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We actually started out on Travis CI, but we've migrated our main builds to CircleCI, and it's been a huge improvement.

The reason it's been a huge improvement is that Travis CI has a fundamentally bad design for their images, where they start with a standard base Linux image containing tons of packages (several versions of postgres, every programming language environment, etc). This is potentially nice for the "get builds for a small project running quickly" use case, but it's a total disaster for a larger project that needs a decent number of dependencies and cares about the performance and reliability of their build.

This issue is exacerbated by their networking infrastructure being unreliable; we usually saw over 1% of builds failing due to transient networking errors in Travis CI, even after we added retries to the most frequently failing operations like apt update or pip install. And they never install Ubuntu's point release updates to their images. So doing an apt update, apt install, or especially apt upgrade would take forever. We ended up writing code to actually uninstall many of their base packages and pin the versions of hundreds of others to get a semi-fast, semi-reliable build. It was infuriating.

The CircleCI v2.0 system has the right design for a CI system: we can customize the base image to start with any expensive-to-install packages we need for our build, and we can update that image if and when we want to. The end result is that when migrating, we were able to delete all the hacky optimizations mentioned above, while still ending up with a 50% faster build latency. And we've also had 5-10x fewer issues with networking-related flakes, which means one doesn't have to constantly check whether a build failure is actually due to an issue with the code under test or "just another networking flake".

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Tim Abbott

Founder at Zulip