The Team’s Pulse: CI/Build Process

My teammate Tony Sweets (sys admin, programmer and genius) just posted a terrific writeup on StickyMinds/Techwell of how our continuous integration and build process has evolved over the years. This includes a history of the hardware we’ve used and how the builds have been set up, both in CruiseControl and Hudson, and all the different things the build process does.

One of my favorite excerpts:

This method worked too well. The testers started splitting up their test suites and were creating new build jobs left and right mainly because it was so simple. They didn’t have to deal with hostname issues and whatnot. They simply had to create the new job from an existing Hudson job and change whatever they needed in order to run a different set of tests. When the job ran it did not care what else was running because it was running in its own separate environment.

I love the easy-to-use Hudson UI, and this freedom to configure our own test jobs the way we want. It’s also easy to stop jobs or kick them off when we want.

Whenever I speak to a conference session or user group meeting, I always tell people, “If you aren’t doing continuous integration now, go back to your office and drop everything and get your CI going. It isn’t hard to do, there are a bunch of good tools available to help, even Testify Wizard to help you set it up. A programmer can do it in a matter of days or less. There’s no excuse to not do CI.”

I’m convinced that in 5 years at the most, any team not doing CI will be looked upon the same way we look upon teams that don’t do source code control. It would just be crazy to not do it! Automated tests don’t have much value if they aren’t giving you quick feedback several times a day. Without CI, your technical debt is bound to bury you quickly.

If I had to pick one reason our team has been so successful the past 7 years, our CI process is it. It’s the pulse of our team, and if it stops (as it did a few weeks back – see Tony’s blog post!), we all just about have a heart attack! When it’s ticking along, we feel healthy and happy.

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