What is a Build Tool?

Build tools are commonly known as programs that automate the process of building an executable application from source code. This building process includes activities like compiling, linking, and packaging the code into an executable form. Build automation involves scripting or automating a wide range of tasks that software developers perform in their daily activities. 

The activities include:

  • Downloading the dependencies.
  • Compiling source code to the form of binary code.
  • Packaging that binary code.
  • Running the tests.
  • Deploying them to the production systems.

Types of DevOps Build Tools :

The basic need for any DevOps tool setup for an Organization is the actual build process and also the requirement that comes after that – the unit testing, continuous integration, regression testing, performance testing, etc. Let us now take a look at the available tools that can help us get through this phase of the Project Lifecycle with flying colors:

1. Scala oriented Build Tool (SBT):

SBT, an acronym that stands for Scala oriented build tool, is a build tool that is meant for Scala, Java, and many more programming languages as such. Not like the other sets of build tools, SBT is specifically targeted to work towards Scala and Java Projects. Adding to the points that are discussed already, SBT provides a special interactive mode making Scala builds significantly faster using the same JVM as against the traditional batch operation where a number of build tasks are executed in a sequence. SBT is perfectly capable of compiling Scala code, packaging archive artifacts, executing tests, and also to support many other build operations.

Following are some of the advantages of using SBT, let us now take a look at each one of them:

Advantages:

  • SBT can be effortlessly used if it is a smaller and simpler project.
  • Commonly identified being used with Scala open source projects.
  • It provides an awesome integration if you are using IntelliJ IDEA IDE for your development.
  • Most of the tasks that you will need (like compile, test, run, doc, publish-local, and the console) operations/tasks are usage ready with SBT.
  • It is also pointed by few as a feature that dependencies can be open source repositories that are grabbed directly from GitHub.

2. CMake:

CMake is a cross-platform free and open-source software that helps in managing the build processes of software using its compiler-independent method. CMake also provides its support for directory hierarchies and also to applications that do depend on multiple libraries. CMake always works in conjunction with additional build environments like the Xcode (from Apple) and Visual Studio (from Microsoft). The only pre-requisite for CMake will be a C++ compiler on its build system as such.

Following are some of the advantages of using CMake, let us now take a look at each and every one of them:

Advantages:

  • It enables cross-platform discovery of the available system libraries.
  • It provides automatic discovery and configuration for the tool-chain.
  • Ease in use than its predecessor (Make).
  • Ease in the compilation of your own files into a shared library in a platform-agnostic way.
  • CMake does more than what Make is capable of doing and can perform more complex tasks.

3. Terraform:

Terraform is a software tool that is designed to safely and efficiently build, combine, and launch infrastructure. It is a tool that is dedicated to building, changing, and also to version infrastructure. It can manage the existing and the most popular service providers alongside the in-house solutions as well with the utmost ease. The configuration files describe how and in what way Terraform should run the required applications in the datacenter.

Terraform provides and generates an execution plan that puts in a better description of the way to reach the desired state. Executes this documented way and to build the described infrastructure. Terraform can identify the changes made to the configuration and creates the incremental execution plans that can be further applied. Terraform has the ability to manage and include low-level components such as the compute instances, storage, networking, high-level components such as DNS entries, SaaS features, etc., Now that we have discussed all these features let us now take a look at the benefits that Terraform has to offer to individuals or organization.

Following are some of the advantages of using Terraform, let us now take a look at each and every one of them:

Advantages:

  • JSON is not a coding language as it is very evident that most of the lines are just braces, brackets from the CFTs that we look at. Terraform has a custom HCL for creating templates to ease the document and also comment on your code.
  • User data scripts can be written in separate files exactly as you would write them on the server locally.

4. Bower:

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The tool Bower is a known package management system that works solely for the client-side programming on the internet, which depends on Node.js and npm. Bower is said to work with GIT and GitHub repositories. Bower is said to offer a generic and un-opinionated solution to the problem of front-end package management, exposing the necessary package dependency model via an API. This API can further be consumed by a more opinionated build stack. Bower runs over GIT and is package-agnostic.

Following are some of the advantages of using Bower, let us now take a look at each and every one of them:

Advantages:

  • There is no need to specifically and manually download the required dependencies.
  • There is a possibility to optionally install the packages that are part of the scaffolding based on user prompts.
  • No need to commit any missing dependencies to your version control.
  • Declare your dependencies in bower.json so that the dependencies are declaratively managed.
  • There is no need for us to segregate between various builds.

5. Gradle:

Gradle, an easier way to build your projects, has one of its most significant achievements to focus upon – the elimination of XML as part of the build script generation. To be very precise, Gradle uses a domain-specific language (acronym as DSL) that is based on Groovy, which is another programming language that can be run on the JVM. Like any other ANT build script, the Gradle’s DSL also lets you define both core parts of the build file and also specific steps called Tasks (but the only difference here it is going to be Groovy rather than XML). Not just that, it is also very much extensible, thus making it easier to define customizable tasks.

The general Gradle builds files are appropriately named as ‘build.gradle’ and start with the very task of configuring the build. Having said all of this, you might be wondering did the Gradle team spent a whole lot of time trying to re-invent the wheel. The answer to this is a perfect NO as they have reliability on the existing Maven or Ivy based dependency ecosystems. Gradle proposed a fairly reasonable name called TASK for its build step as compared to ANT’s obscure TARGET and Maven’s confusing PHASE.

Following are some of the advantages of using Gradle, let us now take a look at each one of them:

Advantages:
  • Adding dependencies is one of the most manageable tasks here, and also applying plugins.
  • It is an entirely automated build process and also does provide an option to multi-module builds.
  • Easier to use than ANT or Apache Maven and provides its support to finalizers, dry runs, and based on source changes automatically builds your project.
  • Comes integrated with most of the popular IDEs like IntelliJ IDEA, Eclipse, etc via plugins.
  • It can sense the changes in Gradle files and updates the Project structure accordingly.
  • It is unbelievable that the learning curve on this tool is pretty flat.

6. Apache Ant:

One of the oldest but the strongest of the competitors that are available in the current market in the DevOps space is Apache Ant, which is a Java library. It is also a command-line tool that helps in driving processes described in ANT build files as targets and tasks. One of the most common usages of Apache ANT is the way that it builds Java applications. Apache ANT finds itself in a comfortable situation where it can act as a build tool for Non-Java based programming languages like C, C++. More genuinely, Apache ANT can be used to pilot any process that can be described in terms of targets and tasks.

Following are some of the advantages of using Apache ANT, let us now take a look at each one of them:

Advantages:
  • It provides excellent control over the whole build process and is ideal for projects that need control over their build process according to the needs of the project, precisely.
  • Apache ANT can be used to build absolutely anything.
  • It is one of the highly Customizable and Configurable build tool that is available in this space of DevOps tools.
  • It is also an ideal build tool if your project is a mix and match of technologies like C, C++, and Java, etc.
  • Apache ANT provides a lot of HTTP hooks to take up tasks on that side as well
  • Having discussed all these points above, it is speedy and works on almost all the platforms.
  • Apache ANT relies heavily on Apache Ivy for the dependency management requirements.
  • Bringing your project’s build process is only possible via Apache ANT as it streamlines the whole process of building your software into targets and tasks efficiently.

7. Apache Maven:

One of the other build tools only can be looked at is Apache Maven. Apart from being just a build tool, Apache Maven is also a software project management and comprehension tool. Based on the concept note of Project Object Model (an acronym for POM), it can manage a project’s build, reporting, and documentation processes from a central piece of Information. To be very precise in mentioning, Apache Maven is two tools made into one – the Dependency Manager and also a powerful build tool. Like Apache ANT, it is an XML based build file, but at the same time, it outlines very rigid standards for itself.

Apache Maven can also be thought of as declarative, as it lets you define your build process should be doing rather than how should it be doing it. These features that we have discussed until now makes it an ideal choice for both the Dependency Management and also for its build automation processes. Build automation is much cleaner, standardized across platforms and individuals. All of this constitutes to lesser time being spent on the actual build process and hence be safely used on more important tasks at hand. It can very comfortably assume that Apache Maven is a de-facto standard of build automation in the Java world.

Following are some of the advantages of using Apache Maven, let us now take a look at each and every one of them:

Advantages:
  • Possibility and also ease in configuring the whole project by just glancing through the one important file of the whole project, the pom.xml.
  • Apache Maven reduces the burden of keeping your dependencies up to date, as the dependency management module of Apache Maven kicks in to perform all such activities.
  • An added benefit is the ease with which you can comfortably build a Cucumber project or a TestNG project.
  • Once the configuration is done, the developers have only one task to do – Development with peace of mind!
  • Project management skills can be seen very clearly when Apache Maven is let to handle a relatively bigger project for all its needs – build automation, dependency management and etc.
  • It provides support to any platform for the actual build process.
  • It provides wonderful support for all the Unit testing needs and logging requirements.
  • Profile-based support to run the pom configurations based on the profile that it gets executed with.

8. Apache Continuum:

Apache Continuum, a partner to yet another famous build tools - Apache Maven, is also a continuous integration server that runs builds on a user-configurable schedule. It has many features that available with CruiseControl as like the number of plugins that are available to be used in conjunction with Apache Continuum. One of the coolest features that are available with Apache Continuum is to identify the developer whose commit breaks the build for him/her to fix the issue.

Following are some of the advantages of using Apache Continuum, let us now take a look at each and every one of them:

Advantages:
  • Most of the major advantages that can be seen using Apache Continuum are the faster delivery, higher quality, and also the reduction of risk in your product deployments.
  • It provides easier integration with tools like Jenkins, Chef, GIT, SubVersion, Docker, Selenium, AWS, and much more of these tools (the list never ends).
  • It provides better tracking of business value throughout the lifecycle of the project.
  • It has inbuilt integration with VersionOne Lifecycle, the ALM product from the VersionOne family, alongside to that has an alliance with JIRA as well.
  • It provides a better way to track stories, defects, and issues through a delivery lifecycle.

9. CruiseControl:

Yet another tool that fits both into the Continuous Integration and Builds space of the DevOps tools that we are discussing here. CruiseControl is also both a Continuous Integration tool and also an extensible framework to create a custom continuous build process. It has lots of plugins from various source controls and builds technologies from the huge arena of DevOps tools to form the stronger tool that it is. It also has features like notification schemes like email notification and even instant messaging features. An interactive web UI provides all the necessary details about all the previous builds of the current project.

Following are some of the advantages of using CruiseControl, let us now take a look at each one of them:

Advantages:
  • CruiseControl comes as one of the best choices to automate the build processes starting from the initial development environments to as high as a Production environment.
  • It is pretty straightforward, and it is a significant advantage that anybody from the user group can pick up the corresponding tasks from their standpoint.
  • Solid community support and also adding to that is the stronger number of add-ins and plugins available with CruiseControl for usage.
  • It can very comfortably consider as one of the pioneers in automated builds and Continuous Integration.
  • The setup process is straightforward, and alongside that, the tool can be customized heavily according to the user requirements.
  • Pretty cool to see that other tools like NAnt can be configured to automate your builds.
  • It provides an interactive dashboard that gives you control of all the information about the builds and also allows users to drill down the details to the fine-grained details.

Related Article: 5 Unsung Tools Of DevOps

10. Hudson:

Hudson can be classified into two categories of DevOps tools that an organization can choose to work with. It can be worked with as a Continuous Integration (CI) tool, or it can also be used as a Build tool. Hudson in generic does the monitoring on the execution of repeated jobs like building software projects or those jobs that get triggered on a time schedule (like the CRON jobs). Two important things that Hudson can be relied upon – Building / Testing Software projects continuously and the other to monitor the execution of all such externally-run jobs.

If you look at Hudson as a Continuous Integration tool (this is basically written in Java), that runs in the context of a Servlet Container as like Apache Tomcat or a Glassfish application server – it provides its support to SCM tools as like CVS, Subversion, Git, Perforce and RTC. Alongside these, it can execute Apache Maven or Apache ANT based projects and also ad-hoc shell scripts or Windows batch commands. Hudson has gained its importance over CruiseControl and the other open-source build servers from its yesteryears itself.

There is this interesting incident on how Jenkins has been created as a fork from the Hudson project and has gained its own importance in the build and continuous integration space of the DevOps tools. It is still thought to be that Jenkins is a fork from Hudson by the Hudson developers, and vice versa is the case with the Jenkins developers, and there came the time period where interest in Hudson collapsed thereafter. To be very precise, there is no more Hudson maintenance, and Jenkins has comfortably replaced it.

Following are some of the advantages of using Hudson, let us now take a look at each one of them:

Advantages:
  • One of the best benefits of using Hudson is that it is open source and is available free to use comfortably.
  • The availability of a massive number of plugins makes it easier to use the tool itself, and also the installation of the tool is just a cool breeze.
  • Software build automation, email notifications on jobs and etc. – the most common and widely asked for features that are available with Hudson.
  • It is a multi-platform, feature heaving, reliable and configurable none the less.
  • Hudson can also be used as a Continuous Integration platform to conjoin the build process with also to run the automation tests on the generated build.
  • One of the best tools to use and has integrations with various other industry-standard tools like Gerrit, Jenkins, and GitHub, etc.
  • One of the largest communities that solely worked on plugins for general use with Hudson.

11. Apache Buildr:

Apache Buildr is a popular build system for Java-based applications that are gaining importance over the years. It also includes its support for other programming languages like Scala, Groovy, etc. Apache Buildr is an intelligent build tool, so there are only things that we need to tell it so that it can take care of the rest of the responsibilities alongside that. Apache Buildr is fast enough, and also, at the same time, it is reliable as well. It has outshined its way to become an outstanding dependency management feature, as well. You can build something out of your interest using Apache Buildr, just because of the ease of use that it provides.

Following are some of the advantages of using Apache Buildr, let us now take a look at each and every one of them:

Advantages:
  • Easy to use with a varied number of projects.
  • Ability to build larger and complex projects and also at the same time to build a set of smaller projects to build a large project in turn.
  • Preconfigured tasks that require remotely no configuration at all, which keeps the build scripts on the DRY side and also makes it simple to maintain.
  • Provides the support towards APT source code generation, Javadoc and etc.
  • Provides the base features like any other build tool to compile, copy, and filtering resources – Junit and TestNG test cases in the project.
  • An intelligent dependency mechanism that only builds the change-set that has been changed from the previous release.
  • Provides a drop-in replacement for Maven 2.0 using the same file layout, artifact specifications, and also maintaining local/remote repositories.
  • A very generic statement that goes like this – Anything that can be done through ANT can also be made through Apache Builder as well.
  • There is no additional overhead of building plugins or any further configuration. You can write newer tasks or functions to achieve what’s required of you.
  • Apache Buildr, written in Ruby, helps writing code using variables, functions, and objects, however, demanding to be your one-off tasks.
  • Easier to manage upgrades to newer versions.

12. NAnt:

NAnt is yet another build DevOps tool that is very much similar to ANT and hence the name. It is free to use the build tool used famously for .NET projects. In theory, if we need to explain NAnt is very much like MAKE without the fringes and the disadvantages of it, and in practice, it is very much like ANT. NAnt is extended for further usage by task classes instead of extension with shell-based commands. The configuration files in NAnt are XML based files where a target tree once called gets all the necessary tasks executed, and each of the tasks that get performed in NAnt is executed by an object that actually implements a particular Task interface.

NAnt in some way misses the power to be expressive with its build scripts, but yet it can give you the power of being able to run the same scripts across platform and lets you call your build scripts cross-platform enabled. If the need of the hour is just to execute a shell command, NAnt has a feature in the form of a task which allows different commands to be executed based on the operating system where it is getting executed upon.

Following are some of the advantages of using NAnt, let us now take a look at each and every one of them:

Advantages:
  • NAnt is used widely to compile, build, and also to run .NET projects.
  • NAnt uses XML format for its scripts to write build steps for projects, and hence it is platform-independent.
  • NAnt can easily handle building modules written different programming languages like C# or VB and the like.
  • NAnt provides wonderful integration with the Unit testing tool NUnit 2.0.
  • NAnt, just like ANT, can also manage to do other tasks like creating files or directories, copying and deleting them, and also ad-hoc duties like sending emails, zipping files, and the link.
  • NAnt, just like ANT, can group a certain number of tasks under a Target.
Conclusion:

In this article, we have discussed in detail how the build process can be thought of in the DevOps implementation for an Organization. We have gone through the detailed descriptions and also its advantages, where the implementation of the tool was used in the DevOps space. Please go through the details provided here about various build related DevOps tools, and you can make your choice for your DevOps implementations for your Organization as well. I hope you have got all the information that you were looking for here.

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