Continuous integration platforms are broken – here's what needs fixing

New survey polls developers' 'unmet needs'

About half of 3,880 participants in the 2016 "State of Agile" industry survey reported using continuous integration. Now new research from Oregon State University and University of Illinois suggests that the platforms still leave a lot to be desired.

The survey of 523 developers from more than 30 countries found that their top five unmet needs were easier configuration of CI servers or services (52 per cent), better tool integration (38 per cent), better container/virtualization support (37 per cent), debugging assistance (30 per cent), and user interfaces for modifying CI configurations (29 per cent).

Some 22 per cent of respondents reported they needed "better notifications" and 16 per cent "better security and access controls".

The devs had a mixed background but 95 per cent came from industry and 70 per cent had at least seven years' experience.

The researchers also conducted more detailed 30-60 minute interviews with 16 developers from 14 different companies who worked in roles including "Content Platform Provider", "Computer Security Startup" and "CI Platform Development".

"From our interviews, we find that developers for large software companies rely on the CI engineers to ensure that the configuration is correct, and to help instantiate new configurations," the researchers write.

The researchers will present their work at the European Software Engineering Conference and ACM SIGSOFT Symposium on the Foundations of Software Engineering in Paderborn, Germany, in September.

The paper was partially funded by US National Science Foundation grants.

As the automation firm Puppet has noted in its surveys, dev houses using CI might be "high performing". But according to this new work, there may still be improvements for the CI platforms to make. ®

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