Plans for 2015 – Revamping the Release Automation
Mozilla’s Release Engineering team has been through several major iterations of our “release automation”, which is how we produce the bits for Firefox betas and releases. With each incarnation, the automation has become more reliable, supported more functionality, and end-to-end time has reduced. If you go back a few years to Firefox 2.0 it took several days to prepare 40 or so locales and three platforms for a release; now it’s less than half a day for 90 locales and four platforms. The last major rewrite was some time ago so it’s time to embark on a big revamp – this time we want to reduce the end-to-end time significantly.
Currently, when a code change lands in the repository (eg mozilla-beta) a large set of compile and test jobs are started. It takes about 5 hours for the slowest platform to complete an optimized build and run the tests, in part because we’re using Profile-Guided Optimization (PGO) and need to link XUL twice. Assuming the tests have passed, or been recognized as an intermittent failure, a Release Manager will kick off the release automation. It will tag the gecko and localization repositories, and a second round of compilation will start, using the official branding and other release-specific settings. Accounting for all the other release work (localized builds, source tarballs, updates, and so on) the automation takes 10 or more hours to complete.
The first goal of the revamp is to avoid the second round of compilation, with all the loss of time and test coverage it brings. Instead, we’re looking at ‘promoting’ the builds we’ve already done (in the sense of rank, not marketing). By making some other improvements along the way, eg fast generation of partial updates using funsize, we may be able to save as much as 50% from the current wall time. So we’ll be able to ship fixes to beta users more often than twice a week, get feedback earlier in the cycle, and be more confident about shipping a new release. It’ll help us to ship security fixes faster too.
We’re calling this ‘Build Promotion’ for short, and you can follow progress in Bug 1118794 and dependencies.