Go, docker and a CI server

Lately I’ve been playing with go and docker a lot. I have several reasons why I’m spending part of my (not really copious) free time to have a look at those two technologies but I’ll skip them for now because they would offer you nothing practical to read about, it would just be my opinion and I’m not sure that’s interesting. So, the story started with a side-project I can’t open source yet and this project is written in go. Of course, starting a new project comes with some obvious questions like:

  • how do I CI it?
  • how do I deploy it?

Generally I have some sort of canned answers for Ruby projects but this doesn’t apply to a brand-new go project, partly because go is a compiled language (so, for example, deployment contains a “produce a binary and upload it” phase) and party because it’s a completely new world to me. On top of this, there is a small list of goals I wanted to achieve with this project:

  • My private repository hosting has to be cheap
  • Same for my CI server
  • My CI server must not have any of my project dependencies installed
  • My deployment script had to be fast and short (in terms of code lines)

Keeping that in mind, I did some research and I came up with the following recipe:

  • gitlab & gitlab-ci
  • mina
  • docker

gitlab and gitlab-ci were obvious choices IMO. I must confess I was a bit sceptical at first because I remember when I first tried gitlab I wasn’t that impressed. The truth is that the project hugely evolved and now I can’t really find any flaw in it. The installation process was extremely easy (I lost a few minutes on a specific step that was made clear by this pull request) and the UI is fast and mature. I can’t say how gitlab and gitlab-ci would react under heavy usage but I’m positively impressed with what I saw. The integration between the code hosting and the CI server is very nice and took no time to configure. Last but not least, the two applications run smoothly on a 10 $/month server with 1gb of RAM.

mina is a very fast capistrano-like deployer. I got interested in it because being fast was a design goal for this project. So answering the question how do I deploy it? was easy and I think Mina helped in making it easy. The only tricky part for me was finding a way of producing the binary and sending it to the production machine. I’ve read about people using storage hosting like s3 but I’m not a fan of these solutions because I find them costly without adding any value. Moreover, I wouldn’t own all the steps of my deployment process. So now I’m using something brutally simple: rsync. Faking that my project is called awesome-go-project, this is how my deployment script looks like now:

set :deploy_binary, lambda { "awesome-go-project-#{`git --no-pager log --format="%h" -1`.strip}" }

task setup: :environment do
  queue! %[mkdir -p "#{deploy_to}/shared/log"]
  queue! %[chmod g+rx,u+rwx "#{deploy_to}/shared/log"]

desc 'Build a release'
task :release do
  sh 'make build-release'
  sh "rsync --progress -avzp -e 'ssh -p #{port}' release/awesome-go-project #{user}@#{domain}:/tmp/#{deploy_binary}"

I omitted most of the boring configuration setup and the actual deploy task since the task is just linking the deploy_binary to a generic named binary a sudo service awesome-go-project restart. The only thing I’d spend a word about is the way I manage the binary, because since it’s a binary and I don’t need the source code on the server it’s not obvious which version of the code I’m actually running on production, so all I’m doing with the deploy_binary variable is creating a binary that contains the SHA-1 of the commit I’m deploying. Another detail to take into account is that I had to learn how to cross-compile go code, since I use a mac and the production machine is an ubuntu machine, but that was very easy to do with golang-crosscompile.

The real fun started with docker. When thinking about how to avoid installing dependencies on my CI server, I thought it would be the first time I could try docker for something that is more than a “Hello World” container. My side-project has a few dependencies (like the awesome influxdb and mysql) but for the sake of this discussion let’s limit it to early stages of the project where the only dependency to run the tests was the go test -v command. First I created two docker repositories, go-lang and go-command. It felt a bit like re-inventing the wheel because there are already repositories doing something similar but none of them is doing exactly what I wanted. Since I’m in a truly learning-mode with side-projects, instead of going for “I adapt to existing solution so I’m fast” I went for “I write my own thing so I have exactly what I want but then I’m slow”. And it was a nice experience. Developing a Dockerfile is an interesting process and it’s pleasant to learn because docker itself has a very nice interface and a good documentation. So, lucapette/go-lang looks like this:

FROM debian:jessie

MAINTAINER lucapette <lucapette@gmail.com>

RUN apt-get update && apt-get install -y \
    build-essential \
    curl \
    git \

# Get and compile go
RUN curl -s https://go.googlecode.com/files/go1.2.1.src.tar.gz | tar -v -C /usr/local -xz
RUN cd /usr/local/go/src && ./make.bash --no-clean 2>&1
ENV PATH /usr/local/go/bin:/go/bin:$PATH

The only noticeable thing is the image I decided to use. I’m following the advice from the wonderful Dockerfile Best Practices - take 2, you should totally read it (and take one too). This container is just providing us with a installation of go. What I did next was using the image produced by lucapette/go-lang in order to create a lucapette/go-command:

FROM lucapette/go-lang

RUN mkdir -p /go/src


That is very short because all the magic is contained in the ENTRYPOINT instruction. In short, this instruction makes the container act as an executable, in this case the go command. Now, let’s keep the assumption my project is called awesome-go-project, my CI script is something like the following:


set -e

docker run --rm=true -v `pwd`:/go/src/github.com/lucapette/awesome-go-project -w /go/src/github.com/lucapette/awesome-go-project  lucapette/go-command test -v

The script makes the assumption it will run from the root directory of the awesome-go-project. There are a few things happening, let’s dissect the docker command I’m running:

  • --rm=true

    Awesome feature. As soon as the container exits, docker will remove it.

  • -v pwd:/go/src/github.com/lucapette/awesome-go-project

    This command is mounting the current directory (i.e. the source code of the project) in the path specified after the :.

  • -w /go/src/github.com/lucapette/awesome-go-project

    This is setting the working path to the given directory.

  • test -v

    Since we have an ENTRYPOINT set, this is considered an argument for the go command.

When I push to master, gitlab-ci will run the script that is running a docker command that runs my tests. After crafting this process, I find it awesome that I’m really able to run my tests on the CI server without having to install anything related to the code I’m testing, not even the programming language I’m using for the project, since my only dependency on the server is docker itself. I think this is a very good trade-off. The next step, which I’m currently working in, is making the test suite more robust. That will result in having more dependencies like a real influxdb server. Moreover, I can already foresee how funny it will be to link my containers for running the tests.

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