Wednesday, October 16, 2013

HELP! : The Biggest Thing Missing From The Jenkins Continuous Integration System

Recently I've been doing a lot of automation work using Jenkins - so much that I haven't written much online for the past year. My biggest Jenkins complaint is the sparse documentation of the many features and plugins as well as finding articles which put build tasks together to create a "Rube Goldberg machine" of automated bliss.

For starters I recommend reading "The Jenkins Definitive Guide" O'Reilly book. (I'm guilty of not having finished the text myself and ought to heed my own advice!) While the book covers a breadth of topics, it is the little things (e.g. the syntax of calling a Powershell one-liner with spaces and quotes) that often take up a good chunk of time during the initial configuration of jobs and can frustrate even the most patient of implementors.

What I have found using continuous integration automation systems (cruise control, hudson/jenkins) over several years is that art can emerge amid a string of hacked together disparate processes. Yes, no doubt, sometimes a Jenkins job really is just a hodgepodge, ragtag group of mishmash scripts glued together to form a solution. However, every now and again great things develop, with the shifting and shuffling of build jobs, a beautiful process is born from the thickets. These elevated build chains can become a pragmatic example of CI and agile programming fundamentals put into practice, placing theory at the tip of a button push. What great satisfaction!

As I begin to journal on my Jenkins experiences, it is my hope that my whimsical writings may help others save time and frustrations in learning to use a wonderful automation framework, which may very well become the corner stone to your continuous integration automated processes, whether planned for or not! That is just how it goes sometimes when you combine automation with an open source executor in a suit willing to do your scripted bidding . (As an added bonus Jenkins will also do your job for you, take out the garbage and walk the dog - simultaneously.)

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