Longer things

My take at a CI infrastructure, Pt.1

… so far.

It might be crappy, but I’ll share it, cause it’s working. (Well, today it started doing this 😉 ). But enough preamble, let’s jump in.

The Situation

I am in a new project. Those people have nothing but a deadline, and when I say nothing I mean it. Not even code. They asked me what I would do, and I said “go cloud, use everything you can from other people, so you don’t have to do it, and you stay in tune with the rest of the universe” (read: avoid NIH syndrome). They agreed, and hired me.

The Starting Point

They really want the JetBrains toolchain, the devs use CLion. They also want YouTrack for ticketing (which doesn’t blow my mind so far, but it’s ok). Naturally they want to use TeamCity, which is the Jenkins alternative from JetBrains, and pretty all right from what I can see so far.

The code is probably 95%+ C++, and creates a stateless REST endpoint in the cloud (but load balanced). That’s a really simple setup to start with, just perfect.

Source code hosting was initially planned to be either inhouse or in the bought cloud, not with a hoster. Up to now they were using git, but without graphical frontend which involved manual creation (by the – part time – admin) of every git repo.

The Cloud Environment

That’s just practical stuff now, and has nothing – yet – to do with CI/CD. Skip it if you’re just interested in that. Read it if you want to read my brain.

I looked around for full-stack hosted CI/CD systems, notably found only Shippable, and thought that they don’t fully match the requirements (even when we move source code hosting out). So I went to AWS, and tried ElasticBeanstalk. This is quite cool, unfortunately scaling takes about 3-5 minutes for the new host to come up (tested with my little load dummy tool in a simple setup, which I actually didn’t save, which was stupid).

Anyway, before deploying services CI (the compilation & build stuff) must work. So my first goal was to to get something up and running ASAP, and thats bold and capitalized. Fully automated of course.

For any kubernetes/CoreOS/… layout I lack the experience to make it available quickly, and – really – all the AWS “click here to deploy” images of those tools didn’t work out-of-the-box. So I started fairly conventional with a simple CloudFormation template spawning three hosts: TeamCity server, TeamCity agent, Docker registry, and – really important – GitLab. Since then GitLab was replaced by a paid GitHub account, all the better.

Setting the hosts up I used Puppet (oh wonder, being a Puppet “Expert”). Most of the time went in writing a TeamCity puppet module. A quirk is that the agents must download their ZIP distribution image from a running master only, which is kinda annoying to do right in puppet. For now TeamCity is also set up conventionally (without docker), which I might change soon, at least for the server. The postgres database runs in a container, though, which is super-super simple to set up (please donate a bit if you use it, even 1€ / 1$ helps, that guy did a great job!). Same went for gitlab (same guy), and redis (again). I also used the anti-pattern of configuring the hosts based on their IP addresses.

I also wanted to automate host bootstrapping, so I did this in the cloudformation template for each host. The archive downloaded in this script contains 3 more scripts – a distribution-dependent one which is called first, have a look to see details. Basically it’s just a way to download a snapshot of our current puppet setup (encrypted), and initialize it so puppet can take over. I also use “at” in those scripts to perform a reboot and an action after, which is highly convenient.

CI (finally)

… in the next post 😉

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