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CruiseControl: The Complete Continuous Integration

CruiseControl: The Complete Continuous Integration

A continuous integration process involves automatic building and testing with tools like Ant and JUnit. These tools need a tool that will manage and control the build process - this is where Cruise Control comes in.

CruiseControl, an open source tool from SourceForge, is a framework for a continuous build process. It provides an easy-to-use tool that integrates Ant, JUnit, and others to provide a simple utility that builds and tests your software throughout the development cycle.

For a complete build process you might want to clean the build directory, fetch sources from the source configuration tool, compile sources, package applications, start the application server, deploy the packaged applications, perform tests, generate reports, and clean up. Simpler (intermediate) build processes can pass the clean task and part of the test tasks.

All of these tasks should be part of your Ant build configuration.

For an easy transition between different dev/test/prod environments it's helpful if you use different configuration settings for your application properties and application server settings and let Ant prepare these settings for you. For example, for the build.xml:

<filter token="server.domain"
<filter token="server.listen.port"
<filter token="server.name" value="${server.name}"/>

And for the config.xml:

<Domain Name="@[email protected]">
<Server ListenPort="@[email protected]"
Name="@[email protected]">

where all server.* properties reside in different configuration files for use with any different environment (dev.properties, test.properties, etc.)

This will put you in a position where you could run continuous build process without human hands.

Now, let's see how CruiseControl helps us with these builds.

CruiseControl, release 2.0, is more flexible and open. Its building blocks are plug-ins (that you can always extend or replace). It is shipped with several plug-ins that, in most cases, will do the work without the need for an update. The provided plug-ins are grouped into five types:

  • Bootstrappers: Designed to be run before the build, regardless of whether a build is necessary. These trappers are used for updating the configuration files from the source configuration (like build.xml, which you'll use just as you start the build...).
  • SourceControl implementations: Poll a code repository and determine if anything has changed within your project that would require another build. These plug-ins can be configured not to fetch changes until X minutes have passed since the last source update (useful for large source updates).
  • Builders: Actually perform the building and testing of your code. These plug-ins are responsible for starting an Ant task based on your configuration of Ant. These tasks will run in a different process than the CruiseControl (eliminates memory problems and provides better control over the Ant usage).
  • LabelIncrementers: Handle incrementing the label for you to use to tag your source, as part of the continuous process.
  • Publishers: Publish the results of your build. Plug-ins such as HTML-based e-mail, link-ref e-mail, and plain HTML are possible output formats.

    CruiseControl generates a log file for each build process. This log file can be used to follow the build results as well as publish them using the publishers.

    CruiseControl comes with a prepared Web application that enables you to publish your build results on an intranet site. In order to install the Web application, you should follow the installation instructions and pay special attention to the replacement of the log path element in the web.xml file and the correct jsp version usage in the buildresults.jsp file.

    After you have configured the Web application, you can install it on your target intranet Web server. Make sure this server shares a file system with the process, so the CruiseControl process can update this Web application. The generated report can include information about:
    1.   List of changed sources and the check-in notes
    2.   Building blocks of the application (.jars, .ears, etc.)
    3.   JUnit reports (to integrate JUnit reports into the standard CruiseControl reports, use the Merge plug-in to append the JUnit log files to CruiseControl log file)

    The CruiseControl Web application simply takes the log file generated by the build process and transforms its format for a clean, hyper-text format.

    Listing 1 is an example of a CruiseControl configuration file that should satisfy most projects. Table 1 defines the main terminology in CruiseControl


  • CruiseControl: http://cruisecontrol.sourceforge.net
  • Jakarta Ant: http://jakarta.apache.org/ant
  • JUnit: www.junit.org
  • Fowler, Martin. Continuous Integration. www.martinfowler.com/articles/ continuousIntegration.html
  • More Stories By Ronen Lewit

    Ronen Lewit is an IT expert specializing in enterprise software development. He has an extensive knowledge of state-of-the-art technologies in the J2EE and RDBMS worlds. Ronen is a consultant to corporations on building robust and scalable infrastructures and applications.

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