Significant builds in continuous integration

With agile methodologies, it is very common to have continuous integration builds. In those methodolog, there are two types of builds: successful and unsuccessful. Unsuccessful builds are builds where either the code could not compile, unit tests fail or regression tests (if part of the build system) fail. Successful builds are ones where the build completes successfully.

Considering how often continuous integration builds are executed, with cascading, downstream builds of other products, even large disks could fill up quickly. Many limit the number of builds preserved or the number of days preserved. Here I suggest a different approach.

There are two types of successful builds. A significant successful build is one where a change occur to initiate this build or an upstream (assumed to be successful) build. An insignificant successful build is one where no change has occurred to initiate this build.

Insignificant builds could be deleted on the next successful build. Significant builds should be kept for some period determined by the SCM.

An example of an insignificant build within the system is builds activated hourly or when changes are detected in version control. It is easily conceivable, especially overnight, that the hourly builds would become insignificant compared to the version-control based builds.

When what would the purpose of having insignificant builds? There may be other tasks outside of the build that are triggered by the build, for example, regression tests on a remote system, load tests run at night. Each of these could be triggered by a specific build, but generating the same build objects (for example, publishing them to the same object repository).

Significant and insignificant successful builds have their place within the build framework. Identification of each and more importantly, getting the build systems to identify each, and managing these would become the next stage.

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