Steady Integration at Coinbase: How we optimized CircleCI for velocity & minimize our construct instances by…

Steady Integration at Coinbase: How we optimized CircleCI for velocity and minimize our construct instances by 75%

Tuning a steady integration server presents an attention-grabbing problem — infrastructure engineers must stability construct velocity, value, and queue instances on a system that many builders don't have in depth expertise managing at scale. The outcomes, when carried out proper, is usually a main profit to your organization as illustrated by the current journey we took to enhance our CI setup.

Steady Integration at Coinbase

As Coinbase has grown, holding our builders proud of our inner instruments has been a excessive precedence. For many of Coinbase’s historical past now we have used CircleCI server, which has been a performant and low-maintenance software. As the corporate and our codebase have grown, nonetheless, the calls for on our CI server have elevated as nicely. Previous to the optimizations described right here, builds for the monorail utility that runs had elevated considerably in size (doubling or tripling the earlier common construct instances) and builders generally complained about prolonged or non-finishing builds.

Our CI builds have been now not assembly our expectations, and it was with the earlier points in thoughts that we determined to embark on a marketing campaign to get our setup again into form.

It’s price sharing right here that Coinbase particularly makes use of the on-premise server model of CircleCI fairly than their cloud providing — internet hosting our personal infrastructure is vital to us for safety causes, and these ideas particularly apply to self-managed CI clusters.

The 4 Golden Alerts

We discovered the primary key to optimizing any CI system to be observability, as and not using a method to measure the consequences of your tweaks and modifications it’s unimaginable to actually know whether or not or not you really made an enchancment. In our case, server-hosted CircleCI makes use of a nomad cluster for builds, and on the time didn't present any technique of monitoring your cluster or the nodes inside. We needed to construct techniques of our personal, and we determined a superb method could be utilizing the framework of the four golden signals, Latency, Visitors, Errors, and Saturation.


Latency is the entire period of time it takes to service a request. In a CI system, this may be thought-about to be the entire period of time a construct takes to run from begin to end. Latency is best measured on a per-repo and even per-build foundation as construct size can range vastly based mostly on the mission.

To measure this, we constructed a small utility that queried CircleCI’s API frequently for construct lengths, after which shipped over that info to Datadog to permit us to construct graphs and visualizations of common construct instances. This allowed us to chart the outcomes of our enchancment experiments empirically and routinely fairly than counting on anecdotal or manually curated outcomes as we had carried out beforehand.

CircleCI API outcomes


Visitors is the quantity of demand being positioned in your system at anybody time. In a CI system, this may be represented by the entire variety of concurrently working builds.

We have been in a position to measure this by utilizing the identical system we constructed to measure latency metrics. This got here in useful when figuring out the higher and decrease bounds for using our construct assets because it allowed us to see precisely what number of jobs have been working at anybody time.


Errors are the entire quantity of requests or calls that fail. In a CI system this may be represented by the entire variety of builds that fail as a consequence of infrastructural causes. It’s vital right here to make a distinction between builds that fail appropriately, as a consequence of assessments, linting, code errors, and many others. fairly than builds that fail as a consequence of platform points.

One situation we encountered was that often AWS would give us “dangerous” cases when spinning up new builders that may run a lot slower than a standard “good” occasion. Including error detection into our builder startup scripts allowed us to terminate these and spin up new nodes earlier than they might decelerate our working builds.


Saturation is how “full” your service is, or how a lot of your system assets are getting used. In a CI system, that is pretty simple — how a lot I/O, CPU, and reminiscence are the builders beneath load utilizing.

To measure saturation for our setup we have been in a position to faucet into cluster metrics by putting in a Datadog Agent on every of our builders, which allowed us to get a view into system stats throughout the cluster.

Datadog job statistics

Figuring out the Root Trigger

As soon as your monitoring setup is in place it turns into simpler to dig into the foundation reason for construct slowdowns. One of many difficulties in diagnosing CI issues with out cluster-wide monitoring is that it may be onerous to establish which builders are experiencing load at anybody time or how that load impacts your builds. Latency monitoring can help you determine which builds are taking the longest, and saturation monitoring can help you establish the nodes working these builds for nearer investigation.

For us, the brand new latency measuring we added allowed us to shortly verify what we had beforehand guessed: not each construct was equal. Some builds ran on the fast speeds we had beforehand been experiencing however different builds would drag on for a lot longer than we anticipated.

In our case this discovery was the large breakthrough — as soon as we might shortly establish builds with elevated latency and discover the saturated nodes the issue shortly revealed itself: useful resource rivalry between beginning builds! Because of the massive variety of assessments for our bigger builds we use CircleCI’s parallelization function to separate up our assessments and run them throughout the fleet in separate docker containers. Every check container additionally requires one other set of help containers (Redis, MongoDB, and many others.) as a way to replicate the manufacturing setting. Beginning the entire essential containers for every construct is a resource-intensive operation, requiring vital quantities of I/O and CPU. Since Nomad makes use of bin-packing for job distributions our builders would generally launch as much as 5 totally different units of those containers directly, inflicting huge slow-downs earlier than assessments might even begin working.

Construct Experimentation

Establishing a improvement setting is essential to debugging CI issues as soon as discovered because it permits you to push your system to its limits whereas guaranteeing that none of your testing impacts productiveness in manufacturing. Coinbase maintains a improvement cluster for CircleCI that we use to check out new variations earlier than pushing them out to manufacturing, however as a way to examine our choices we turned the cluster right into a smaller reproduction of our manufacturing occasion, permitting us to successfully load check CircleCI builders. Conserving your improvement cluster as shut as attainable to manufacturing may help guarantee any options you discover are reflective of what can really assist in an actual setting.

As soon as we had recognized why our builds have been encountering points, and we’d arrange an setting to run experiments in, we might begin creating an answer. We repeatedly ran the identical massive builds that have been inflicting the issues on our manufacturing cluster on totally different sizes and types of EC2 cases as a way to determine which was probably the most time and cost-effective choices to use.

EC2 occasion sort comparability

Whereas we beforehand had been utilizing smaller numbers of huge cases to run our builds it seems the optimum setup for our cluster was really a really massive variety of smaller cases (m5.larges in our case) — sufficiently small that CircleCI would solely ship one parallelized construct container to every occasion, stopping the construct trampling points that have been the reason for the gradual downs. A pleasant aspect impact of figuring out the proper occasion varieties was that it really allowed us to cut back our server value footprint considerably as we have been in a position to measurement our cluster extra intently to its utilization.

Downside? Solved!

Making use of your modifications to a manufacturing setting is the ultimate step. Figuring out whether or not the consequences of the tuning labored could be carried out the identical manner the issues have been recognized — with the 4 golden indicators.

After we had recognized what labored greatest on our improvement cluster we shortly applied the brand new builder sizing in manufacturing. The outcomes? A 75% lower in construct time for our largest builds, vital value financial savings because of the right-sizing of our cluster, and most vital of all: glad builders!

Builds, earlier than and after

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Except in any other case famous, all pictures offered herein are by Coinbase.

Continuous Integration at Coinbase: How we optimized CircleCI for speed & cut our build times by… was initially revealed in The Coinbase Blog on Medium, the place persons are persevering with the dialog by highlighting and responding to this story.

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