development. This helps you detect problems early and prevents defects from entering your production environments.
  2. Continuous Delivery (CD): A process that automates deployments by making sure changes are made to the codebase, tested, and deployed automatically as soon as they are ready.
  3. Continuous Deployment (CD): A deployment method that allows your applications to be released automatically, so the latest version is available. It gives you continuous control over how fast your users receive new features. No more releasing updates overnight without adequately testing them first. 

There are pros and cons to every approach, so choose what works best for your organization based on specific business requirements.

4 Stages of a CI/CD Pipeline

The CI/CD pipeline has four stages: source, build, test, and deployment. Each stage helps you improve the viability and reliability of your software applications. 

  1. Source stage: This stage is when developers create the source code. Whenever a change is made or a new repository is created, the source stage will automatically be triggered. 
  2. Build stage: This stage focuses on ensuring that all components are compiled successfully and that the code complies with the organization's coding standards. Developers typically use version control systems to maintain the history of changes in the codebase. The build process is performed by the team that builds the component. Sometimes, it can also be performed automatically using platforms such as Jenkins.
  3. Test stage: This stage focuses on testing the system so it is defect-free before merging the code into the production environment. Developers typically perform unit testing so the system is operating as expected and functional testing to ensure the system operates as designed. Automated security testing is a significant component of this stage, ensuring no vulnerabilities are present.
  4. Deployment stage: This stage focuses on deploying the code to the production environment so users can use it. This is done once all the tests are completed and the code has gone through an organization's change-control process.

What Benefits Can a CI/CD Pipeline Bring to Enterprises?

A CI/CD pipeline benefits organizations in the development cycle in the following ways: 

  1. Developer productivity: A well-organized and continuous integration process enables developers and system administrators to spend less time merging code. Because most tedious tasks are automated, developers can focus on adding new features to the system rather than wasting time on repetitive tasks. 
  2. Developer collaboration: In traditional software development processes, there is a long feedback loop between development and operations teams. As developers continuously integrate their code, they can collaborate with other developers and the system administrator to resolve issues quickly. This improves the quality and performance of the final product and reduces the cost of product development.
  3. Increased productivity: Agile development improves productivity and accelerates the time to market. Organizations can improve their agility by developing smaller iterations that can be released frequently. 
  4. Better control over changes: With an automated build process, your teams can deploy code to production any time without waiting for manual approval or testing by business users.

Common Pitfalls of a CI/CD Pipeline

Although CI/CD pipelines are essential for improving software development processes, there are potential pitfalls that businesses can fall into when using them. Some of the most common problems with CI/CD pipelines include:

  1.  Failing to properly test code before it is merged into the mainline branch
  2. Not setting up proper permissions for Git users
  3. Not monitoring code quality closely enough
  4. Not keeping the pipeline secure and stable, causing it to break down due to incorrect or outdated code
  5. Failing to manage dependencies between different pipeline parts correctly, leading to instability
  6. Lack of coordination between multiple teams, making integrating CI/CD pipelines with other systems difficult

These issues can lead to decreased productivity and security vulnerabilities in your software development process, making implementing a successful CI/CD pipeline challenging.

5 Best Practices of a CI/CD Pipeline for an Effective DevOps Strategy

  1. Use a standardized process and toolset
  2. Automate as much as possible to speed up the deployment process
  3.  Use version control for all changes to your codebase and artifacts
  4. Perform Continuous Integration (CI) on each stage of the pipeline to ensure quality and compliance with security standards, including testing for vulnerabilities before deploying to production servers
  5. Monitor the health of your systems continuously using performance metrics and alerting mechanisms

Top Tools to Facilitate CI/CD Pipeline

Various CI/CD pipeline tools can be used across the four stages:

  • Configuration management: Ansible, Puppet, or Chef to automate code deployment
  • Code management: GitHub, GitLab, and Bitbucket 
  • Build process: Jenkins, Bamboo, TeamCity, and BuildForge
  • Testing stage: Selenium, JUnit, and SonarQube for testing the codebase
  • Deployment: Argo, Spinnaker, or Octopus Deploy to deploy the code to production servers

How Fortinet Can Help

Fortinet can help with all your DevOps CI/CD pipeline testing requirements. The FortiDevSec automated testing platform can test your applications against thousands of vulnerabilities using SAST, SCA/OSS, Secrets, and DAST. The Fortinet artificial intelligence engine can detect vulnerable code combinations in development code quickly and reliably. 

In addition, FortiDevSec can highlight the impact of the vulnerability in actual attack scenarios and accurately quantify the effects of specific vulnerabilities and the likelihood of exploitation.


What does a CI/CD pipeline mean?

A CI/CD pipeline improves the software delivery process via automation, which can help speed up the development process and ensure your application software has undergone rigorous testing and change control. It automates the process of building, testing, and releasing software. 

What are the steps in a CI/CD pipeline?

CI/CD pipelines consist of four steps: source, build, test, and deployment. Each stage helps you improve the viability and reliability of your software applications.