BuildStream Hackfest and FOSDEM

Hi all !

In case you happen to be here at FOSDEM, we have a BuildStream talk in the distributions track tomorrow at noon.

BuildStream Hackfest

I also wanted to sum up a last minute BuildStream hackfest which occurred in Manchester just a week ago. Bloomberg sent some of their Developer Experience engineering team members over to the Codethink office in Manchester where the whole BuildStream team was present, and we split up into groups to plan upcoming coding sprints, land some outstanding work and fix some bugs.

Here are some of the things we’ve been talking about…

Caching the build tree

Currently we only cache the output in a given artifact, but caching the build tree itself, including the sources and intermediate object files can bring some advantages to the table.

Some things which come to mind:

  • When opening a workspace, if the element has already been built; it becomes interesting to checkout the whole built tree instead of only the sources. This can turn your first workspace build into an incremental build.
  • Reconstruct build environment to test locally. In case you encounter failures in remote CI runners, it’s interesting to be able to reproduce the shell environment locally in order to debug the build.

Benchmarking initiative

There is an initiative started by Angelos Evripiotis to get a benchmarking process in place to benchmark BuildStream’s performance in various aspects such as load times for complex projects, staging time for preparing a build sandbox etc, so we can keep an eye on performance improvements and regressions over time.

We talked a bit about the implementation details of this, I especially like that we can use BuildStream’s logging output to drive benchmarks as this eliminates the observer side effects.

Build Farm

We talked about farming out tasks and discussed the possibility of leveraging the remote execution framework which the Bazel folks are working on. We noticed that if we could leverage such a framework to farm out the execution of a command against a specific filesystem tree, we could essentially use the same protocol to farm out a command to a worker with a specified CPU architecture, solving the cross build problem at the same time.

Incidentally, we also spent some time with some of the Bazel team here at FOSDEM, and seeing as there are some interesting opportunities for these projects to compliment eachother, we will try to see about organizing a hackfest for these two projects.

Incremental Builds

Chandon Singh finally landed his patches which mount the workspaces into the build environment at build time instead of copying them in, this is the first big step to giving us incremental builds for workspaced elements.

Besides this, we need to handle the case where configure commands should not be run after they have already been run once, with an option to reset or force them to be run again (i.e. avoid recreating config.h and rebuilding everything anyway), also there is another subtle bug to investigate here.

But more than this, we also got to talking about a possible workflow where one runs CI on the latest of everything in a given mainline, and runs the builds incrementally, without workspaces. This would require some client state which would recall what was used in the last build in order to feed in the build tree for the next build and then apply/patch the differences to that tree, causing an incremental build. This can be very interesting when you have highly active projects which want to run CI on every commit (or branch merge), and then scale that to thousands of modules.

Reproducibility Testing

BuildStream strives for bit-for-bit reproducibility in builds, but should have some minimal support for allowing one to easily check just how reproducible their builds are.

Jim MacArthur has been following up on this.


In Summary

The hackfest was a great success but was on a little short notice, we will try to organize another hackfest well in advance and give more people a chance to participate next time around.


And… here is a group photo !

BuildStream Hackfest Group Photo


If you’re at FOSDEM… then see you in a bit at the GNOME beer event !

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