Anatomy of a CI/CD Pipeline in AWS

Bhupali Tambekar

What is CI/CD pipeline?

In today’s ever-evolving digital landscape, businesses are constantly looking for ways to stay ahead in their game. One of the most effective tools businesses can use to keep up with their competition is a Continuous Integration/Continuous Delivery (CI/CD) pipeline. The CI/CD pipeline is the backbone of modern software development and is an essential component of DevOps. It enables teams to move quickly, deliver value faster, and respond to customer needs with greater agility.

 

Benefits of CI/CD pipeline

  • Streamlined Deployment Process: The use of a CI/CD pipeline eliminates the need for manual deployment processes.
  • Improved Visibility and Control: CI/CD pipelines provide real-time visibility into the development process. Each step in the pipeline is tracked, allowing teams to identify any potential bottlenecks or areas of potential improvement.
  • Automated Testing: With a CI/CD pipeline, tests can be automated and triggered whenever new code is added. This helps to ensure that any bugs or errors are identified and addressed quickly, reducing the risk of them slipping through to production.
  • Cost Savings: CI/CD pipelines can also help to reduce costs, as they eliminate the need for manual testing and deployments.
  • Faster Time to Market: The automation capabilities of CI/CD pipelines also help to reduce the time it takes to get the software to market.

 

Different approaches to building a CI/CD pipeline

CodeCommit, Code Build, Code Deploy, and Code Pipeline
1 CI/CD Pipeline using AWS CodeCommit, CodeBuild, CodeDeploy, and Code Pipeline (Source credit: LINK)

CI/CD can be pictured as a pipeline, where new code is submitted on one end, tested over a series of stages (source, build, test, staging), and then published as production-ready code.

 

The CI/CD pipeline is organized as a series of distinct stages, each of which serves as a checkpoint in the software delivery process. At each stage, a specific aspect of the code is evaluated and verified. As the code moves forward through the pipeline, it is assumed that its quality improves due to the increasing number of checks performed. If any issues are detected in an early stage, the code will not proceed to the next stage. The test results are promptly communicated to the team, and if the software does not pass the evaluation at a particular stage, all subsequent builds and releases are suspended.

 

A typical CI/CD pipeline in AWS is built using fully managed services – AWS CodeCommit, Code Build, Code Deploy, and Code Pipeline.

 

AWS CodeCommit is a secure, highly scalable,  source control service that hosts private Git repositories.

 

AWS CodeBuild is a continuous integration service that compiles source code, runs tests, and produces ready-to-deploy software packages.


AWS CodeDeploy is a deployment service that automates software deployments to various compute services, such as Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud (EC2), Amazon Elastic Container Service (ECS), AWS Lambda, and AWS EKS.

 

AWS CodePipeline is a continuous delivery service that helps you automate your release pipelines for fast and reliable application and infrastructure updates.

 

Now that you know the four main components of a typical CI/CD pipeline in AWS, let’s look at how to create one.

  • The first step is to create your CodeCommit repository.
  • Once your repository has been created, you can add your code to it.
  • You can then create a CodeBuild project. This project will compile the code and run tests in order to create the build artifact.
  • Once the build artifact has been created, you can then create a CodeDeploy deployment group. This deployment group will be used to deploy your application.
  • Finally, you can create a CodePipeline pipeline to automate the delivery of your application from commit to production. This pipeline will monitor the health of your application and ensure that it is deployed correctly.


Pros:

  • Managed services: AWS CodeCommit, CodeBuild, CodePipeline, and CodeDeploy are fully managed services, so there is no maintenance required for the underlying infrastructure.
  • Integration: These services integrate well with other AWS services and tools, making it easy to build a robust CI/CD pipeline.
  • Cost-effective: The pay-as-you-go pricing model can be leveraged, which is a cost-effective solution for organizations with varying levels of build and deployment activity.


Cons:

  • Learning curve: There may be a steep learning curve for teams unfamiliar with AWS services and DevOps practices.
CI/CD pipeline using Jenkins

Jenkins is an open-source automation server that helps to automate the process of software delivery and deployment. Jenkins is highly customizable and can be integrated with a variety of tools and plugins to meet the specific needs of a project. For example, it can be integrated with version control systems such as Git, build tools like Maven, and testing frameworks like JUnit to automate the CI/CD pipeline. It also provides features such as reporting, notification, and tracking of build and deployment activities.

  • The first step in creating a CI/CD pipeline using Jenkins is to configure the Jenkins server. You can add source code management to the Jenkins project under the Source Code section. If you are using GitHub as the source code repository, choose the GitHub option.
  • Enable a trigger for the Jenkins server using a “Poll SCM” option. This option makes Jenkins check the configured repository for any new commits/code changes with a specified frequency.
  • If there are any code commits in GitHub, Jenkins clones all the files from the GitHub repository to the Jenkins server workspace directory.
  • AWS CodeBuild can then be triggered which builds the code and AWS Code Deploy then does the actual deployment.

 

Pros:

  • Open Source: Being an open-source tool, it is free to use and supported by a large community of developers.
  • Integration: Jenkins integrates well with a wide range of tools and technologies.
  • Customizability: Jenkins can be tailored to meet the specific needs of an organization.
  • Large plugin library: Jenkins has a large plugin library making it easy to extend the functionality of the tool.

 

Cons:

  • Complexity: For organizations new to CI/CD, Jenkins can prove to be complex to set up and maintain.
  • Maintenance: As an open-source tool, Jenkins requires regular maintenance and updates to ensure that it continues to function as expected.
  • Security: Proper configuration and maintenance is crucial else Jenkins can be vulnerable to security threats.
CI/CD Pipeline using Jenkins, CodeBuild, and CodeDeploy (Source credit: LINK)
CI/CD pipeline using CircleCI

CircleCI is a popular CI/CD platform that helps organizations automate the process of building, testing, and deploying software. With CircleCI, you can define, manage, and visualize the entire software delivery pipeline in a single, easy-to-use platform.

To create a CI/CD pipeline using CircleCI, you need to perform the following steps:

  • To get started, you need to connect CircleCI to your code repository, such as GitHub or Bitbucket. This allows CircleCI to access your code and perform automated builds and deployments.
  • CircleCI uses a configuration file called .circleci/config.yml to define the steps in your CI/CD pipeline. The configuration file specifies the environment, dependencies, and commands to be run for each step in the pipeline.
  • The build step is the first step in the CI/CD pipeline. In this step, CircleCI compiles the code, runs tests, and generates artifacts such as binary files and Docker images.
  • After the build step, CircleCI runs tests to validate the code. Tests can be automated unit tests, integration tests, or manual tests.
  • After the tests are completed, CircleCI deploys the code to the target environment, such as a staging or production environment. CircleCI integrates with various deployment tools and platforms, including AWS, Google Cloud, and Heroku.
  • CircleCI provides detailed insights into the pipeline results, including build and test results, deployment logs, and performance metrics. You can monitor the pipeline results in real time and get notifications when issues arise.

Pros:

  • Cloud-based: Organizations do not need to maintain their own infrastructure for CI/CD as CircleCI is a cloud-based service.
  • Ease of use: CircleCI has a user-friendly interface and is designed to be easy to set up and use.

Cons:

  • Cost: While CircleCI offers a cost-effective solution, the cost can add up quickly for organizations with high build and deployment activity.
  • Learning curve: There may be a steep learning curve for teams unfamiliar with CircleCI and CI/CD practices.
  • Integration limitations: Some third-party tools may not integrate well with CircleCI, which can limit the flexibility of the CI/CD pipeline.
CI/CD Pipeline using AWS CDK

AWS Cloud Development Kit (CDK) is a powerful tool that can be used to create CI/CD pipelines. The AWS CDK is a software development framework for defining cloud infrastructure in code and provisioning it through AWS CloudFormation. It enables developers to define, deploy, and manage cloud resources using familiar programming languages, such as TypeScript, Python, and Java.

  • You’ll need to install the AWS CDK command-line interface (CLI) on your machine. You can then create a new project and configure it to use the CDK.
  • Once you’ve done that, you’ll need to define your pipeline’s stages and the tasks associated with each stage. AWS CDK provides a number of pre-defined tasks, such as build, test, and deploy, that can be used to quickly define your pipeline.
  • Once you’ve configured your pipeline, you can deploy it using the CDK CLI. This will create all of the necessary resources, such as Amazon S3 buckets, to store your code, and Amazon ECS tasks to run your tests.
  • Finally, you’ll need to configure your pipeline to trigger when changes are made to your code. AWS CDK provides a number of options for this, such as using webhooks or Amazon SNS notifications. You can also use the CDK CLI to manually trigger the pipeline.


Pros:

  • Integration with AWS services: AWS CDK integrates well with other AWS services, making it easy to build a robust CI/CD pipeline using AWS infrastructure.
  • Customizable: AWS CDK allows for the creation of custom CI/CD pipelines that can be tailored to meet the specific needs of an organization.
  • Scalability: AWS services are highly scalable, so organizations can easily handle the demands of their CI/CD pipeline as they grow.
  • Open-source: AWS CDK is an open-source tool. Organizations can leverage contributions by a large community of developers.


Cons:

  • Learning curve: There may be a steep learning curve for teams unfamiliar with AWS CDK and AWS services.
  • Complexity: AWS CDK can be complex to set up and maintain, especially for organizations new to DevOps.
How can you enhance CI/CD pipeline?
Vulnerability scanning using ECR
 

Vulnerability scanning is an essential part of any secure development process, allowing you to identify and fix security flaws before they become significant problems. By using AWS ECR, you can easily set up a secure, automated vulnerability scanning process for your CI/CD pipeline.

 

To get started, you’ll need to set up the AWS ECR Docker Credential Helper. This tool helps you securely store your credentials in your local environment. Once the credentials are set up, you can start scanning your container images for vulnerabilities. When running a scan, AWS ECR will check your images for potential security flaws. It will also look for outdated packages, as well as any known vulnerabilities in the code. The scan will then provide detailed results, which you can use to address any security issues.

Code quality check using SonarQube

SonarQube is an open-source static code analysis tool that helps you identify and fix issues with your code. It also helps you keep track of code quality, making sure that it always meets your standards. By integrating SonarQube into your CI/CD pipeline, you can ensure that your code is clean and secure before it’s deployed to production.

Adopt IaC to build CI/CD Pipeline

Using Infrastructure-as-Code (IaC) to build a CI/CD pipeline in AWS can save you time and effort. IaC allows you to define your infrastructure as code, which makes it easier to manage and maintain. You can also version, test and deploy your infrastructure faster, which means your pipeline is always up-to-date.

Adopting IaC for your AWS environment has a number of benefits. Here are just a few:

  • Disaster Recovery: IaC is an essential part disaster recovery strategy as it helps put up new infrastructure very quickly and efficiently.
  • Increased efficiency: IaC enables you to automate the process of setting up and maintaining your infrastructure. This saves you time, allowing you to focus on more important tasks.
  • Lower costs: IaC can help you reduce your costs by streamlining the process of provisioning and managing your infrastructure.
Notifications and Alerts for CI/CD pipeline execution

Setting up Notification Rules in AWS CodePipeline and CodeBuild is a crucial step in ensuring that engineers are promptly informed of the success or failure of build and deployment. You can set up email alerts for the duration of the CI/CD pipeline in the below manner:

  • In the AWS CodePipeline and CodeBuild console page, choose an existing notification rule or create a new rule. In this rule, you can add details about the information provided to Amazon EventBridge and the additional failure information generated by CodePipeline or CodeBuild.
  • Specify the trigger events that will generate a notification like Action/Stage execution, Manual approval, etc.
  • Create an SNS topic and add notifications for group email ids or you can add multiple emails which should be receiving the alerts.
  • Email alerts will now be generated and sent to the targeted group of people during the entire duration of the CI/CD pipeline.

Final Thoughts

In conclusion, organizations of all sizes can benefit from implementing a CI/CD pipeline in their AWS environment. Whether you are a startup just getting started with DevOps or an established enterprise looking to streamline your release process, AWS has the tools and services you need to succeed. And if it seems like a daunting task, do consult the experts!

About Author

Bhupali is a seasoned technology leader with a passion for innovation and a deep understanding of the cloud computing industry. With extensive experience in cloud architecture and a proven track record of delivering successful AWS implementations, Bhupali is a trusted advisor to Comprinno’s clients. She is a thought leader in the industry and loves to channel her passion for technology through her insightful blogs.

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