Building an Iron pipeline – in the cloud

Indy Agilists build a devops pipeline… in a day

Indianapolis, Indiana, Saturday 01/05/2018

As the small crowd started showing up on a crisp Saturday morning In January for the ‘hackathon at the Ironworks’ there was a lot of uncertainty about just what they would – or even could – actually “build”.
Everyone knew each other because they worked at or was a contractor at Sallie Mae and had seen some of the pieces of this at work. This was an opportunity for them to build a similar code testing and deployment system using modern secure open source tools and using some of the most modern hosting and application building services that are pre-made to be plug and play with each other. Using personal (non-sallie mae) pc’s and a non-sallie mae network were obvious prerequisites to the endeavor.


So how’d they do?

Well clearly fun was on the Agenda from the start. The Admin Assistant gave out high quality (metal) spinners to all and a stuffed polar bear took center piece on the table (see photo). Then folks divvied up the various roles. Bascially nearly everyone was a Director! There was a Director of Application Development, Director of Devops, Director of Quality Integrations, Director of Product Development and of course… an actual engineer… with the title ‘Actual Engineer’. The person behind the hackathon itself took on the highest title of course – Admin Assistant.

Did they actually build the Pipeline?

Yes! Within a few minutes they had a slack workspace, connected to a Jira ticketing system. From that they were soon able to hook in code reviews and secure Continuous Integration with CircleCI to run tests in the cloud. As the day progressed they were then able to scale the system up to use 4 parallel servers to run the tests and a Code Grading system to make code quality an easy and visible process. By the time they were finished they were able to do the end to end process of make a change, perform code review and grading, run all the tests in the cloud and if passed, promote the code to production – a true CI/CD system.

What did they learn?

Many of the integrations between the different vendors and services were remarkably easier to configure, often in literally seconds or minutes. It was a stark comparison to many enterprise systems that have traditionally required months of pain staking work to set this up. The exercise was also a good example and reminder of the basic of running tests in the cloud as the default way of working.  Perhaps most of all the power of working together in the same location with the ability to simply ask each ‘director’ to do the work (often relatively small with modern tools) right on the spot was wonderful to experience.

Jira Juggling

Re-entering the world of Jira I once again encountered mapping and transition issues.

The import lessons were to remember to consider System Level workflows, Project Level workflows and Board level mappings.  The three work together in a non-obvious way.  Add to that the need to understand active and inactive workflows, workflows vs. workflow schemas and the Jira approach to publishing changes, and you quickly get lost in a series of dead-end error message such as ‘can’t edit an active workflow’ and the inability to be able to move cards to different status on the board (a common result of not getting changes right).

Also one key thing is to make sure to refresh screens and boards wile doing changes.  Some changes are updated real time, others require a page refresh.  Easy to get caught out thinking a change hasn’t worked when it has.

Crucial screenshots:

  1. These are the system level controls for things like workflows.  They are often not obvious or easy to know about when you are at a project or board level

Screenshot from 2019-01-01 15-06-45

2.Workflows and Workflow Schemas and which are active in projects

Screenshot from 2019-01-01 15-06-19

3. When you change workflow you’ll frequently need to then readjust a board to deal with the different status and how they should show.

Screenshot from 2019-01-01 13-33-34

4. At the project level there are settings

Screenshot from 2019-01-01 13-08-15

5. Including workflows

Screenshot from 2019-01-01 13-08-34

6. Different boards may need different status mapping to get their workflow right

Screenshot from 2019-01-01 13-49-51