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Observability for CI/CD pipelines

Published : Oct 26, 2022
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Oct 2022
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Observability practices have shifted the conversation from monitoring for well-understood problems to helping troubleshoot unknown problems in distributed systems. We've seen success taking that perspective outside of the traditional production environment by applying observability for CI/CD pipelines to help optimize testing and deployment bottlenecks. Complex pipelines create developer friction when they run too slow or suffer from nondeterminism, reducing important feedback loops and hindering developer effectiveness. Additionally, their role as critical deployment infrastructure creates stress points during periods of rapid deployments, as happened to several organizations responding to the recent log4shell vulnerability. The concept of traces translates nicely to pipelines: instead of capturing the cascade of service calls, child spans capture information about each stage of the build. The same waterfall charts used to analyze a call flow in a distributed architecture can also be effective in helping us to identify bottlenecks in pipelines, even complex ones with fan-in and fan-out. This enables far more focused optimization efforts. While the technique should work with any tracing tool, Honeycomb supports a tool called buildevents that helps capture pipeline trace information. An alternative approach of capturing information already exposed by CI/CD platforms, taken by the open-source buildviz (built and maintained by a Thoughtworker), allows for a similar investigation without changing the step configurations themselves.

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