Click here to close now.

Welcome!

Python Authors: Ignacio M. Llorente, Carmen Gonzalez, Elizabeth White, John Wetherill, Trevor Parsons

Related Topics: Apache, ColdFusion, PHP, Ruby, Perl, Python

Apache: Article

An Introduction to Ant

Automate and improve your build and deploy process

Writing shell scripts to automate the build and deploy process for ColdFusion applications is not very much fun. The Jakarta Ant project is an open-source, cross-platform alternative that makes it easy to automate the build and deploy process.

But My Build and Deploy Process is Fine....
Maybe your build and deploy process for your latest application is fine - you type a single command and your build process automatically retrieves your application from the source control system, configures the application appropriately for the target environment, and copies all the necessary files to the production servers while you head to the coffee shop for your morning cup of caffeine and the newspaper. But I know that the reality for the vast majority of projects I've seen (including many of my own applications!) are built and deployed using a written multistep checklist - some steps automated by simple shell scripts and some done by hand. With time a scarce commodity on most projects, it's not a surprise that anything other than the ColdFusion application itself gets little, if any, attention.

But how many times have you personally been burned by a bad build or deploy? Maybe forgetting to copy a custom tag to the \CFusionMX\CustomTags directory? Or deploying the wrong version of a ColdFusion template? Maybe you forgot to toggle the data source name from the development server to the production server? Or neglected to disable some debugging code? The list goes on. How much time did you waste finding and fixing the problem? Odds are it was a lot, and that the problem happened at the least opportune time, like during a major production release! If there was a simple, free, cross-platform, extensible tool that would let you write automated build and deploy scripts, wouldn't it make sense to use it?

There are some traditional tools for automating builds: the venerable make is familiar to anyone who's done much work on Linux or with C applications; jam may be familiar to some hard-core open-source developers; and native shells on Windows (DOS and third-party replacements including cygwin) and Unix (bash, csh, zsh, and their relatives) can all be used. But anyone who has used make or its derivatives can relate to the frustrations of accidentally putting a space in front of a tab and trying to figure out why the script is not working. And shell scripts are both platform specific and can be very limited in their capabilities (particularly the DOS shell).

One Java programmer, James Duncan Davidson, became so frustrated with the existing build tools while he was creating Tomcat (the official reference implementation for Java Servlets and JavaServer Pages) that he wrote his own build tool, which he dubbed Another Neat Tool (Ant). The Ant tool itself is implemented in Java, which allows it to run consistently across most modern operating systems, and also makes it easy to extend so that it can do any tasks that Java can (more on that later). Ant-built scripts are written in XML, which makes them much easier to write (and validate!). Ant rapidly expanded into a number of Apache Jakarta projects and from there to the many Java developers who downloaded the Jakarta tools. Today, Ant is a de facto standard tool for automating many aspects of the Java software development process. Instead of the "make install" of the C world, Java developers now have "ant deploy"!

So why should you, as a ColdFusion developer, be interested in Ant? If your ColdFusion applications deploy seamlessly to Linux and Windows servers with a single command, then you might not need Ant, but otherwise it's going to become a key tool in your software development toolbox. More important, now that ColdFusion MX is so tightly coupled to the Java world, using Java tools simply makes sense. Even the ColdFusion MX updaters use Ant scripts for part of the upgrade process!

Installing Ant
The Apache Ant project home page http://ant.apache.org/ provides both source and binary distributions of Ant, as well as the manual, links to key resources, and even a Wiki. For most purposes, the binary distribution for your platform should be sufficient, especially if you're new to Ant. The latest Ant release, 1.6.0, debuted in mid-December of 2003, though there's nothing wrong with Ant 1.5.x should that version already be available in your environment. And since Ant is a Java application, you'll also need an installed JDK, version 1.2 or later - the latest Sun JDK 1.4 is available from http://java.sun.com/j2se/1.4.2/download.html.

Installing the Ant binaries is simply a matter of unzipping the archive into a directory on your computer and completing two configuration steps:

  1. The Ant\bin directory needs to be added to your path.
  2. Add the environment variable ANT_HOME, and have it point to the installation directory.

    There is also an additional, optional, step:

  3. Add the environment variable JAVA_HOME, which points to the installed JDK directory.

So on a Windows 2000/XP computer, the configuration might look like Listing 1. There are bash and csh equivalents for Unix in the Ant reference manual (http://ant.apache.org/manual/index.html).

You can test your installation by opening a console window and typing

ant -version

which should produce a version number and compile date for your Ant installation.

Using Ant
Now that you've got Ant installed, what's the next step? Why, a build file of course! You're going to need a console window and your favorite text (or XML) editor to get started. The Ant command expects a buildfile (which defaults to build.xml) that contains an XML description of build targets, which are steps in the build process. And each target consists of one or more tasks that need to occur. Listing 2 contains a very simple buildfile. If you save Listing 2 as build.xml and simply type "ant", you'll get something that looks like this:

Buildfile: build.xml
help:
[echo] usage: ant [target]
[echo] typical targets: init, dist, deploy, help
BUILD SUCCESSFUL
Total time: 4 seconds

It's worth noting that since we didn't pass in any particular target, Ant used the default target name defined in the <project> tag. Typing "ant help" will produce the same output. In this buildfile, we've got a single <target> that has two <echo> tasks. The <echo> task simply writes text to the screen.

Now that we've got the Ant equivalent of a "Hello World" application, let's get down to the business of creating the build process for a real ColdFusion application using Ant. To get started all we need to do is retrieve the source code from the source code control repository (I'm going to use Microsoft Visual SourceSafe for this example) and prepare it for deployment. I'm going to use the following Ant targets for our build process:

  1. init: Create the directories for the project
  2. getSource: Pull the latest source code from the repository
  3. build: Process the source code to prepare it for the deployment environment
  4. dist: Package the source for distribution/deployment
  5. deploy: Copy the distribution package to the production server
  6. clean: Remove all files and directories associated with the project

The entire buildfile is shown in Listing 3, and it's certainly expanded a lot!

Putting Our Buildfile Under the Magnifying Glass
There are a lot of new things to absorb in this buildfile and we have limited space, so we're going to look at each target individually in the following section and go over the major points. If you want details on any of the specific tasks (or any of the dozens of other Ant tasks) you might want to peruse the Ant online manual (http://ant.apache.org/manual/index.html) as you read along.

The init target shouldn't be too hard to interpret - it uses the <mkdir> task to create three directories: src, build, and dist. This task will create each of these three directories if they don't already exist. As an aside, these specific directory names have become conventional on Ant projects. Type "ant init" and the three directories will be created to hold your application. Since the <mkdir> in our buildfile is using relative paths, the directories will be created underneath the directory where the buildfile is located.

The clean target looks very similar to the init target, with the <delete> task replacing the <mkdir>. As you probably intuited, we're simply deleting the directories we created with the init. But one new feature is the depends attribute in the <target> tag. The depends attribute can be used to describe dependencies between targets. In this case, the buildfile is indicating that the clean target can run only after the init target has been run, so Ant automatically runs init for you, but only if the target needs to be run! You can test this by running the clean target two or more times - if the directories exist (and thus the init dependency is satisfied), the clean tasks simply deletes them, but if the directories do not exist, Ant runs the dependent init target to create them and then deletes them. Try it and watch the output!

The getsource target is where things really get interesting. We want to get the source code out of our Microsoft Visual SourceSafe (VSS) repository so we can build and deploy it. Ant has built-in tasks for manipulating all of the major (and many minor) source control applications. (As an aside, there are actually eight Ant tasks for manipulating VSS; these and all of the other vendor-specific tasks are listed in the "Optional Tasks" section of the Ant manual.) In this example, we're using <vssget> to pull code from the VSS. The buildfile is passing in a number of VSS-specific parameters which result in the latest source code being pulled from the repository and put into the \src directory. Note that this target also depends on the init target, since the \src directory needs to exist before we start getting the source code.

The build target is pretty simple in this buildfile - it uses the <copy> task to copy all of the files in the \src directory to the \build directory. The <copy> task is interesting because it uses an Ant type, the <fileset>. There are over a dozen Ant types, which represent complex data structures that Ant natively understands. In this case we're defining a set of files with the <fileset> type, which is then used by the <copy> task.

The build target depends on the getsource task, since we need source code before we can copy it to another directory, since getsource depends on init, we've now used the depends attribute to chain three targets together in the proper order, which you can verify by running the build target and watching the dependent tasks execute in the Ant output.

The dist target is exactly like the build target, simply copying files from one directory to another. If we were using Ant for a Java application, this is the step where the compiled class files would be packaged into a JAR file for distribution. So the net result of all of these steps so far is to pull out the source code from VSS, copy it to the \build directory, and then copy it to the \dist directory. We could have skipped the build and dist targets, but we'll talk more about why they're useful in the final section of this article.

Finally, we've got the deploy target, which in this case is copying the files in the \dist directory to another directory, perhaps a network share to the integration or production server. We're using the <mkdir> and <copy> tasks again, but this time the directory name looks a little weird. One powerful concept in Ant is the "property". In this example, the deploy target expects a property called "deploy.dir", which represents the directory the \dist directory should be deployed to. The syntax for a property is ${varname}. Properties can be configured a number of ways using the <property> task, ranging from assigning it directly in the buildfile to using environment variables or the command line. Let's assume for a minute that I can deploy the files to two directories, c:\apache2\htdocs\test for my local test Web server, and l:\apache2\htdocs\production for the production Web server. The property can be input from the command line using the -Dproperty=value syntax, like the following example

ant deploy -Ddeploy.dir=c:\\apache2\\htdocs\\test

Note that there is no space between the -D option and the property=value information. And since I'm running on a Windows machine, I do have to remember to escape the backslash just like I would have to in a Java .properties file. But the buildfile doesn't know anything about Windows, Linux, Mac, or anything else, so you can deploy to /var/httpd/htdocs/test just as easily.

Next Steps
The first step I'd recommend taking is to automate your build process using Ant if you don't already have a solution. Now. Right now. Go! And if you do have a build process in place, I'd suggest taking a hard look at whether it's worth moving to Ant for its simplicity (relatively speaking), extensibility, and cross-platform support. We've literally just scratched the surface of Ant, but this buildfile is already useful and a great starting point for experimentation (and maybe another article? Let me know!). Just some quick tidbits to whet your appetite for more Ant:

  • Use <filter>s to replace tokens in files with new values, maybe to toggle debugging flags and set datasource names that vary between deployment environments.
  • Schedule Ant using cron, at, Windows scheduler, or the like for nightly builds, and send e-mail to the team about the results.
  • Integrate automated testing tools (JUnit, HTTPUnit, etc) into the build.
  • Deploy using FTP, telnet, or other methods to a remote server.
  • Write your own Ant tasks that extend existing tasks or implement new functionality in Java (check out http://sourceforge.net/projects/ant-contrib first to see if someone already beat you to it).

If you're looking for more on Ant, the Ant manual is a great resource, but I'd also heartily recommend the book, Java Development with Ant, by Erik Hatcher and Steve Loughran, especially if you're working with Java as well as ColdFusion (and in the interest of full disclosure, I should mention Erik was my officemate for nearly a year while he wrote the book). I hate to admit it, but since I started using Ant, I find creating a build process for new applications (gulp!) fun. Okay, maybe not fun, but at least much less frustrating than DOS scripts, make, and the manual lists I used to use. In fact, right now I'm headed off to have a cup of coffee since I just kicked off my release build... "ant deploy". Phew! Tough day. Probably enough time for a venti today...

More Stories By John Ashenfelter

John Paul Ashenfelter is CTO and founder of TransitionPoint.com, a consulting firm based in central Virginia that specializes in developing and re-architecting ColdFusion Web applications for small- and mid-sized businesses. John Paul has been using ColdFusion since 1998 and is the author of three ColdFusion books as well as the upcoming Data Warehousing with MySQL.

Comments (2) View Comments

Share your thoughts on this story.

Add your comment
You must be signed in to add a comment. Sign-in | Register

In accordance with our Comment Policy, we encourage comments that are on topic, relevant and to-the-point. We will remove comments that include profanity, personal attacks, racial slurs, threats of violence, or other inappropriate material that violates our Terms and Conditions, and will block users who make repeated violations. We ask all readers to expect diversity of opinion and to treat one another with dignity and respect.


Most Recent Comments
Frengo 04/17/08 09:38:23 AM EDT

IMHO I have more much fun writing Ant Scripts than coding in Coldfusion, as with all other web scripting markup language :)

Gilbert 08/11/04 05:00:50 AM EDT

I have been trying to access the source code for the examples but I get an error message. Could you please post the example code again.

many thanks
Gilbert

@ThingsExpo Stories
Containers and microservices have become topics of intense interest throughout the cloud developer and enterprise IT communities. Accordingly, attendees at the upcoming 16th Cloud Expo at the Javits Center in New York June 9-11 will find fresh new content in a new track called PaaS | Containers & Microservices Containers are not being considered for the first time by the cloud community, but a current era of re-consideration has pushed them to the top of the cloud agenda. With the launch of Docker's initial release in March of 2013, interest was revved up several notches. Then late last...
Cloud data governance was previously an avoided function when cloud deployments were relatively small. With the rapid adoption in public cloud – both rogue and sanctioned, it’s not uncommon to find regulated data dumped into public cloud and unprotected. This is why enterprises and cloud providers alike need to embrace a cloud data governance function and map policies, processes and technology controls accordingly. In her session at 15th Cloud Expo, Evelyn de Souza, Data Privacy and Compliance Strategy Leader at Cisco Systems, will focus on how to set up a cloud data governance program and s...
Roberto Medrano, Executive Vice President at SOA Software, had reached 30,000 page views on his home page - http://RobertoMedrano.SYS-CON.com/ - on the SYS-CON family of online magazines, which includes Cloud Computing Journal, Internet of Things Journal, Big Data Journal, and SOA World Magazine. He is a recognized executive in the information technology fields of SOA, internet security, governance, and compliance. He has extensive experience with both start-ups and large companies, having been involved at the beginning of four IT industries: EDA, Open Systems, Computer Security and now SOA.
HP and Aruba Networks on Monday announced a definitive agreement for HP to acquire Aruba, a provider of next-generation network access solutions for the mobile enterprise, for $24.67 per share in cash. The equity value of the transaction is approximately $3.0 billion, and net of cash and debt approximately $2.7 billion. Both companies' boards of directors have approved the deal. "Enterprises are facing a mobile-first world and are looking for solutions that help them transition legacy investments to the new style of IT," said Meg Whitman, Chairman, President and Chief Executive Officer of HP...
The industrial software market has treated data with the mentality of “collect everything now, worry about how to use it later.” We now find ourselves buried in data, with the pervasive connectivity of the (Industrial) Internet of Things only piling on more numbers. There’s too much data and not enough information. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Bob Gates, Global Marketing Director, GE’s Intelligent Platforms business, to discuss how realizing the power of IoT, software developers are now focused on understanding how industrial data can create intelligence for industrial operations. Imagine ...
Operational Hadoop and the Lambda Architecture for Streaming Data Apache Hadoop is emerging as a distributed platform for handling large and fast incoming streams of data. Predictive maintenance, supply chain optimization, and Internet-of-Things analysis are examples where Hadoop provides the scalable storage, processing, and analytics platform to gain meaningful insights from granular data that is typically only valuable from a large-scale, aggregate view. One architecture useful for capturing and analyzing streaming data is the Lambda Architecture, representing a model of how to analyze rea...
SYS-CON Events announced today that Vitria Technology, Inc. will exhibit at SYS-CON’s @ThingsExpo, which will take place on June 9-11, 2015, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY. Vitria will showcase the company’s new IoT Analytics Platform through live demonstrations at booth #330. Vitria’s IoT Analytics Platform, fully integrated and powered by an operational intelligence engine, enables customers to rapidly build and operationalize advanced analytics to deliver timely business outcomes for use cases across the industrial, enterprise, and consumer segments.
SYS-CON Events announced today that Open Data Centers (ODC), a carrier-neutral colocation provider, will exhibit at SYS-CON's 16th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place June 9-11, 2015, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY. Open Data Centers is a carrier-neutral data center operator in New Jersey and New York City offering alternative connectivity options for carriers, service providers and enterprise customers.
The explosion of connected devices / sensors is creating an ever-expanding set of new and valuable data. In parallel the emerging capability of Big Data technologies to store, access, analyze, and react to this data is producing changes in business models under the umbrella of the Internet of Things (IoT). In particular within the Insurance industry, IoT appears positioned to enable deep changes by altering relationships between insurers, distributors, and the insured. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Michael Sick, a Senior Manager and Big Data Architect within Ernst and Young's Financial Servi...
The explosion of connected devices / sensors is creating an ever-expanding set of new and valuable data. In parallel the emerging capability of Big Data technologies to store, access, analyze, and react to this data is producing changes in business models under the umbrella of the Internet of Things (IoT). In particular within the Insurance industry, IoT appears positioned to enable deep changes by altering relationships between insurers, distributors, and the insured. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Michael Sick, a Senior Manager and Big Data Architect within Ernst and Young's Financial Servi...
PubNub on Monday has announced that it is partnering with IBM to bring its sophisticated real-time data streaming and messaging capabilities to Bluemix, IBM’s cloud development platform. “Today’s app and connected devices require an always-on connection, but building a secure, scalable solution from the ground up is time consuming, resource intensive, and error-prone,” said Todd Greene, CEO of PubNub. “PubNub enables web, mobile and IoT developers building apps on IBM Bluemix to quickly add scalable realtime functionality with minimal effort and cost.”
Sensor-enabled things are becoming more commonplace, precursors to a larger and more complex framework that most consider the ultimate promise of the IoT: things connecting, interacting, sharing, storing, and over time perhaps learning and predicting based on habits, behaviors, location, preferences, purchases and more. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Tom Wesselman, Director of Communications Ecosystem Architecture at Plantronics, will examine the still nascent IoT as it is coalescing, including what it is today, what it might ultimately be, the role of wearable tech, and technology gaps stil...
With several hundred implementations of IoT-enabled solutions in the past 12 months alone, this session will focus on experience over the art of the possible. Many can only imagine the most advanced telematics platform ever deployed, supporting millions of customers, producing tens of thousands events or GBs per trip, and hundreds of TBs per month. With the ability to support a billion sensor events per second, over 30PB of warm data for analytics, and hundreds of PBs for an data analytics archive, in his session at @ThingsExpo, Jim Kaskade, Vice President and General Manager, Big Data & Ana...
In the consumer IoT, everything is new, and the IT world of bits and bytes holds sway. But industrial and commercial realms encompass operational technology (OT) that has been around for 25 or 50 years. This grittier, pre-IP, more hands-on world has much to gain from Industrial IoT (IIoT) applications and principles. But adding sensors and wireless connectivity won’t work in environments that demand unwavering reliability and performance. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Ron Sege, CEO of Echelon, will discuss how as enterprise IT embraces other IoT-related technology trends, enterprises with i...
When it comes to the Internet of Things, hooking up will get you only so far. If you want customers to commit, you need to go beyond simply connecting products. You need to use the devices themselves to transform how you engage with every customer and how you manage the entire product lifecycle. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Sean Lorenz, Technical Product Manager for Xively at LogMeIn, will show how “product relationship management” can help you leverage your connected devices and the data they generate about customer usage and product performance to deliver extremely compelling and reliabl...
The Internet of Things (IoT) is causing data centers to become radically decentralized and atomized within a new paradigm known as “fog computing.” To support IoT applications, such as connected cars and smart grids, data centers' core functions will be decentralized out to the network's edges and endpoints (aka “fogs”). As this trend takes hold, Big Data analytics platforms will focus on high-volume log analysis (aka “logs”) and rely heavily on cognitive-computing algorithms (aka “cogs”) to make sense of it all.
One of the biggest impacts of the Internet of Things is and will continue to be on data; specifically data volume, management and usage. Companies are scrambling to adapt to this new and unpredictable data reality with legacy infrastructure that cannot handle the speed and volume of data. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Don DeLoach, CEO and president of Infobright, will discuss how companies need to rethink their data infrastructure to participate in the IoT, including: Data storage: Understanding the kinds of data: structured, unstructured, big/small? Analytics: What kinds and how responsiv...
Since 2008 and for the first time in history, more than half of humans live in urban areas, urging cities to become “smart.” Today, cities can leverage the wide availability of smartphones combined with new technologies such as Beacons or NFC to connect their urban furniture and environment to create citizen-first services that improve transportation, way-finding and information delivery. In her session at @ThingsExpo, Laetitia Gazel-Anthoine, CEO of Connecthings, will focus on successful use cases.
Sensor-enabled things are becoming more commonplace, precursors to a larger and more complex framework that most consider the ultimate promise of the IoT: things connecting, interacting, sharing, storing, and over time perhaps learning and predicting based on habits, behaviors, location, preferences, purchases and more. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Tom Wesselman, Director of Communications Ecosystem Architecture at Plantronics, will examine the still nascent IoT as it is coalescing, including what it is today, what it might ultimately be, the role of wearable tech, and technology gaps stil...
The true value of the Internet of Things (IoT) lies not just in the data, but through the services that protect the data, perform the analysis and present findings in a usable way. With many IoT elements rooted in traditional IT components, Big Data and IoT isn’t just a play for enterprise. In fact, the IoT presents SMBs with the prospect of launching entirely new activities and exploring innovative areas. CompTIA research identifies several areas where IoT is expected to have the greatest impact.