Published: Tue 08 April 2008
buildbot mozilla tinderbox
People are often very confused by the state of where Mozilla is with
regard to Tinderbox versus Buildbot. They are both continuous
integration systems, and you'd think that just jumping wholesale would
be easier than the unholy marriage I've described in the past.
The big distinctions are these:
server vs. client - Buildbot clients and server are tightly coupled,
and communicate through an active TCP connection (managed by
Twisted). Tinderbox clients simply send email to the server, one for
build start and one for build stop (build stop has the status
specified, which changes color on Tinderbox server). The logfile for
the build may be attached to the "end" email.
Tinderbox server vs. Buildbot server - tinderbox.mozilla.org puts up
with a lot of load. Buildbot server can probably not handle this.
Also, Tinderbox server has a bunch of features that Mozilla
developers depend on, like setting status, etc.
Personally I feel that Tinderbox is the wrong way to visualize what
developers actually need, but I'll save that for a later and more
productive post :) For now, suffice to say that Tinderbox server does a
lot more and can handle way more load than Buildbot server.
However, Buildbot server does have some very nice qualities, like being
able to see the log in real-time, and being able to stop and force
builds. So, an interim solution is to have Buildbot server send email to
Tinderbox server on behalf of it's clients, so you get Buildbot as an
administrative, developer-only interface, and Tinderbox server as the
general, public interface.
The 1.8 and 1.9 nightly builders are already exposed to nightly users;
there are a couple kinks to work out, so I won't link to it right now
(I'll let the people that are actually maintaining it do that :P), but
the glorious future is that developers can stop and kick builds as well
as see real-time logs.
So, that's all well and good, and I think fairly well understood. Now
here's the hairy part - the 1.8 and 1.9 nightly Buildbot clients are
turning around and calling Tinderbox! WTF! (note that the unittest and
moz2 buildbots do not do this, only the 1.8/1.9 nightly boxes). This is
because Tinderbox client contains code to do a bunch of things:
mozilla-specific build process
publish updates (nightly AUS only)
rebooting windows 9x between builds (not joking)
support for a bajillion products and platforms (mostly through huge
support for hybrid depend/clobber builders
support for uploading to various locations on FTP
much, much more
Some of these features are very useful and not available elsewhere, and
some are obviously not useful anymore. The error and log handling leaves
a lot to be desired; it's not something trivially fixable, unfortunately
(lots of people have tried, resulting in not one but two attempted
Getting all of the useful bits of this into Buildbot has been a real
Ben Hearsum has all of the important bits worked out
for moz2. I'm hoping to spend some time packaging that up as a
BuildFactory, to make it easy to reuse this code for other branches and
products (mostly because I'd really like to see bug 421586 get
fixed), strictly as a community member of course :)
You can read more about Buildbot
process-specific factories (that's a
nice example of what a GNU Autoconf style project could use, which comes
with Buildbot) but suffice to say it's a way of encapsulating the basic
build process so you don't need to copy and paste "cvs co client.mk",
"make -f client.mk MOZ_CO_PROJECT=blah" for each builder in your
This brings up the other big missing piece, which is that Buildbot's
awesome Source class can't be used because it doesn't understand that it
can't just update the whole "mozilla" CVS module, but needs to use the
client.mk instead. This means that built-in clobber support and the
built-in "tryserver" support can't be used (the current Mozilla
implementations have a lot of custom code).
414031 suggests a possible way to implement support for it.
Although it's kind of a pain to implement, using a driver script like
this is fairly common in Java projects, so I think some kind of generic
support might be feasible.
If you're not sure what I'm talking about here and why Source can't be
used out of the box, the client.mk only does a partial checkout of the
"mozilla" CVS module depending on which MOZ_CO_PROJECT is specified.
Also, it can and does check out different versions of subdirectories,
such as NSPR and NSS.
In other words, this is not your typical "checkout module && ./configure
&& make" project, although it is deceptively close in some ways :) It'd
probably be better to have basic support for this flow, just based on
principle of least surprise. I think that it also has material effect on
tool support and new developers, too.