Visualizing Build Processes

The other day I was waiting for my continuous integration build to finish. Think about that a minute. See anything wrong with that statement? I was waiting for a continuous integration build to finish. The whole point of continuous integration is to detect integration errors as quickly as possible. After years of growth, our builds are too long to really live up to that definition.

Obviously I have to do something about this, but what? Where do I start? The build is composed of several distinct phases: checkout, compile, unit test, package, install and system test. In addition, the complete process is actually replicated on several platforms simultaneously. In total, the process encompasses over 200 distinct steps, running in parallel on dozens of machines.
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The Myth of Continuous Integration

Would you jump out of the airplane and then check your parachute rigging?
Would you start your scuba dive before you checked that your air was turned on?
Would you do your preflight check during the takeoff roll?

I don’t know anyone who would answer yes to any of these questions, yet most of us still engage in the software development equivalent of these risky practices: we check our code in and then do a production build on it.  We’ve even given this practice a name: Continuous Integration.  It should be called Continuous Build Breakage.

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