Why are you still not using Hudson?

Posted in Java, Software Development by Dan on May 9th, 2008

This week Hudson was awarded the Duke’s Choice Award in the Developer Solutions category at JavaOne.

In the space of a couple of years, Hudson has come from nowhere to become the leading contender among Continuous Integration servers. It’s head and shoulders above the other free alternatives, and arguably at least as good as the commercial offerings.

The venerable Cruise Control led the way for many years, but it suffers for having been first. Configuring builds is a lot more work than it needs to be. Continuum improved on this by allowing everything to be controlled via the web interface. Continuum is simple and useful. For a while I used it and I was happy.

Then JetBrains gave away free TeamCity licences with IntelliJ IDEA 6.0 and opened my eyes to a world beyond the fairly basic functionality of Continuum. I was impressed (pre-tested commits are a neat feature), but because you needed licences for every user, I was never able to fully commit to it.

NOTE: JetBrains have since introduced a free professional edition of TeamCity.

Anyway, at some point last year I took a serious look at Hudson. I’d been vaguely aware of it for a little while but never been compelled to try it out.

Hudson is impressive. It is ridiculously easy to install. It has the same ease-of-configuration that makes Continuum so simple, but it combines it with high-end features, such as distributed builds, that are usually only found in commercial offerings like TeamCity and Atlassian’s Bamboo.

Hudson is primarily the work of Sun Microsystem’s Kohsuke Kawaguchi. Kohsuke is a prolific Open Source developer. With Hudson he has designed a system with well thought-out extension points that have enabled an army of plug-in writers to deliver a bewildering array of capabilities.

Out-of-the box Hudson supports CVS and Subversion repositories. Plug-ins extend this list to include Git, Mercurial, Perforce, ClearCase, BitKeeper, StarTeam, Accurev and Visual SourceSafe. Hudson also supports pretty much any type of build script (including Ant, Maven, shell scripts, Windows batch files, Ruby, Groovy and MSBuild).

In addition to e-mail and RSS, Hudson can also notify you of build events via IRC and Jabber as well as via a system tray/dock applet. Of course, all of these were too mundane for Kohsuke, so he built his own glowing orb.

But Hudson is much more than just a Continuous Integration server. It’s a complete build management and tracking solution. As well as publishing Javadocs, archiving build artifacts, and monitoring and graphing JUnit/TestNG results over time, you can also track and plot code coverage (Cobertura, EMMA and Clover are all supported) and coding violations (via FindBugs, Checkstyle and/or PMD). And if all that’s not enough, you can play the Continuous Integration game.

So why are you still not using Hudson?