If there is one concept that is central to the Agile development process, it's probably Continuous Build. Although small projects can rely on manual builds, automation is the key to using Agile for ever larger projects.
We took the opportunity afforded by the release of CruiseControl Enterprise, the next version of the product, to ask Paul Julius, co-founder of CruiseControl, what distinguished the software from competitors such as IBM Rational Buildforge, which claims to do a lot more than just continuous build).
It's the buzz around Open Source (ThoughtWorks "opensourced" CruiseControl in 2001) which most distinguishes this software from the pack, he told us. Cruise Control has an active developer community, comprising eight committers and more than 1,000 active members. It is usually introduced to an organisation by the developers themselves. It has features wanted and needed by developers and isn't imposed on them by management.
According to Julius, Cruise Control is particularly strong on globally distributed development. It's developed that way: Julius works out of Chicago, there are developers in California, Europe and Australia, many fixes come out of India and the CC Enterprise team works out of China. This makes it appropriate for people that work in the same way.
Julius thinks that the Chinese team brings real insight into internationalisation and native language support. And, some interesting social insights – the Chinese, for example are much happier signing off support tickets as “CruiseControl” rather than signing their own names.
And what is all that to do with Build? Agile is all about People over Process and you need tools which fit the way people want to work – fitting people to tools isn’t really where Agile is at.
And what’s special about CruiseControl Enterprise? In essence, it's designed to let you view the state of all enterprise builds on one screen. CruiseControl, according to Julius, has always met developers' needs; now it scales to the requirements of the Enterprise and meets managers’ needs too. Which is interesting, considering that it already claims to be used in at least 40 Fortune 1000 companies – perhaps these updates will ensure that it stays in use there.
The user web interface has been redesigned and the observation of current and past builds made easier. An executive-level programme management dashboard now offers (according to the press release) “meaningful ‘blink’ reporting at the highest level”.
Oh yes, the enterprise implant has taken, it really has – “blink” refers to Malcolm Gladwell’s book on “extraordinarily perceptive and deceptive power of the sub-conscious”.
I think this means that managers get summaries and exception reports from CruiseControl Enterprise, which they won't need to spend a lot of time studying (because many won't), but which will still power sensible decisions.
When asked about integration with other tools, Julius admits that it doesn't really support transparency through the whole ALM stack yet, but it has a wide range of integrations with other tools (see here). He singles out integration with ThoughtWorks’ Mingle agile project management tool (which goes into beta next month).
Julius also promises that: "We have great plans for the future of CruiseControl Enterprise, including around the clock support and consultancy services, as well as incorporating new features that support Deployment Pipeline-related functions to reduce an application's time to market and increase the rate of feedback to developers, managers and IT decision makers."
CruiseControl Enterprise is released on 20 June 2007. It is free to use under a BSD-style license.