Over the past year Hudson has grown tremendously, both within the Java community and outside of it. Partially thanks to (Titus Brown)'s PyCon 2010 Atlanta coverage of continuous integration for Python (which we’ve covered before), Hudson has made great strides within the Python community as well. In my experience, the majority of Python developers are not using Hudson to build anything, unless they have C extensions, but rather to test their packages, which presents its own set of specific requirements for jobs. Jobs for testing Python code need to be able to reliaby reproduce an environment with the same set of dependencies from one run to the next in order to provide consistent testing. Unlike their Java counterparts, Python developers cannot rely on a powerful system like Maven2 for enumerating build/test targets or defining their project’s dependencies in their jobs; fortunately, w e can have something close: virtualenv and pip. Virtualenv does exactly what you might expect it to, it creates a "virtual environment" with custom site-packages directory, and modified python executable. Using virtualenv you can create a staged environment to use for running unit and integration tests. Adding pip alongside that and you have a fantastic Python package manager/installer to use with the virtual environment. Below, I’ve outlined the steps required to use virtualenv and pip to automatically manage a custom environment for your Python jobs.

The Recipe

For this recipe to work, you should make sure that your agent machines all have virtualenv and pip installed and accessible from your agent agent’s $PATH. For Mac OS X users, sudo easy_install virtualenv should do the trick, Linux users should be able to run sudo [aptitude/yum/zypper] install python-virtualenv with your respective package manager. You will also need the SetEnv Plugin installed in Hudson.

Step 1

Inside of the job’s configuration page (http;//hudson/job/configure), we need to define an environment variable for the job. Using the SetEnv plugin, define a new $PATH: `PATH=.env/bin:$PATH

What this will do is modify the $PATH environment variable for all of the "Execute shell" build steps in your job. As you might have guessed, we’re going to install the virtualenv in .env in the workspace root directory.

Step 2

To set up the virtualenv, you want to add a build step of type "Execute shell" and paste the following commands into the text area:

if [ -d ".env" ]; then
  echo "**> virtualenv exists"
  echo "**> creating virtualenv"
  virtualenv .env

This will create a virtualenv the first time the job runs on a particular agent, a virtualenv that will persist until the workspace is cleared. Since we’re going to install dependencies in the virtualenv, we want to keep it around between jobs to reduce the amount of network hits to download packages.

Step 3

With our virtualenv and our $PATH properly set up, the job can now properly install dependencies into its virtualenv, this is where pip shines. A little known feature of pip allows you to define a "requirements file" which enumerates the packages to install. In my example project, I defined the following requirements in a file called pip-requires.txt


In my hypothetical example, I’ll need nose to run my tests, while eventlet and MySQL-python are required for my project to properly run. With the pip-requires.txt file in the root of my source repository, I can add an additional "Execute shell" build step that does the following:

pip install -r pip-requires.txt

Assuming the $PATH environment variable was properly defined, this will use the virtualenv’s version of pip and it will install the packages defined in pip-requires.txt into the virtualenv! With the dependencies all properly installed in the virtualenv, I can now configure the remainder of my job to build my project and execute the tests. Pretty snazzy if you ask me!

About the Author
R. Tyler Croy

R. Tyler Croy has been part of the Jenkins project for the past seven years. While avoiding contributing any Java code, Tyler is involved in many of the other aspects of the project which keep it running, such as this website, infrastructure, governance, etc.