Improving And Simplifying Software Development With Jenkins X

Software development is hard. It takes years to become a proficient developer, and the tech and the processes change every so often. What was effective yesterday, is not necessarily effective today. The number of languages we code in is increasing. While in the past, most developers would work in the same language throughout their whole carrier, today it is not uncommon for a developer to work on multiple projects written in different languages. We might, for example, work on a new project and code in Go, while we still need to maintain some other project written in Java. For us to be efficient, we need to install compilers, helper libraries, and quite a few other things.

No matter whether we write all the code in a single language or not, our applications will have different dependencies. One might need MySQL, while the other might use MongoDB as the data storage. We might also depend on applications developed by other teams working in parallel with us. No matter how good we become at writing mocks and stubs that replace those dependencies, eventually we’ll need them running and accessible from our laptops. Historically, we’ve been solving those problems by having a shared development environment, but that proved to be inefficient. Sharing development environments results is too much overhead. We’d need to coordinate changes, and those that we make would often break something and cause everyone to suffer. Instead, we need each developer to have the option to have its own environment where dependencies required for an application are running.

For the dependencies to be useful, we should run them in (almost) the same way we’re running them in production, that means we should deploy them to Kubernetes as well. For that, we can choose minikube or Docker Desktop if we prefer a local cluster, or get a segment (Namespace) of a remote cluster.

Unfortunately, compilers and dependencies are not everything we need to develop efficiently. We also need tools. Today that means that we need Docker or kaniko to build container images. We need helm and kubectl to deploy applications to Kubernetes. We need skaffold that combines the process of building images with deployment. There are quite a few other tools specific to a language and a framework that would need to be installed and configured as well.

Even if we do set up all those things, we are still missing more. We need to be able to push and pull artifacts from container registry, ChartMuseum, Nexus, or any other registry that might be in use in our organization.

As you can imagine, installing and configuring all that is not trivial. It is not uncommon for a new hire to spend a week, or even more, on setting up its own development environment. And what happens if that person should move to a different project or if he should work on multiple projects in parallel?

We can continue with business as usual and install all the compilers and the tools on our laptops. We can dedicate time setting them up and connecting them with the system (e.g., with the registries). We can continue giving new hires long Word documents that walk them through all the actions they need to perform to be able to develop our applications. Or, we can take a different approach. We might be able to create a full-blown development environment on demand and for each person. We can even make those environments application specific. And we might be able to make it so fast and straightforward that anyone can do it with a single command and in only a couple of minutes.

Jenkins X allows us to spin up a project-based private development environment with all the tools, configurations, and environment variables we might need to work on any of our applications. That feature is called DevPod.

The DevOps 2.6 Toolkit: Jenkins X

The article you just read is an extract from The DevOps 2.6 Toolkit: Jenkins X.

The book is still in progress, and I do not yet have a clearly defined scope. I write about tech I’m working with and that interests me the most. Right now, that’s Jenkins X.

You can get the book from LeanPub. If you do, you’ll get updates whenever a new chapter is finished. At the same time, you can get more actively involved and send me your comments, suggestions for the next topics, bug reports, and so on. I’d love to hear back from you.

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