Application Deployment at Gnip

Managing your application code on more than 500 servers is a non-trivial task. One of the tenets we’ve held onto closely as an engineering team at Gnip is “owning your code all the way to the metal”. In order to promote this sense of ownership, we try to keep a clean and simple deployment process.

To illustrate our application deployment process, let’s assume that we’re checking in a new feature to our favorite Gnip application, the flingerator. We will also assume that we have a fully provisioned server that is already running an older version of our code (I’ll save provisioning / bootstrapping servers for another blog post). The process is as follows:

1. Commit: git commit -am “er/ch: checking in my super awesome new feature”
2. Build: One of our numerous cruisecontrol.rb servers picks up the changeset from git and uses maven to build an RPM.
3. Promote: After the build completes, run cap flingerator:promote -S environment=review.
4. Deploy: cap flingerator:roll -S environment=review

Let me break down what is happening at each step of the process:

Every developer commits or merges their feature branch into master. Every piece of code that lands on master is code reviewed by the developer who wrote the code and at least one other developer. The commit message includes the initials of the developer who wrote the feature as well as the person who code reviewed it. After the commit is made, the master branch is pushed up to github.

After the commit lands on master, our build server (cruisecontrol.rb) uses maven to run automated tests, build jars, and create RPM(s). After the RPM is created, cruisecontrol.rb then copies said RPM to our yum repo server into the “build” directory. Although the build is copied to our yum repo server, it is not ready for deployment just yet.

After cruise.rb has successfully transferred the RPM to the yum server’s “build” directory, the developer can promote the new code into a particular environment by running the following capistrano command: cap flingerator:promote -S environment=review. This command uses capistrano to ssh to the yum repo server and creates a symlink from the “build” directory to the review (or staging or prod) environment directory. This action makes said RPM available to install on any server in a particular environment via yum.

Now that the RPM has been promoted, it is now available via the gnip yum repo. It is now up to the dev to run another capistrano command to deploy the code: cap flingerator:roll -S environment=review. This command ssh’es to each flingerator server and runs “yum update flingerator”. This installs the new code onto the filesystem. After successful completion of the “yum install” the application process is restarted and the new code is running.

This process uses proven technologies to create a stable and repeatable deployment process, which is extremely important in order to provide an enterprise grade customer experience.