We need to stop using the term CI/CD

By September 24, 2020Blog

People ask me all the time why CD.Foundation is not the CICD Foundation and I have to get better at answering that question. And the first step is having the conversation about what a misguided term CI/CD really is.

orange sunset reflected into a lake

It is confusing to newcomers

I used to think the “D” in CI/CD stood for “Deployment” but then in the last 3 years, more folks seem to use it to mean “Delivery.” At FOSDEM 2020 there was a CI/CD track with “D” as in deployment. In my talk there I asked the audience what they thought, with hilarious results. 

It is confusing to industry professionals

Owen Adams, one of our CDF Ambassadors interviewed practitioners for roles in platform engineering, software engineering and management. He spoke to 76 candidates and asked them about the difference between Continuous Delivery and Continuous Deployment. While a handful could articulate this, the vast majority (75%) were not even aware there was a difference.

Industry experts hate the term

Let’s just say it makes Jez Humble leave passive-aggressive easter eggs in documentation. 

It is a misleading term

CI/CD implies a certain yin and yang, perhaps that these two things are equivalent and go hand in hand or maybe that one happens first and then the other. It offers an oversimplification: you do CI then you do CD (whatever that means) then your work in delivering software is done and you can pat yourself on the back. 

The reality is that continuous delivery is a set of practices that enable us to deliver software changes effectively to users. Continuous integration is just one of the practices under the continuous delivery umbrella. The other practices include version control, deployment automation, test automation, security practices, etc. 

Christie Wilson’s research indicates that the term CI/CD popped up organically in 2013. No doubt at the time it was catchy and useful and good enough to define a whole industry segment.

I am under no illusions that the term CI/CD will go away any time soon. But as software evolves towards microservices, interpreted languages (such as Python), etc the role of CI as we know it will change dramatically and this will help make the term “CI/CD” more and more of an anachronism. Especially for those who genuinely want to get better at delivering software in the modern age. 

Thanks to the following folks for reviewing this post:
Owen Adams, Christie Wilson, Mauricio Salatino, Roxanne Joncas

Attend CDCon on October 7 for the first keynote “The Past, Present and Future of Continuous Delivery” where I, Christie Wilson, (Google), and Zainab Abubakar (She Code Africa) take you on a CD journey.