For quite some time, GitHub has been a trailblazer in terms of software cooperation and communication. This is particularly true in the case of new event-driven scenarios.

You recently learned about GitHub Actions’ pre-release version. With the latest beta release, let’s take a closer look at how to put GitHub Actions to work for your development team.

A review of GitHub Actions will be followed by a discussion of new features in this release and a demonstration of several pre-built Actions and Workflows. There’s also a sample CI/CD workflow that uses Actions so you can see how powerful it is.

GitHub Actions: An overview

To refresh your memory, GitHub Actions is a new feature that allows developers to program reactions across the GitHub platform. These reusable pieces of code, written in YAML, can perform new actions in response to events, such as creating a new repository, merging a pull request, or testing a build.

GitHub Actions is a platform that is run by the community. Many of the Actions and Workflow are created by members of the community. GitHub claims that developers can “automate [their] workflow from idea to production” by using Actions.

New CI/CD features

The latest GitHub Actions beta targets continuous integration (CI) and continuous development (CD) requirements more directly in response to developer demand. “Actions is the democratization of CI/CD and software automation,” according to GitHub.

The beta Actions update includes the following new features:

  • Developers can test many versions in parallel using matrix builds.
  • Developers may test on any platform, including Linux, macOS, Windows, and containers.
  • Live logging: Logs are transmitted in real-time to the Actions console. Deep linking capabilities, as well as permalinks, are provided by logs to aid in collaborative testing operations.
  • Language support has been improved for Node.js, Python, Java, PHP, Ruby, C/C++,.NET, Android, and iOS.
  • Offered workflows: Based on the details of a user’s project, relevant workflows are automatically suggested to them.

All of these capabilities are free for public repositories and help GitHub Actions achieve one of its main goals: reusability. Developers may now reuse Actions in their workflows as if they were code, regardless of platform or language.

Automating a sample CI/CD pipeline using Actions

GitHub Actions could essentially automate each component of a DevOps pipeline in an event-driven manner, from code push and testing to deployment.

A .github/main.workflow file is the first step in creating a workflow. The number of Workflows or Actions blocks that can be strung together on GitHub is unlimited.

Actions and Workflows can assist developers to automate developing, testing, and deploying apps, which is ideal for DevOps fluidity. Other DevOps duties, such as addressing bugs, automating releases, communicating with your user base, and more, maybe automated with Actions.

Workflows can contain up to 100 operations and last up to 58 minutes, allowing for an almost infinite number of conceivable combination chains.

Github Actions limitations

The alpha release of Actions didn’t indicate exact calling rates or other use constraints when we last discussed it. The Actions beta update now clarifies the usage scope.

  • Only public repositories are free to use Actions.
  • Only 2,000 minutes per month are available to developers.
  • Each workflow has a maximum duration of 58 minutes (including queuing and execution time).
  • A workflow can have up to 100 actions in it (including build and other meta steps).
  • Per repository, only two workflows can be active at the same time.
  • Other Workflow cannot be triggered by actions. “A push, deployment, or any job performed within an action with the specified GITHUB TOKEN will not start a workflow listening on push, deploy, or any other supported action triggers,” according to the documentation.
  • Docker container logs are limited to 64KB in size on GitHub.
  • Container logs in Docker are limited to 64KB in size.
  • In an hour, developers can make 1,000 API requests across all operations in a repository.

Who is GitHub Actions for?

Operational leads or DevOps heads can use Actions to create bespoke paths that are tailored to their policies and development culture. GitHub Actions is becoming an even more powerful force for software release automation, thanks to the recent focus on CI/CD.

The developer community’s reaction to Actions has been largely positive since its release. Hundreds of Actions and Workflow have been created by the community. With such a strong reception from the developer community, Actions appear to have cemented their place as a standard feature.

Development automation made easier

The new capabilities in the GitHub Actions beta release focus on the most important aspects of development automation. Matrix Builds, for example, is a useful tool for parallel testing, and the inclusion of support for new platforms and languages opens the door to more developers.

GitHub has grown in popularity as a Git-style application development platform, with over 40 million developers. With Actions, GitHub may continue to supplant startups in the DevOps CI/CD space. Others see it as a friendly rivalry.

On November 13, a complete release is expected. For GitHub Enterprise Server, GitHub highlights planned capabilities such as self-hosting and Actions. Keep in mind that, while being in public beta, GitHub does not recommend using Actions for “high-value workflows.”

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