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Vote for XFD in the Ultimate Wallboard Challenge

23 November 2010 Leave a comment

Julian Simpson, aka The Build Doctor, has been working away at a nice web based Build Status Monitor called XFD for a while now. One of my complaints for years has been that there’s no nice build status tool that’s easy to use, but I think he’s on to something.

It’s entered in the Ultimate Wallboard Challenge, and you can vote for it here.

Have we ESCaped Continuous Delivery?

7 October 2010 Leave a comment

A few years ago Martin Fowler introduced me and a few other ThoughtWorkers who were involved in the Continuous Integration and Deployment space to an editor he knew and told us we needed to write a book about what we were doing. The key thing we were focusing on was making sure that quality software could be released to production in a reliable and repeatable way. Software has absolutely no value until it’s running in production. If you can’t get it into production quickly and easily then you’re just wasting time and money.

There were a few false starts, a few changes of crew, but eventually Jez Humble and Dave Farley stuck it out all the way to the end and Continuous Delivery was published this year. No matter what you do in your organisation, if you’re filled with dread at the thought of a new software release then you need to buy it and read it and do what it says. Now. This article will still be here after you’ve ordered it. Although I didn’t have enough time to be a big contributor, Jez would drag me in front of a white board when ever our paths crossed to discuss things and kept on sending me drafts of key chapters that I have specific interest in and so I am proud to have helped in at least some small way.

One of the things he did do was include a mention to a project that Tom Sulston and I started to make configuration management easier. It’s called ESCape, and I’ve written and talked about it a few times in a few different places. As more and more people are reading the book though I’m getting more questions about what the status of the project is and what our plans are going forward.

At the moment the project is in hibernation. We’ve not made any changes for over a year now, and I don’t think I’ll be working on it in its current incarnation any time soon. That does not mean it’s not based on a good idea though! It’s more a problem of implementation.

At its heart, ESCape is supposed to be a simple way to manage a hierarchal key/value store. I like the way the UI works, Dan North even has a wonderful acronym for it that I can’t for the life of me remember right now. The real problem with the current design is how we’re storing the data. Trying to wedge that kind of data into a relation database always felt dirty and I decided to stop before any real damage was done.

What I’d like to do though is to take the existing UI and functionality and use something like Neo4J or CouchDB to store the data. Conversations I’ve had with Jim Webber and Ian Robinson about it were one of the reasons I didn’t start immediately on a replacement as at the time Jim was making plans to write the REST interface into Neo4J. As an early release of it is now available I guess I’ve run out of excuses…

The End of Buildix

16 December 2009 Leave a comment

I’ve been putting off this post for a few months now, but I think the time has finally come to admit what I’m sure people who care have guessed for a while – active development on Buildix has stopped, and will probably not resume. The site will stay up for the foreseeable future, nothing will vanish, but nothing new will be added either.

We started the project because at the time, setting up a new Continuous Integration server was quite an arduous task. The only real option out there for a Java project was CruiseControl, and it could take a new developer days to get their first build through the system. Thankfully though this is no longer the case.

Since then the whole CI landscape has changed. Just having a single “build server” is now more the exception than the rule. It’s all about build farms these days using tools like Cruise, Hudson and TeamCity. They integrate nicely with a variety of SCM’s and story tracking tools. Setting up a build environment with these tools is really easy now. I’d like to think that Buildix at least had something to do with helping people to see how easy it could be to get a CI environment up and running, and I know that at least in the case of Cruise this is true because I’ve been part of that team.

So – thank you to all of you who used Buildix and liked it and provided feedback. Thank you also to the current big players in the CI field who put effort into making sure that looking after your CI environment no longer needs to be a full time job for someone.

Podcast on Continuous Integration available

27 April 2009 Leave a comment

Last year at JAOO I had the chance to speak to Markus from Software Engineering Radio about the talk I gave there on Continuous Integration. It’s finally available now over here. The slides that go along with the talk are available from the JAOO site.

Introducing ESCAPE

13 February 2009 3 comments

Whenever I talk to new clients about Continuous Integration, and especially about using Build Pipelines to extend their CI process to cover testing things like the deployment of their application, there is always one question that is guaranteed to pop up – how do I manage the configuration of my application in all these environments?

This is always a hard one to answer. In the last place I worked as a System Administrator we used Split-Horizon DNS as one of the ways to solve connecting to the correct host for a service. Our applications had hard coded hostnames for key services such as db.internal.domain, loghost.internal.domain and mailhost.internal.domain. Depending on which environment they ran in, when the did a DNS lookup they would get an answer that pointed them to the correct server providing that service for the environment they were physically running in. Combine this with tools like an LDAP Server in each of these environments containing the rest of the system configuration and life is easy. Or is it?

DNS and LDAP servers are relatively straight forward for experienced Sys Admins to understand and maintain, but they still can’t be described as easy to use, which is probably why so few people do it. This limits our options for fixing things down to two general categories – fix DNS and LDAP admin tools so they are easy to use, or find another way to solve the problem.

We chose the path of least resistance and went for the second option – creating ESCAPE. In the Unix tradition, it’s an app that takes one problem and solves it simply and well (at least in our opinion). It provides a RESTful interface for both the setting and getting of environment configuration. GET requests will retrieve configuration, whereas POST/PUT requests will create new entries or update them.

The URL scheme we’ve decided on is most easily demonstrated by constructing an example URL:

URL Value returned in the body
http://escape/ User interface. No API available here.
http://escape/environments/ A JSON list of all the available environment.
http://escape/environments/production/ A JSON list of all the applications in the “production” environment.
http://escape/environments/production/mywebapp All keys and values for the “mywebapp” application in the “production” environment.e.g:
key1=value1
key2=value2
http://escape/environments/production/mywebapp/thiskey The value of “thiskey” for the “mywebapp” application in the “production” environment.

As the tool is now usable we’ve happily released version 0.1. Currently we’re busy putting a lot of work into making the management interface understandable and intuitive to use. The closest thing we currently have to a roadmap is our ToDo list.

Please join us on the discussion group with your feedback.

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