An approach to building .NET Core apps using Bamboo and Cake

Bamboo is my build server of choice because I find it simple to setup and has great integration with the rest of the Atlassian stack, such as our JIRA and Bitbucket Server instances.

Bamboo has had native support for MSBuild-based for ages, but with dotnet build the new sexiness, I wanted to get up and running with my CI workflow for my .NET Core applications.

Now there are quite a few challenges to face when setting up a CI build:

  1. Versioning
  2. Building
  3. Testing
  4. Deployment

I decided to tackle these things in stages.

Versioning

In pre-project.json world, if you wanted to version a set of projects within the same solution together, you could achieve that either by generating something like an AssemblyInfo.cs file at build time, or perhaps using a SharedAssemblyInfo.cs link approach whereby you manually set your numbers for the entire solution.

Currently, in project.json world this isn't possible because the [Assembly*Version] attributes are generated by dotnet-build. You might be able to manually add these yourself, but I haven't experimented with that.

So let's look at an example, here is one library MyLibrary.Abstractions.

{
  "version": "1.0.0-*",
  "dependencies": { },
  "frameworks": {
    "netstandard1.6": { }
  }
}

And here's my implementation library, MyLibrary:

{
  "version": "1.0.0-*",
  "dependencies": { 
    "MyLibrary.Abstractions": "1.0.0-*"
  },
  "frameworks": {
    "netstandard1.6": { }
  }
}

Right off the bat, I can see a couple of issues. The version number is fixed into the version key, and the dependency version of the abstractions library is also fixed.

The version string 1.0.0-* is significant in that it pins an exact Major.minor.patch number, but allows matching on any pre-release string. What this means is that when a build occurs, dotnet-build generates a pre-release string (because of the presence of -*) which is a timestamp. This aligns the version numbers of both the MyLibrary and MyLibrary.Abstractions packages. Previously, prior to RC2, you could simply do this:

"dependences": {
  "MyLibrary.Abstractions": ""
}

This is no longer possible, so if I need to version both components together, I need to do something different. Firstly, I need to tackle that version key and have that carry the same value in both project.json files.

Setting the version before project.json

I don't really believe in the term "calculating a version" because that implies some sort of formulaic-approach to determining the version components.

Unless you had some awesome code-analysis tool that could compare your codebase before and after a commit to determine the type of changes and how this affects your public API, the choice of Major.minor.patch solely has to rely on the developer, because only they will know the intent of their change. To this end, I decided to take the approach similar to GitVersion's GitVersion.yaml file where I can express part of the version number myself (the part I care about - Major.minor.patch) and generate the pre-release string from the branch/commit information. I also needed to be able to surface this information in Bamboo itself so I can attribute it to future deployments.

For this, I define a simple text file, build.props:

versionMajor=1  
versionMinor=0  
versionRev=0  

This file would be committed to source control so it can be shared with other devs (to align versions) and the CI server.

Next, I use my branch information to determine the pre-release string (if any), so for instance:

  • If the branch is not release, I will generate a pre-release string.
    • If we are building locally, the pre-release string is simply -<branch-name>, e.g. -master, or -feature-A
    • If we are building on the CI server which drops packages into a NuGet feed, we include the total commit count as -<branch-name>-<commit-count>. I can't take advantage of the +build metadata yet because our deployment server (Octopus Deploy) targets an older version of NuGet. I use commit count and not build number because if I do multiple builds of the same commit, they are the same output, so should carry the same version number.
  • If the branch is release, I will not generate a pre-release string.

This means I can generate version numbers such as 1.0.0 (release branch), 1.0.0-master-1 (master branch on CI server), 1.0.0-feature-A (feature/A branch on a local machine).

I wrap up the logic for this version number generation into a Powershell script named version.ps1. This script generates the version number and writes it out to a local file named version.props. This version information is then stamped into each project.json file.

version=1.0.0  
semanticVersion=1.0.0-master  
prerelease=master  

Handling dependencies versioning

We still haven't solved how we update the dependency versions in project.json for projects in the same solution. The truth is, we don't. Right at the start, we just change the version number in the dependency version string, to an object (a great tip from Andrew Lock):

"dependences": {
  "MyLibrary.Abstractions": { "target": "project" }
}

This allows the version resolution to match on any version. It's not a perfect approach, in fact, the compiler explicitly warns about a version mismatch, but as these are projects in the same solution being versioned together, that is a warning I am happy to put up with. You wouldn't apply * as the version to dependencies outside of the current solution, really these are project-project references only.

Building

Now building my solution could be as easy as dotnet build **/project.json, but the build process is a bit more involved because we have to stamp our version information in (detailed above), as well as run the test and pack commands to prepare our outputs. Enter Cake.

I've been following Cake for a while because I've honestly struggled with other build systems, such as Fake, PSake, etc. I'm a C# developer and Cake for me is a breeze because it presents a DSL that you write in C#, my language of choice! Cake is also extensible, so that was my point of entry for handling my version stamping. I first define a task named Version:

Task("Version")  
.Does(() =>
{
    if (Bamboo.IsRunningOnBamboo)
    {
        // MA - We are running a CI build - so need make sure we execute the script with -local = $false
        StartPowershellFile("./version.ps1", args => 
        {
            args.Append("local", "$false");
            args.Append("branch", EnvironmentVariable("bamboo_planRepository_branchName"));
        });
    }
    else
    {
        StartPowershellFile("./version.ps1", args => args.Append("local", "$true"));
    }

    string[] lines = System.IO.File.ReadAllLines("./version.props");
    foreach (string line in lines)
    {
        if (line.StartsWith("version"))
        {
            version = line.Substring("version=".Length).Trim();
        }
        else if (line.StartsWith("semanticVersion"))
        {
            semanticVersion = line.Substring("semanticVersion=".Length).Trim();
        }
        else if (line.StartsWith("prerelease"))
        {
            prerelease = line.Substring("prerelease=".Length).Trim();
        }
    }

    Console.WriteLine("Version: {0}", version);
    Console.WriteLine("SemanticVersion: {0}", semanticVersion);
    Console.WriteLine("PreRelease: {0}", prerelease);

    DotNetCoreVersion(new DotNetCoreVersionSettings
    {
        Files = GetFiles("**/project.json"),
        Version = semanticVersion
    });
});

The last method call is the key part, once I've executed my versioning script, I read the version number and use a custom Cake extension I've built DotNetCoreVersion to load each target project.json as a JObject, set the version key and write them back out again.

Now I can perform my build using another task Build:

Task("Build")  
.Does(() =>
{
    // MA - Build the libraries
    DotNetCoreBuild("./src/**/project.json", new DotNetCoreBuildSettings
    {
        Configuration = configuration
    });

    // MA - Build the test libraries
    DotNetCoreBuild("./tests/**/project.json", new DotNetCoreBuildSettings
    {
        Configuration = configuration
    });
});

Cake has built in methods for building .NET Core applications, so that made it a lot easier! On the Bamboo side of things, Cake is bootstrapped by another Powershell script build.ps1, so thanks to Bamboo's native Powershell script integration, we simply execute our build script:

Configuring the Cake bootstrapper

Testing

Currently, although there is now support for both NUnit and MSTest, the best test library for .NET Core apps is currently Xunit and that's purely a side-effect of the Microsoft team favouring Xunit itself during development. We have a problem here - Bamboo doesn't understand Xunit test result XML. Luckily, there exists an XSLT for transforming from Xunit to NUnit, which Bamboo does understand.

We wrap this up in our Cake build script:

Task("Test")  
.WithCriteria(() => HasArgument("test"))
.Does(() =>
{
    var tests = GetFiles("./tests/**/project.json");
    foreach (var test in tests) 
    {
        string projectFolder = System.IO.Path.GetDirectoryName(test.FullPath);
        string projectName = projectFolder.Substring(projectFolder.LastIndexOf('\\') + 1);
        string resultsFile = "./test-results/" + projectName + ".xml";

        DotNetCoreTest(test.FullPath, new DotNetCoreTestSettings
        {
            ArgumentCustomization = args => args.Append("-xml " + resultsFile)
        });

        // MA - Transform the result XML into NUnit-compatible XML for the build server.
        XmlTransform("./tools/NUnitXml.xslt", "./test-results/" + projectName + ".xml", "./test-results/NUnit." + projectName + ".xml");
    }
});

With us now outputting NUnit test results XML, we can read that information in during a Bamboo build plan and surface the test results in the interface. This also means that builds can now fail because of test result failure, which is what we want.

Configuring the

Test results surfaced in Bamboo

Deployments

Bamboo does have a built-in deployment mechanism, and for our internal libraries we utilise this to push our packages into one of two NuGet feeds:

  • If it is stable build from our release branch, these go into the stable NuGet feed. These do not automatically deploy, but they can easily be done with the push of a button (continuous delivery).
  • If it is build from our master branch, these automatically pushed to our volatile NuGet feed (continuous deployment).

We use ProGet by Inedo, as it is a superbly stable, multi-feed package host which is easy to setup and quick. By deploying our packages to these feeds, it is internal to our development environment and we can quickly start using our updated packages in our other projects. If we need to, we can quickly spin up a project-specific feed, or perhaps a branch-specific feed and deploy different versions of our code for different clients/scenarios.

One of the last steps of the build script, is to pack everything together:

Task("Pack")  
.WithCriteria(() => HasArgument("pack"))
.Does(() =>
{
    var projects = GetFiles("./src/**/project.json");
    foreach (var project in projects)
    {
        // MA - Pack the libraries
        DotNetCorePack(project.FullPath, new DotNetCorePackSettings
        {
            Configuration = configuration,
            OutputDirectory = "./artifacts/"
        });
    }
});

The dotnet-pack tool generates our NuGet packages for us, both the binaries and the symbols. ProGet can host both of these, so we just ship them all to the ProGet API and it handles the rest for us. This deployment step is handled as a Bamboo deployment project. For each module in our framework, we have two deployment plans, the first is the Volatile plan that uses continuous deployment to drop new packages into our volatile feed. The second plan is our stable plan which (when manually triggered) deploys to our stable feed.

We need to make sure the version information is carried through to the deployment plan, so to tackle that, in the source Bamboo build plan we read in the contents of our generated version.props file:

Reading the generated version number

The "Inject Bamboo variables" task allows us to read files in <key>=<value> format and append them as Bamboo variables. In this instance, we read in the version number and add it to the bamboo.props.semanticVersion variable. The variables need to be available to the result otherwise we can't use them later.

Configuring the release version:

Configuring the release version

And that's pretty much it! Obviously, this is an approach that works well for me, it may not suit your needs, but luckily there are so many ways of achieving the same thing. This will likely all need to change anyway, as the Microsoft team are busily migrating back to MSBuild which means we may be able to use more familiar methods of generating AssemblyInfo.cs files again.

The source files for the different components are available as a Gist: https://gist.github.com/Antaris/8ad52a96e0f2d9f682d1cd6342c44936

Let me know what you think.