The Importance of Software Builds: Building Earnestly


Reproducible Builds
A good build process is reproducible. In 1999 Brad, Steve, and Ralph Carbrera documented some of the patterns that allow for a reproducible build [BuildPatterns]. In this article we’ll try to justify this statement. In future articles we’ll say more about how to attain that goal.

The build (and tests) determine the health of the project. And the frequency that you execute the build/test cycle determine the rate of change. Also, manual processes, no matter how well documented (and they are never documented well enough!) are not as repeatable as automated processes. This is mostly human nature; Supporting activities are often neglected in favor of more pressing concerns.

What we need is a repeatable process that allows developers to build and deploy applications in the test environment. We can make the process configurable to address local system issues, but the process should be as much like the Integration build as possible so that we can identify problems before they appear in the QA environment, and also so that a developer can reproduce problems that happen to slip through.

The key to effective build lies in the relationship between these patterns:

    • Private Workspace (A Workspace-side pattern)
    • Repository (A Codeline pattern)
    • Private System Build (A Workspace pattern)
    • Integration Build (A Workspace Pattern)
    • Third Party Codeline

We’ll discuss these patterns in more detail shortly. First, let’s examine the roles that they play in enabling an agile software team. 

To build a Private Workspace you need to:

  • Get the source code from the application. This should be a simple process and the Repository pattern describes how to do this. Since some of the components of the application are from external sources, the Repository used the Third Party Codeline pattern.
  • Build the application. There are two kinds of builds that matter:
    • The Private System Build, which you will use to build in the workspace
    • The Integration Build, which happens in an Integration Workspace. This build provides a definitive state of the codeline, since a Private System Build may not have integrated everything that is current

Once you build the application you will want to be able to execute the application and any tests. This may include a deploy step.

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