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Apple has unveiled a new continuous integration/delivery (CI/CD) system called Xcode Cloud that allows developers to create, test, and deploy apps automatically for all Apple devices from the cloud.

Continuous integration, for the uninitiated, enables multiple developers to push out frequent small changes to a shared code repository and test for flaws, while continuous deployment is concerned with releasing the quality-checked code to the final product in small batches. A CI/CD approach allows developers to ship code more quickly, find and fix issues more easily, and collaborate more effectively.

In the cloud

Apple first introduced its Xcode integrated development environment (IDE) for developers way back in 2003 to help developers create applications for Mac computers. Apple has since branched into all manner of devices, from smartphones and tablets to watches and TV players, with Xcode’s scope expanding alongside to help developers write code and design user interfaces for all manner of Apple products.

Xcode Cloud marks a notable evolution for Apple’s IDE, as it leverages the power of the cloud (i.e. remote servers) to free up developers’ local machines for other resource-intensive tasks. It also supports parallel testing so developers can test software for bugs using simulations across various device configurations.

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Above: Xcode Cloud: Parallel testing

It’s worth noting that Xcode Cloud plays nicely with TestFlight (which is now extending beyond mobile apps and onto the Mac), enabling quality assurance (QA) teams of up to 100 people to install new builds and start their testing process. This also supports up to 10,000 invited external testers who can help test new features or identify bugs in the wild.

Xcode Cloud follows a notable trend of developer tools gravitating toward the cloud, with GitHub last year bringing its IDE to the browser via Codespaces and countless other tools — such as GitPod, CodeSandbox, Replit, and CoScreen — going to market and raising sizable investments for cloud developer tools over the past few years.

Xcode Cloud is available for developers now as part of Xcode 13 in limited beta.

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