AWS CodePipeline Use Case
In 2015 AWS released CodePipeline, a tool for automating software releases. CodePipeline allows you to configure and visualize entire software release processes from commit to deployment. It brings together several AWS developer tools like CodeCommit, CodeBuild, and CodeDeploy, as well as supports integrations with a variety of third-party tools/services like GitHub, Jenkins, and Runscope.
CodePipeline has a modular interface for defining delivery processes. Pipelines are broken into “stages,” with each stage having its own input and output artifacts. This allows you to use the tools that work best for your situation to organize and visualize a customized delivery process.
In this AWS CodePipeline use case, we’ll review an example pipeline for releasing a Java application to a Tomcat server, then dive deeper into the tools and services that make up this pipeline.
AWS CodePipeline Use Case: Tomcat Release Pipeline
I’ve built a sample pipeline using CloudFormation an orchestration tool for AWS resources. If you’re not familiar with CloudFormation, just follow the instructions in the repo’s README file. Be aware that it will spin up some AWS resources and continue to incur charges if you don’t delete the stack when you’re done looking at it.
AWS CodePipeline Use Case: Thoughts on What I Like
Having a delivery stack completely within the AWS ecosystem makes many parts of the release process incredibly smooth. For example:
- Deploying to EC2 Auto Scaling instances without much pain
- Using CloudFormation to orchestrate entire pipelines as code
- Using AWS’s APIs to control and interact with Pipeline services
- Securing pipeline services by locking down their IAM roles
- Monitoring, logging, and alert capabilities through CloudTrail and CloudWatch
CodePipeline strikes a great balance between keeping most processes within AWS’s control while still allowing for third-party integrations when necessary. Its a nice middle ground between a tool like Jenkins that gives the user absolute control of the CI process and a service like TravisCI that controls most of the CI logic behind the scenes. CodePipeline is both reliable and flexible enough to adapt to your needs.
Being able to visualize pipelines is vital to understanding and improving a delivery process. CodePipeline does a great job at laying out pipelines in an interactive UI that updates in real time as revisions pass through it.
Coupling Delivery Configuration with the Application
Having delivery logic live inside the application repo aligns very nicely with the DevOps approach to delivery. It brings developers closer to the delivery process and helps to close the gap between developers and releases engineers. Also, versioning release logic alongside the application just makes sense.
AWS CodePipeline Use Case: Thoughts on What I Don’t Like
The Learning Curve
As someone new to the AWS ecosystem, I had a tough time getting started with CodePipeline. The interactive CodeDeploy tutorial that spins up 3 EC2 instances is very flashy and impressive, but at the end of it I didn’t feel like I learned anything concrete. All in all, I spent about two weeks learning about the Code* resources and creating the Tomcat pipeline for this blog. A huge portion of this time involved sifting through AWS’s documentation trying to understand how CodePipeline and the Code* services work. While the documentation is comprehensive, it takes a lot of time to digest. Also, I had to spend a couple days learning how IAM roles work.
Lack of Pipeline-Level Organization
In a large organization, CI systems can grow very large and complex. Tools like Jenkins allow you to manage this complexity by organizing pipeline jobs in a hierarchy. If a large organization were to adopt CodePipeline, they would end up with a huge flat list of pipelines that would likely be unmanageable.
AWS CodePipeline Use Case Summary
Here, we looked at an AWS CodePipeline use case for a deployment pipeline and reviewed how easy it is to get deployments done using the concept of pipelines. We also summarized some of the challenges, such as the learning curve and the standards that need to be practiced to make sure CI systems do not go haywire and become to complex.
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Liatrio is an Enterprise Delivery Acceleration consulting firm that helps enterprises transform into world-class technology delivery organizations through successful adoption of DevOps and Lean software delivery practices. We work as “boots on the ground change agents,” uniting enterprise technology organizations by uplifting culture, tools, and processes.
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