Escape the Iron Triangle – ship better software faster and cheaper with Jenkins Pipelines

01 May 2016

continuos software delivery

Delivering software continuously, in other words “keeping software in an always shippable state” is a challenge for companies. Recently released Jenkins 2.0, is focussed on solving this problem through Pipelines. This blog gives a quick overview of key benefits of Jenkins Pipelines.

Executive Summary

Software delivery in any organisation is a complex process that spans tools, is hand-stitched and fragile. In-efficiencies and failures in the process have a make or break effect on an applications success in the market place.

Jenkins Pipelines automates the process through code, connecting into the gargantuan number of tools of used by companies for software delivery. Once modelled, teams get insights into their delivery performance – to optimise their delivery times. Pipelines survive infrastructure failures and thus teams can deliver applications on-time, every time.

A month early due to a stream lined process is a month’s revenue while a month late in delivery due to infra failures is a month that competition can steal your customers!

Why Continuous Delivery (CD)?

Accelerating the pace of software delivery mandates code in an always shippable state and Continuous Delivery is the process that takes software to the always shippable state.

“Thou shalt choose between good, fast or cheap” said the Iron Triangle of software delivery. Continuous Delivery upends that case to help teams deliver good software, faster and cheaper .

Why Jenkins?

Software goes through various phases (build, test, deploy) and interacts with a multitude of tools (junit, sonar, nexus etc) on its way to production. Jenkins is the orchestrator that drives the entire pipeline and interacts with each of these tools. Jenkins’ strength is that it has 1200 (and counting) plugins that let you interact with any of the tools that are in your organisation.

Jenkins Pipelines

Jenkins 2.0 has introduced a key area called Pipelines. With Pipelines, organisations can define their delivery pipeline through a DSL (Pipeline-as-code). Pipelines, thus, can be versioned, checked into source and easily shared within an organisation.

Pipelines model YOUR delivery process rather than straight-jacketing you in an “opinionated” process

Typical delivery value stream within organisations have one commonality – atypicality. Most of the delivery processes are dissimilar unlike the canonical “build, test, deploy” examples that you see in examples. Here is an example from an earlier blog from Viktor Farcic on a delivery pipeline.

Delivery pipeline

The Pipeline DSL helps you capture complex process requirements through code – thus you can try-catch on deployment failures, loop through deployments, run tests in parallel. This is immensely powerful – the DSL brings the power of a programming language (groovy) to do so. At the same time, the DSL is simple enough to capture simple cases easily without having to write groovy code. DSL encourages the DRY principle – capture common patterns in functions, keep them in a global library so that new applications can build on these functions. Pipeline-as-code

Pipelines survive infrastructure failures

A number of applications have pipelines that run into multiple days. A pipeline typically runs on Jenkins executors (slaves) and it will continue running even in case of a master failure. If you use the CloudBees Jenkins Platform, you can checkpoint your pipelines so if an executor fails, you can pick from the last check-pointed location instead of re-running the pipeline.

You can imagine the productivity benefits on an existing pipeline where if a master crashed (itself or due to infrastructure failure) on day 4 of day 7 and it didn’t have to restart from day 1 – phenomenal. This can mean the difference between shipping on-time or delays in months!

Analyse and optimise your value stream process

Optimising the value stream process is the next logical step after modelling your delivery process, Pipeline Stage View helps you analyse the process delivery across multiple runs. You can see which stages consume the most time, which stages are blocked on manual user input and so on. Thus, you can quickly hone in on a problematic phase and optimise it.

Pipeline stage view

Developers can quickly get an insight into how far is their code into the pipeline. Teams waiting on artifact delivery on the code can also see where in the pipeline is the code.

Summary

Jenkins Pipeline brings in native support for pipelines into Jenkins. It is aimed at an audience that wants to continuously deliver software and is well worth a spin.

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