Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Visual Build

I've been working with Visual Build in a .NET environment off and on for almost the past year. When we decided to go forward with Visual Build, I thought it would be a more painful process than it turned out to be. Our technology stack includes ClearCase, Subversion, Ms SQL, PSExec, VMWare, VB.NET, IIS, CruiseControl, Nant, Nunit, and a bunch of 3rd party tools and servers related to document management.
Visual Build provides a bunch of example build files that are quite helpful in getting all kinds of different functionality going. We automatically compile, unittest, deploy (to remote boxes), and run verification tests using Visual Build. There a numerous other interesting smaller tasks that we've got Visual Build to manage for us like setting perms on remote boxes, stopping and starting servers, services and com+ objects, performing baselines, checkins/outs, and updates of clearcase streams and views, etc.
Some of the gotchas we've discovered in our work with Visual Build:
- managing windows (child build files that get spawned in a complex build process) and logs is not so trivial. If they aren't managed correctly, your build will stop without much notification as to why. We found that piping the output from the build to a separate file worked for us with logging. With windows, we found that matching the build context, waiting for completion, running the GUI app in silent mode, and not closing the GUI app on failure were what made things tick.
- psexec needs to be on the path on the box you're running Visual Build on.
- CruiseControl integration was relatively easy - we just used the command line with options:
<buildArgs>/b "XXX.bld" -other args to pass to buildfile go here

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