- Continuous integration is a must for software projects. It makes deployment stressless and lets you spot problems as soon as they arrive, not 3 months later.
- We take it one step further and use continuous deployment. Whenever one of us Git-pushes to master, the new code is tested and goes live right away.
- Jenkins makes it easy. With the Github plugin, you connect Jenkins to Github’s post-receive hook so that any code pushed to our repo triggers the Jenkins job.
- The Hipchat plugin lets Jenkins notify us whether the build was successful or not. That way we can react quickly if something goes wrong.
As all teams working on a web application, we had to setup a continuous integration server. This is a fairly well-known engineering practice, where you want your code to be built and tested regularly on the server so that you spot problems as soon as they arrive and not when you push three months’ worth of work to production. Also, it makes deployment a much less stressful experience, because you know it will work. You avoid getting in the situation of a friend of mine who could not have coffee with me because he was deploying and didn’t want to mess it up!
We also wanted to take it one step further, and use continuous deployment. As the name implies, this means that any new code pushed to the server will automatically be built, tested and then go live and be used by our users right away. It turns out that is fairly easy to set up -except for a few caveats-, and I will describe our setup. This by no means a step-by-step tutorial but rather a “here is what you can do” article.
Our Tech Stack - The Part Of It That Matters For This Article
Our server runs on Ubuntu 12.04 LTS, our version control system is Git (we use Github flow) and our code is hosted on Github. We chose to use Jenkins as the CI server. Even though it is poorly documented and has a definite ‘so nineties’ feel, it is very easy to deploy and intuitive. Basically, you use it to set up jobs that are run when you launch them manually or when an external event, such as a code push, is triggered. These jobs can be anything that’s executable, I usually use simple bash scripts but you can use any kind of script, makefiles and so on.
Install And Keep Jenkins Up And Running At All Times
Jenkins is contained in a WAR file, so you can simply download and execute it with
java -jar /path/to/jenkins.war). Of course, this is only
suitable for testing purposes. In production, you will want to use an
Upstart script so that Jenkins respawns if
it crashes unexpectedly and starts on boot.
When Jenkins is up, you have access to a web interface to manage it (you can configure the port on which it listens). Make sure to enable security -I recommend matrix based security- unless you want anyone to be able to take control of your servers! One thing to watch out for is that you need to enable the “overall read” permission for the anonymous user, or else Jenkins won’t be able to communicate with third-party services - in our case Github and Hipchat. Pretty stupid behaviour I know, but at least it doesn’t create security holes.
Build On Push To Master
We have the Git and Github plugins enabled. The Github plugin enables us to connect Jenkins to Github’s post-receive hook. That way, whenever someone pushes to master (usually by merging a feature branch), our Jenkins “build” job pulls the new version of the code, builds it and test it. For us, that’s really a two-line script, as we check all modules in to Git.
The last part of the puzzle is how we get notified of the build result. We use Hipchat, so we installed the Hipchat plugin that notifies us of build results in a dedicated chat room. Most of the time it just says “Build successful”. But no sweat if a build fails, since the “deploy” job was not called our users don’t see anything wrong!
And That’s All There’s To It!
Yup. It is indeed simple enough to get a robust continuous deployment
system up and running, that most of the time safely deploys your code
through a simple
git push on your part. I’m interested in anything you
would have to say on this setup or any tip you’d like to share!