Industry Used Cases of Jenkins, and how it Works !!!

What is Jenkins ?

Jenkins is an open source Continuous Integration server capable of orchestrating a chain of actions that help to achieve the Continuous Integration process (and not only) in an automated fashion.

Jenkins is free and is entirely written in Java. Jenkins is a widely used application around the world that has around 300k installations and growing day by day.

It is a server-based application and requires a web server like Apache Tomcat. The reason Jenkins became so popular is that of its monitoring of repeated tasks which arise during the development of a project. For example, if your team is developing a project, Jenkins will continuously test your project builds and show you the errors in early stages of your development.

By using Jenkins, software companies can accelerate their software development process, as Jenkins can automate build and test at a rapid rate. Jenkins supports the complete development lifecycle of software from building, testing, documenting the software, deploying and other stages of a software development lifecycle.

Jenkins can be installed through native system packages, Docker, or even run standalone by any machine with a Java Runtime Environment (JRE) installed.

Jenkins is an open-source server that is written entirely in Java. It lets us execute a series of actions to achieve the continuous integration process, that too in an automated fashion.

This CI server runs in servlet containers such as Apache Tomcat. Jenkins facilitates continuous integration and continuous delivery in software projects by automating parts related to build, test, and deployment. This makes it easy for developers to continuously work on the betterment of the product by integrating changes to the project.

Jenkins automates the software builds in a continuous manner and lets the developers know about the errors at an early stage. A strong Jenkins community is one of the prime reasons for its popularity. Jenkins is not only extensible but also has a thriving plugin ecosystem.

What is Continuous Integration?

In Continuous Integration after a code commit, the software is built and tested immediately. In a large project with many developers, commits are made many times during a day. With each commit code is built and tested. If the test is passed, build is tested for deployment. If deployment is a success, the code is pushed to production. This commit, build, test, and deploy is a continuous process and hence the name continuous integration/deployment.

A Continuous Integration Pipeline is a powerful instrument that consists of a set of tools designed to host, monitor, compile and test code, or code changes, like:

  • Continuous Integration Server (Jenkins, Bamboo, CruiseControl, TeamCity, and others)
  • Source Control Tool (e.g., CVS, SVN, GIT, Mercurial, Perforce, ClearCase and others)
  • Build tool (Make, ANT, Maven, Ivy, Gradle, and others)
  • Automation testing framework (Selenium, Appium, TestComplete, UFT, and others)

Jenkins History

  • Kohsuke Kawaguchi, a Java developer, working at SUN Microsystems, was tired of building the code and fixing errors repetitively. In 2004, created an automation server called Hudson that automates build and test task.
  • In 2011, Oracle who owned Sun Microsystems had a dispute with Hudson open source community, so they forked Hudson and renamed it as Jenkins.
  • Both Hudson and Jenkins continued to operate independently. But in short span of time, Jenkins acquired a lot of projects and contributors while Hudson remained with only 32 projects. With time, Jenkins became more popular, and Hudson is not maintained anymore.

Industry case study of Continuous Integration

Nokia used to implement a procedure called nightly build. After multiple commits from diverse developers during the day, the software built every night. Since the software was built only once in a day, it’s a huge pain to isolate, identify, and fix the errors in a large code base.

Later, they adopted Continuous Integration approach. The software was built and tested as soon as a developer committed code. If any error is detected, the respective developer can quickly fix the defect.

Jenkins Plugins

By default, Jenkins comes with a limited set of features. If you want to integrate your Jenkins installation with version control tools like Git, then you need to install plugins related to Git. In fact, for integration with tools like Maven, Amazon EC2, you need to install respective plugins in your Jenkins.

Plugins :

Plugins have been released for Jenkins that extend its use to projects written in languages other than Java. Plugins are available for integrating Jenkins with most version control systems and bug databases. Many build tools are supported via their respective plugins. Plugins can also change the way Jenkins looks or add new functionality. There are a set of plugins dedicated for the purpose of unit testing that generate test reports in various formats (for example, JUnit bundled with Jenkins, MSTest, NUnit, etc.) and automated testing that supports automated tests. Builds can generate test reports in various formats supported by plugins (JUnit support is currently bundled) and Jenkins can display the reports and generate trends and render them in the GUI.

Features Of Jenkins :

1. Easy Installation & Configuration

Jenkins is a self-contained Java program that is agnostic of the platform on which it is installed. It is available for almost all the popular operating systems such as Windows, different flavors of Unix, and Mac OS.

It is available as a normal installer, as well as a .war file. Once installed, it is easy to configure using its web interface.

2. Open-Source

As it is open-source, it is free for use. There is a strong involvement of the community which makes it a powerful CI/CD tool. You can take support from the Jenkins community, whether it is for extensibility, support, documentation, or any other feature related to Jenkins.

3. Thriving Plugin Ecosystem

The backbone of Jenkins is the community and the community members have been instrumental in the development (and testing) of close to 1500+ plugins available in the Update Center.

4. Easy Distribution

Jenkins is designed in such a manner that makes it relatively easy to distribute work across multiple machines and platforms for accelerated build, testing, and deployment.

Working of Jenkins:

Jenkins runs as a server on a variety of platforms including Windows, MacOS, Unix variants and especially, Linux. It requires a Java 8 VM and above and can be run on the Oracle JRE or OpenJDK. Usually, Jenkins runs as a Java servlet within a Jetty application server. It can be run on other Java application servers such as Apache Tomcat. More recently, Jenkins has been adapted to run in a Docker container. There are read-only Jenkins images available in the Docker Hub online repository.

To operate Jenkins, pipelines are created. A pipeline is a series of steps the Jenkins server will take to perform the required tasks of the CI/CD process. These are stored in a plain text Jenkinsfile. The Jenkinsfile uses a curly bracket syntax that looks similar to JSON. Steps in the pipeline are declared as commands with parameters and encapsulated in curly brackets. The Jenkins server then reads the Jenkinsfile and executes its commands, pushing the code down the pipeline from committed source code to production runtime. A Jenkinsfile can be created through a GUI or by writing code directly.

CI/CD(Continuous Integration/Continuous Delivery)

Continuous Integration (CI) and Continuous Delivery (CD) incorporate values, a set of operating principles, and a collection of practices that enable application development teams to deliver changes more reliably and regularly; this is also known as CI/CD pipeline. But what do the individual terms mean?

Continuous Integration

Continuous integration is an approach in which developers merge their code into a shared repository several times a day. For verification of the integrated code, automated tests and builds are run for it.

Continuous Delivery

Continuous delivery is a strategy in which the development teams ensure the software is reliable to release at any time. On each commit, the software passes through the automated testing process. If it successfully passes the testing, it is said to be ready for release into production.

What is CI/CD Pipeline?

CI is the short form for Continuous Integration, and CD is the short form for Continuous Delivery. CI/CD Pipeline is a crucial part of the modern DevOps environment. The pipeline is a deployable path that the software follows to its production with Continuous Integration and Continuous Delivery practices.

It is a development lifecycle for software and includes the CI/CD pipeline, which has various stages or phases through which the software passes.

1. Version Control Phase

In this phase of the CI/CD pipeline, the developers’ code is committed through version control software or systems such as git, apache subversion, and more. It controls the commit history of the software code so that it can be changed if needed.

2. Build Phase

This phase is the first phase of this pipeline system. Developers build their code, and then they pass their code through the version control system or software. After this, the code returns to the build phase and gets compiled.

3. Unit Testing and Staging

When software reaches this stage, various tests are conducted on the software. One of the main tests is the Unit test, in which the units of software are tested. After successful testing, the staging phase begins. As the software has passed the tests to reach here, it is ready to be deployed into the staging process. Here, the software code is deployed to the staging environment / server. The code can be viewed and finalized here before the final tests can be conducted on the software.

4. Auto Testing Phase

After passing to the staging environment, another set of automated tests are prepared for the software. If the software completes these tests and is proven to be deployable, it is sent to the next phase/stage, the deployment phase.

5. Deployment Phase

As the auto testing procedure is completed, then it is deployed to production. However, if any error occurs during the testing phase or the deployment phase, the software is sent to the development team’s version control procedure and checked for errors. If errors are found, then that need to be fixed. Other stages may be repeated if required.

Architecture Of Jenkins

Before we dive into how does Jenkins work, we must understand the architecture of Jenkins. These are the series of steps that outlines the interaction between different elements in Jenkins:

  • Developers do the necessary modifications in the source code and commit the changes to the repository. A new version of that file will be created in the version control system that is used for maintaining the repository of source code.
  • The repository is continuously checked by Jenkins CI server for any changes (either in the form of code or libraries) and changes are pulled by the server.
  • In the next step, we ensure that the build with the ‘pulled changes’ is going through or not. The Build server performs a build with the code and an executable is generated if the build process is successful. In case of a build failure, an automated email with a link to build logs and other build artifacts is sent to the developer.
  • In case of a successful build, the built application (or executable) is deployed to the test server. This step helps in realizing continuous testing where the newly built executable goes through a series of automated tests. Developers are alerted in case the changes have caused any breakage in functionality.
  • If there are no build, integration, and testing issues with the checked-in code, the changes and tested application are automatically deployed to the Prod/Production server.

Here is the diagrammatic representation of the Jenkins architecture:

A single Jenkins server might not be sufficient to realize the following requirements:

  • Testing needs to be performed on different environments (i.e. code written using different languages e.g. Java, Python, C, etc. are committed to the version control system), where a single server might not suffice the requirement.
  • A single Jenkins server might not be sufficient to handle the load that comes with large-scale software projects.

In such scenarios, the distributed (or Master-Agent) architecture of Jenkins is used for continuous integration and testing. Diving deeper into how does Jenkins works, we take a look at the architecture of Jenkins.

Advantages of using Jenkins

  • Jenkins is being managed by the community which is very open. Every month, they hold public meetings and take inputs from the public for the development of Jenkins project.
  • So far around 280 tickets are closed, and the project publishes stable release every three months.
  • As technology grows, so does Jenkins. So far Jenkins has around 320 plugins published in its plugins database. With plugins, Jenkins becomes even more powerful and feature rich.
  • Jenkins also supports cloud-based architecture so that you can deploy Jenkins in cloud-based platforms.
  • The reason why Jenkins became popular is that it was created by a developer for developers.

Disadvantages of using Jenkins

Though Jenkins is a very powerful tool, it has its flaws.

  • Its interface is out dated and not user friendly compared to current UI trends.
  • Though Jenkins is loved by many developers, it’s not that easy to maintain it because Jenkins runs on a server and requires some skills as server administrator to monitor its activity.
  • One of the reasons why many people don’t implement Jenkins is due to its difficulty in installing and configuring Jenkins.
  • Continuous integrations regularly break due to some small setting changes. Continuous integration will be paused and therefore requires some developer attention.

Conclusion:

  • In Continuous Integration, after a code commit, the software is built and tested immediately
  • Jenkins is an open source Continuous Integration server capable of orchestrating a chain of actions
  • Before Jenkins when all Developers had completed their assigned coding tasks, they used to commit their code all at same time. Later, Build is tested and deployed.
  • After Jenkins the code is built and test as soon as Developer commits code. Jenkin will build and test code many times during the day
  • By default, Jenkins comes with a limited set of features. If you want to integrate your Jenkins installation with version control tools like Git, then you need to install plugins related to Git
  • The biggest pros of Jenkins is that it is managed by the community which holds public meetings and take inputs from the public for the development of Jenkins projects
  • The biggest con of Jenkin is that Its interface is out dated and not user friendly compared to current UI trends.

Industry Use Cases of Jenkins:

- Open source software: RED HAT

  • Enterprise log management: Graylog
  • Advanced engineering services: ITK ENGINEERING
  • DevOps-as-a-service: CLOUDOLOGIA
  • Healthcare technology: ELECTRONIC HEALTH SOLUTIONS
  • IT software and development — IBM
  • AEROSPACE — KP LABS
  • EDUCATION — Preply
  • TRAVEL — Avoris
  • FINANCE — tymit
  • RETAIL Company — Jd.com
  • INSURANCE Company — Topdanmark

!!! Thanks for Reading !!!

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I am a student and persuing under graduation in computer science and engineering.

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Akhilesh Jain

Akhilesh Jain

I am a student and persuing under graduation in computer science and engineering.

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