Automating CD Pipelines with Jenkins - Part 1: Vagrant, Fabric and Selenium

This is part of a series of blog posts in which various CloudBees technical experts have summarized presentations from the Jenkins User Conferences (JUC). This post is written by Tracy Kennedy, solutions architect, CloudBees, about a session given by Hoi Tsang, DealerTrack, at JUC Boston.

There’s a golden standard for the software development lifecycle that it seems most every shop aspires to, yet seemingly few have already achieved - a complete continuous delivery pipeline with Jenkins that automatically pulls from an SCM repository on each commit, then compiles the code, packages the app and runs all unit/acceptance/static analysis tests in parallel.

Integration testing on the app then runs in mini-stacks provided by Vagrant and if the build passes all testing, Jenkins stores the binary in a repository as a release candidate until a candidate passes QA. Jenkins then plucks the release from the repository to deploy it to production servers, which are created on-demand by a provisioning and configuration management tool like Chef.

The nitty gritty details of the actual steps may vary from shop to shop, but based on my interactions with potential CloudBees customers and the talks at the 2014 Boston JUC, this pipeline seems to be what many high-level execs aspire to see their organization achieving in the next few years.

Jenkins + Vagrant, Fabric and Selenium
Hoi Tsang of DealerTrack gave a wonderful overview of how DealerTrack accomplished such a pipeline in his talk: “Distributed Scrum Development w/ Jenkins, Vagrant, Fabric and Selenium.”

As Tsang explained, integration can be a problem, and it’s an unfortunately expensive problem to fix. He explained that is was best to think of the problem of integration as a multiplication problem, where
Hoi Tsang, DealerTrack
practice x precision x discipline = perfection

When it comes to SCRUM, which Tsang likened to being “like driving really fast on a curvy road,” most all of the attendees at Tsang’s JUC speech practiced it and almost all confirmed that they do test-driven development.

In Tsang’s case, DealerTrack was also a test-driven development shop and had the goals of writing more meaningful use cases and defining meaningful test data.

To accomplish this, DealerTrack set up Jenkins and installed a few plugins: Build Pipeline plugin, Cobertura and Violations to name a few. They also created build and deployment jobs - the builds were triggered by code commits and schedules, and the builds triggers tests whose pass/fail rules have been defined by each DealerTrack team. Their particular rules were:
  • All unit tests passed
  • Code coverage > 90%
  • Code standard > 90%

DealerTrack had their Jenkins master control a Selenium hub, which consisted of a grid of dedicated VMs/boxes registered to the Selenium hub. Test cases would get distributed among the grid, and the results would be reported back to the associated Jenkins jobs.

The builds would also be subject to an automated integration build, which relied on Vagrant to define mini-stacks for the integration tests to run in by checking out source code into a shared folder with a Virtual Machine, launching the VM, preparing + running the test, then cleaning up the test space. Despite this approach to integration testing taking longer, Tsang argued that it provided a more realistic testing environment.

If the build passed, then its artifact would be uploaded to an internally-hosted repository and reports on the code standards + code coverage were published.This would also trigger a documentation generation job.

According to Tsang, DealerTrack also managed to setup an automated deployment flow, where Jenkins would pick up a build from the internal repository, tunnel into the development server, then drop off the artifact and deploy the build. They managed to accomplish this using Python Fabric, a CLI for streamlining the use of SSH for application deployment or system administrator tasks.

Tsang explained that DealerTrack had a central Jenkins master to maintain the build pipeline, but split the work between each team’s assigned slave and assigned testing server. Dedicated slaves worked on the more important jobs, which allowed branch merging to be accomplished 30% faster.

Stay tuned for Part 2!

Tracy Kennedy
Solutions Architect

As a solutions architect, Tracy’s main focus is reaching out to CloudBees customers on the continuous delivery cloud platform and showing them how to use the platform to its fullest potential. (Meet the Bees blog post coming soon!) For now, follow her on Twitter.

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