With the apps in the Apple App and Google Play stores each numbering well past a million, the need for developers to get products built, tested and distributed faster than their competitors is more crucial than ever. The arrival of the Apple Watch, essentially an entire new platform, pushes the stakes even higher. Streamlining this process is the idea behind Ship.io, a tool from Electric Cloud that automates the development lifecycle, from code check-in to testing to app-store distribution.
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A software as a service that geographically dispersed development teams can use to drive continuous delivery of native iOS and Android mobile apps, Ship.io is fundamentally a centralized check-in and review system for changes to code, automated builds, automated testing and release. It supports native integration with several services in the mobile-development tool chain, including:
- The Gradle build automation tool
- Microsoft's HockeyApp crash analytics and app-distribution platform
- Twitter's Crashlytics Beta crash reporting tool
- The AppThwack testing environment
- The Slack team-communications service
Visibility into builds, tests and deployment statuses with Ship.io are achieved via dashboards.
"We see this as an assembly line for mobile apps -- come with your code, leave with your app," said Prathap Dendi, general manager for San Jose, Calif.-based Electric Cloud. Problems in Web app development have been solved over the last 10 years, but the mobile stack is still relatively young and not entirely smooth, he added. And there's more to come: As the next generation of app stores appears for cars, drones and Internet of Things, Ship.io plans to be ready, he said.
Prathat Dendi, general manager, Electric Cloud
Emberlight, a San Francisco startup manufacturer of an adapter that transforms any dimmable, standard-base incandescent, compact fluorescent or LED light bulb into a Wi-Fi, app-controlled smart light, uses Ship.io to automate its software-development process.
"Setting up a CI [continuous integration] environment is a pain for mobile-app development teams," said Emberlight Vice President Kevin Rohling. "With this product, every time we check in code, a CI server detects it and pulls the latest code, recompiles it, does automated testing, and then pushes it out to a staging environment." CI, long commonplace among Web developers, is a newcomer to mobile app development, he said. "Setting up CI for mobile takes a significant amount of time. Now, we can simplify the process. We tell it where source code is, and it does everything else," Rohling said.
Ship.io's pricing model places no limits on the number of builds. "We want to encourage an unlimited number of builds," said Dendi, noting that the modest size of the mobile stack yields builds for iOS in about two minutes and slightly longer for Android. An individual can use Ship.io free for up to two jobs monthly, encompassing 10 build archives per job with unlimited builds. Three additional usage tiers for development teams of different sizes are priced at $39, $79, and $199 monthly -- supporting up to five, 10 and 25 jobs, respectively -- all with unlimited builds. Ship.io is available now.
Does continuous delivery equal continuous improvement?