The future of Jenkins is cloud native and a faster development pace with increased stability

3 min read

Jenkins has been a success for more than a decade now mainly due to its extensibility, community and it being general purpose. But there are some challenges and problems in it which have become more pronounced now. Kohsuke Kawaguchi, the creator of Jenkins, is now planning to take steps to solve these problems and make the platform better.

Challenges in Jenkins

With growing competition in the continuous integration (CI), The following limitations in Jenkins come in the way of teams. Some of them discourage admins from using and installing plugins.

  • Service instability: CI is a critical service nowadays. People are running bigger workloads, needing more plugins, and high availability. Services like instant messaging platforms need to be online all the time. Jenkins is unable to keep up with this expectation and a large instance requires a lot of overhead to keep it running. It is common for someone to restart Jenkins every day and that delays processes. Errors need to be contained to a specific area without impacting the whole service.
  • Brittle Configuration: Installing/upgrading plugins and tweaking job settings have caused side effects. This makes admins lose confidence to make these changes safely. There is a fear that the next upgrade might break something and cause problems for other teams and affect delivery.
  • Assembly required: Jenkins requires an assembly of service blocks to make it work as a whole. As CI has become mainstream, the users want something that can be deployed in a few clicks. Having too many choices is confusing and leads to uncertainty when assembling. This is not something that can be solved by creating more plugins.
  • Reduced Development Velocity: It is difficult for a contributor to make a change that spans across multiple plugins. The tests do not give enough confidence to shop code; many of them do not run automatically and the coverage is not deep.

Changes and steps to make Jenkins better

There are two key efforts here, Cloud Native Jenkins and Jolt. Cloud native is a CI engine that runs on Kubernetes and has a different architecture, Jolt will continue in Jenkins 2 and add faster development pace with increased stability.

Cloud Native Jenkins

It is a sub-project in the context of Cloud Native SIG. It will use Kubernetes as runtime. It will have a new extensibility mechanism to retain what works and to continue the development of the the automation platform’s ecosystem. Data on Cloud Managed Data Services to achieve high availability and horizontal scalability, alleviating admins from additional responsibilities. Configuration as Code and Jenkins Evergreen help with the brittleness. There are also plans to make Jenkins secure by default design and to continue with Jenkins X which has been received very well. The aim is to get things going in 5 clicks through easy integration with key services.

Jolt in Jenkins

Cloud Native Jenkins is not usable for everyone and targets only a particular set of functionalities. It also requires a platform which has a limited adoption today, so Jenkins 2 will be continued at a faster pace. For this Jolt in Jenkins is introduced. This is inspired by what happened to the development of Java SE; change in the release model by shedding off parts to move faster. There will a major version number change every couple of months. The platform needs to be largely compatible and the pace needs to justify any inconvenience put on the users.

For more, visit the official Jenkins Blog.

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