a read

Ironbuild is my scattered list of suggestions for the ‘perfect’ build tool, designed for small-to-medium companies. Most people suffer from the complexity added by ‘google scale’ software, and something simpler would be beneficial.

There are many motivations. First, companies attempting to introduce build caching into their pipeline are expected to have a team of engineers around to maintain the infrastructure. Managing a microservices-based build server and a fleet of workers is time-consuming and there is an entire market that is being ignored. Second, the complexity in the Bazel ecosystem (both for maintainers and users) is unapproachable. Either you have a Bazel monorepo or you don’t; there is no in-between. Third, protocol buffers are less than desirable, making any code using them a bit crap.

We start with a build client, and work outwards as needed. To start with, we’ll be compatible with remote exec, and remote cache. Ship with a minimal docker container that you can run to build things locally.

We do not care about:

Cross compiling as a first class citizen: All rules should be able to cross compile meaning that the architecture of the worker is irrelevant.

Ergonomics: To enable adoption, we need clear errors, great tooling, simple adoption, and a common core of well maintained plugins. Cross compilation should be a property of the configuration, not up to the rules.

Clear SoC: Bazel muddles the declarative build instruction definition and the imperative build process definitions. Why is it that, when so many tools are capable of splitting these (K8S for example), that Bazel was unable to do this? For writing rules, starlark is a great way to enforce encapsulation. But why do the definitions have to use it? Why not use yaml files to define the targets, and have a plugin system to define rules? This would help a lot with making the builds more approachable.

K8S files define a state. Applying that state causes K8S to calculate how to make it reality. In this analogy, the ‘rules’ would be the k8s kind, a ReplicaSet for example, and the config has specific parameters that describe how it should behave. Why is Bazel not the same? Why is a target not some declarative format that describes some desired state (that a given binary is built, or that a given docker container is pushed) that the build tool must make a reality?

kind: rust_binary
platform: windows
- warp
kind: rust_crate
name: warp
version: 0.1.2

Rules (plugins) should be sandboxed (WebAssembly?) with a common interface, with the additional bonus that plugins can be written in any (compiled) language of choice.

Remote-Only: To simplify the architecture the system is remote-only. If you want to build locally, you’ll need either docker or minikube on your machine. The complexity that is saved handing both local and remote builds will let us properly nail the toolchain.