DevOps is having a bit of a moment.
DevOps is having a ground-breaking impact on business operations. In a DevOps model, the development and operations teams must work together throughout the entire software development lifecycle of the product.
This process helps speed up the rate of delivery. It requires greater collaboration across the teams while creating an infrastructure that is scalable and reliable.
To realise the potential of the DevOps structure, it must be implemented effectively; Continuous Integration (CI) and Continuous Development (CD) are central to the success of any DevOps model.
It is essential that all source code changes are deposited into a central repository where they can be built and tested for bugs. This is Continuous Integration at work.
At this point, Continuous Delivery takes over and ensures all changes are prepared for a production release.
Another key requirement to ensure a successful DevOps workflow is to select and have the right tools in place. These aids are essential in making sure there is a joined-up sharing of information, enabling a more efficient workflow.
One of the most popular tools DevOps professionals rely on today is Jenkins. Jenkins is a server that automates the CI/CD process. It makes it easier for the ‘dev’ and the ‘ops’ teams to collaborate effectively.
What is Jenkins?
Jenkins was created by Kohsuke Kawaguchi, a developer at Sun MicroSystems in 2004. At that time, he was well known as the guy that “breaks builds”. To shrug off this title, he set about creating a tool that could identify any bugs in his code before he submitted it to the repository.
It was able to perform Continuous Integration (CI) by conducting automated tests on the code as changes were being made to it.
Once Kawaguchi’s colleagues were able to see Jenkins in action, they were keen to use it on their own code. The team collaborated on how to add more functionality to the tool. In time, Jenkins was made into an open-source software tool.
It remains the most popular CI tool, with some data suggesting that more than half of companies use Jenkins as its CI system.
How does Jenkins work?
Jenkins is used across the entire Software Development Lifecycle. It enables the integration and automation of different processes, including building, testing, and deployment.
Jenkins creates ‘pipelines’, defining the series of steps that the server will take to perform the required tasks.
Developers commit their code to the Jenkins server, which automatically creates a build of that code and runs it through testing. If that build fails, Jenkins will notify the developers of the errors. This early notification allows the quick fix of any bugs.
On the other hand, should the build pass all the automated tests, the code is moved to the ‘release ready’ environment. As this stage, the deployment team will be notified.
This process is designed to ensure the Continuous Delivery (CD) of reliable code from the dev team to the production environment.
What are the benefits of Jenkins?
There are plenty of reasons why Jenkins has stood the test of time. Here are just a few.
Jenkins is open-source.
Jenkins is open-source, and a key reason why Jenkins is so popular today. Its zero price tag means that companies with budget restrictions can optimise their software development lifecycle. It is also easy to install. Jenkins was developed as a self-contained Java program, meaning that it can run on most devices and operating systems.
Jenkins has community support.
Jenkins has a strong community behind it. Its opensource status and Go-to CI system popularity has created a wealth of tutorials and material to support its use. Jenkins has weight behind it allowing the DevOps community to get the most from it.
Jenkins has plugins support.
One of the main benefits of Jenkins is the huge catalogue of plugins that can be used to extend its functionality. As evidence of the last point, there are currently over 1800 community-developed plugins. These each organization to adapt or enhance the base functionality to suit their own DevOps environment.
In addition, it is worth noting that Jenkins is easy to modify and can extend to suit most organizational needs.
Jenkins is distributed.
Jenkins uses a Master-Slave architecture to manage distributed builds.
The main server is the ‘Master’, which then distributes the workload to other ‘slave’ servers. This allows for multiple builds and test environments to be running simultaneously. This approach could be used to build and test code on different operating systems, for example.
Best Practices for Jenkins.
Despite its many benefits, Jenkins does have some shortcomings.
The UI is not as user-friendly as some of its more modern peers. Advanced configurations can be tricky to set up for those without much experience.
There may be other issues encountered along the way, however, for the most part, it is likely there will be a community-developed plugin to help.
To ensure your team gets the most from Jenkins, try thinking about these best practice tips.
Keep it secure.
As with any software tool, it’s important to keep your Jenkins server secure with robust user authentication processes. You must also back up the Jenkins Home directory which contains all the configurations and logs information that you really don’t want to lose.
Choose your plugins carefully.
The breadth and depth of plugin availability is a blessing and a curse. With so many plugins available, it can be tempting to try too many. An abundance of plugins can slow down processes, defeating the main purpose, speedy delivery.
Avoid complex Groovy code in pipelines.
Groovy code always executes on the master server. If it’s overly complicated this will be a drain on computer resources. It is important to remember that the pipeline is designed to help you build faster, so keep the design as simple as possible.
Set up a different job/project for each Maintenance or development branch created.
Jenkins offers to build parts of your pipeline in parallel. Setting up different jobs/projects for each branch helps you support parallel development efforts. It also helps you maximise the advantage of sleuthing issues, reducing risk and allowing developers to be more productive.
Monitor your CI/CD pipeline.
Having a malfunctioning CI/CD pipeline can bring your development team to a standstill. External dependencies such as cloud services, network and testing services might affect your CI/CD pipeline. It is good practice to get to know when these irregular failures are significant enough to warrant action.
This is one example where a plugin will help. The Jenkins Slack plugin can be installed. It will send error notifications to channels monitored by on-call engineers. Plugins can help to monitor the health of our jobs over time, allowing potentially risky areas of the build to be identified.
Use Declarative Syntax when writing a pipeline definition.
Scripted Syntax was released in December 2014. Then in 2017 Declarative syntax was introduced. Until this time, engineers had no choice but to use Scripted syntax. However, since that time, new features such as Matrix have been introduced which are only available for declarative.
There is a strain of thought that advocated you should only use scripted syntax when it doesn’t make sense to use declarative syntax plus a shared library. There are certain examples where scripted could be your friend.
You have a job that has access to numerous machines that could be available as an agent, so you can maximize running your job in parallel. However, this first job must figure out whether that machine is currently available as an agent or not. With declarative this is impossible but using scripted it is doable.
These are just a few of the many best practices that you could follow when writing with Jenkins pipelines.
- DevOps is transforming business operations.
- DevOps is a model in which the development and operations teams collaborate throughout the entire software development lifecycle of the product.
- One of the most popular tools DevOps professionals rely on today is Jenkins, a server that automates the CI/CD process.
- Jenkins is used across the entire Software Development Lifecycle.
- There are many benefits for using Jenkins, including that it is open source, has a huge community following and has a host of plugins to help allow each organisation to adapt or enhance the base functionality to suit their own DevOps environment.
- Jenkins also has shortcomings. For example, the UI is not as intuitive as it could be.
- There are some points of best practice that an organisation must follow if it is to get the most from Jenkins.
Either way, we can help. Reach out today.