Continuous Integration with Hudson

Saturday, October 18th, 2008

Continuous Integration is a fundamental Agile Development process in which members of a team integrate changes on a regular basis, ideally multiple times per day, which in turn results in multiple integrations per day. The integration process itself is facilitated by an automated integration build which is triggered upon a specific interval to check for new commits to the central repository, or mainline. This is necessary for detecting changes which could potentially break the build as quickly as possible, as it is typically easier to fix these errors sooner rather than later, thus resulting in significantly less integration issues, especially when working on large, collaborative projects where there are multiple members of a team developing against the same codebase.

Continuous Integration does not necessarily require any specific tooling, however it is very common to incorporate a build management tool in order to automate the builds. The most common tool of choice by build managers to facilitate automated builds is Cruise Control. I have been using Cruise Control for years to automate Flex builds as it contains everything one typically would need for automating an integration, staging and production build process. Setting up Cruise Control and modifying the configuration to add new projects is a straight forward process, however I always felt it to be a bit tedious.

Considering Cruise Control is an industry standard as well as the fact that it provides pretty much everything I have ever needed for automating enterprise build processes, I never had a compelling reason to investigate any of the other tools out there. Then last week I received an email from our engineering groups build manager stating that there is a different build management tool being considering called Hudson. Initially I questioned why Hudson was being considered over Cruise Control as CC is, for the most part, an industry standard, so I decided to do a little investigating to see for myself, first by reading the documentation then by running the simple test drive available at the Hudson site which you can use to get an idea of how the tool works.

Downloading Hudson is straight forward and best of all installation is a breeze; simply deploy the web archive (hudson.war) to an existing servlet container (I am using Tomcat 6.0.14) and your ready to go.

Once deployed you can go to the Hudson console, typically located at: http:<host:port>/hudson/ (e.g. http://somedomain:8400/hudson/). The console has all of the features you might expect (as well as some other useful tools). From the console you can easily configure Hudson, create new projects, monitor build progress, view build logs, kick off a build, schedule builds and so forth. Setting up a project is one of the things I really like about Hudson – as opposed to configuring a project in Cruise Control – as Hudson provides a super simple GUI that you can use to create new projects. This is one of its main attractions in my opinion as new builds can be configured in next to no time at all. The Dashboard and UI in general are very intuitive and easy to use, and if you’re like me and still would like to have the ability to look under the hood and modify the configurations, you also have that level of control as well. Kicking off a build manually or scheduling builds is just as easy.

Overall I have to say that I am a fan of Hudson. Admittedly I just started using it so I am certain there is much more to learn about the tool, however if the rest of the functionality is as easy to configure as the basic features then this is a sure sell. I estimate it took me approximately 10 minutes total to download, install, configure a project and run a build (successfully I might add:).

Some key features:

  • Master / Slave builds
  • Distributed Builds
  • GUI based project configuration
  • E-mail / AIM / RSS build notifications
  • Plug-ins / extensibility support
  • Simple Installation
  • Console Auto-refresh

So if you are interested in streamlining your Continuous Integration process I recommend taking a quick test drive of Hudson.

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