Serverless deployments are gaining traction. Today, we have quite a few choices for converting our applications into serverless inside Kubernetes cluster. One of those, my favorite, is Knative. We'll explore how we can combine it with Jenkins X to create a fully automated continuous deployment pipeline that deploys serverless applications.
Jenkins X itself is serverless. That helps with many things, with better resource utilization and scalability being only a few of the benefits. Can we do something similar with our applications? Can we scale them to zero when no one is using them? Can we scale them up when the number of concurrent requests increases? Can we make our applications serverless?
If you'd like to follow the examples, I will assume that you already have a cluster with serverless (Tekton-based) Jenkins X up-and-running.
Before we start exploring how to override different components in serverless Jenkins X pipelines, we'll create a new quickstart project so that we have a sample application to play with.
jx create quickstart \ --language go \ --project-name jx-go-loops \ --batch-mode
Hopefully, this is not the first time you created a quick start project, and you are already familiar with the out-of-the-box pipeline our new application inherited from a build pack. Also, I will assume that you do understand that
buildPack: goinstruction in
jenkins-x.ymlmeans that the pipeline inherits all the steps defined in the corresponding build pack.
Our pipeline is currently building a Linux binary of our application before adding it to a container image. But what if we'd like to distribute the application also as executables for different operating systems? We could provide that same binary, but that would work only for Linux users since that is the architecture it is currently built for. We might want to extend the reach to Windows and MacOS users as well, and that would mean that we'd need to build two additional binaries. How could we do that?
Applying GitOps Principles
Git is the de-facto code repository standard. Hardly anyone argues against that statement today. Where we might disagree is whether Git is the only source of truth, or even what we consider by that.
When I speak with teams and ask them whether Git is their only source of truth, almost everyone always answers yes. However, when I start digging, it usually turns out that's not true. Can you recreate everything using only the code in Git? By everything, I mean the whole cluster and everything running in it. Is your entire production system described in a single repository? If the answer to that question is yes, you are doing a great job, but we're not yet done with questioning. Can any change to your system be applied by making a pull request, without pressing any buttons in Jenkins or any other tool? If your answer is still yes, you are most likely already applying GitOps principles.
GitOps is a way to do Continuous Delivery. It assumes that Git is a single source of truth and that both infrastructure and applications are defined using the declarative syntax (e.g., YAML). Changes to infrastructure or applications are made by pushing changes to Git, not by clicking buttons in Jenkins.
Without TLS certificates the applications we install are accessible through a plain HTTP protocol. As I'm sure you're aware, that is not acceptable. All public-facing applications should be available through HTTPS only, and that means that we need TLS certificates. We could generate them ourselves for each of the applications, but that would be too much work. Instead, we'll try to figure out how to create and manage the certificates automatically. Fortunately, Jenkins X already solved that and quite a few other Ingress-related challenges. We just need to learn how to tell
jx what exactly we need.
When Jenkins appeared, its pipelines were called FreeStyle jobs. There was no way to describe them in code, and they were not kept in version control. We were creating and maintaining those jobs through Jenkins UI by filling input fields, marking checkboxes, and selecting values from drop-down lists. The results were impossible-to-read XML files stored in the Jenkins home directory. Nevertheless, that approach was so great (compared to what existed at the time) that Jenkins become widely adopted overnight. But, that was many years ago and what was great over a decade ago is not necessarily as good today. As a matter of fact, FreeStyle jobs are the antithesis of the types of jobs we should be writing today. Tools that create code through drag-and-drop methods are extinct. Not having code in version control is a cardinal sin. Not being able to use our favorite IDE or code editor is unacceptable. Hence, the Jenkins community created Jenkins pipelines.
Jenkins X main logic is based on applying GitOps principles. Every change must be recorded in Git, and only Git is allowed to initiate events that result in changes in our clusters. That logic is the cornerstone of Jenkins X, and it served us well so far. However, there are actions we might need to perform that do not result in changes to the source code or configurations. Hence the emergence of ChatOps.
The serverless flavor of Jenkins X or, as some call it, Jenkins X Next Generation, is an attempt to redefine how we do continuous delivery and GitOps inside Kubernetes clusters. It does that by combining quite a few tools into a single easy-to-use bundle. As a result, most people will not have a need to understand intricacies of how the pieces work independently, nor how they are all integrated. Instead, many will merely push a change to Git and let the system do the rest. But, there are always those who would like to know what's happening behind the hood. To satisfy those craving for insight, we'll explore the processes and the components involved in the serverless Jenkins X platform. Understanding the flow of an event initiated by a Git webhook will give us insight into how the solution works and help us later on when we go deeper into each of the new components.
Pull Requests (or whatever their equivalents are called in your favorite Git distribution) are a norm. Most of us adopted them as the primary way of reviewing and accepting changes that will ultimately be deployed to production. They work hand-in-hand with feature branches.
I stand by my claim that "you do not need to understand Kubernetes to use Jenkins X." To be more precise, those who do not want to know Kubernetes and its ecosystem in detail can benefit from Jenkins X ability to simplify the processes around software development lifecycle. That's the promise or, at least, one of the driving ideas behind the project. Nevertheless, for that goal to reach as wide of an audience as possible, we need a variety of build packs. The more we have, the more use cases can be covered with a single
jx import or
jx quickstart command. The problem is that there is an infinite number of types of applications and combinations we might have. Not all can be covered with community-based packs. No matter how much effort the community puts into creating build packs, they will always be a fraction of what we might need. That's where you come in.