Mozilla, Docker

Using Docker to run automated tests

Jun 2nd, 2017

A couple months ago, I joined the Mozilla Data Platform team, to work on our Telemetry and automated data collection services. This has been an interesting transition for me, and a natural jumping off point from my work on Perfherder. Now, instead of manipulating mere 10s of gigabytes worth of fairly regular data, I’m working with 100s of terrabytes of noisy data with a much larger number of dimensions. :P It’s been interesting so far.

One of the first things I decided to work on was improving our unit testing story around a few of our primary packages for data analysis/etl: python_moztelemetry (a library we use for running custom spark jobs against Telemetry data) and telemetry-batch-view (a set of scala jobs we run against the main telemetry data store to create a useful set of aggregations that are easily queried with tools like redash).

It turns out that these tools interact with several larger / more involved pieces than I’m used to dealing with (such as hbase and thrift). For continuous integration/automation, we already had a set of travis scripts to install and reproduce the environment needed to test these parts, but there was no straightforward way to do this locally. My third time through creating an Ubuntu virtual machine environment to reproduce this environment locally (long story), I figured it was finally time for me to investigate using something to automate that setup procedure and make it easier for new developers to get into these projects.

I hadn’t used it much before, but Docker seemed like a fairly obvious choice. Small, simple, and Linuxy? Sign me up.

I’m pretty happy with how things turned out, but there were a few caveats. Docker is more of a general purpose tool for building environments for running things, whether that be an apache webserver or a jabber messaging doohickey (whereas e.g. something like travis is basically a domain-specific language for creating and running automated tests). There were a few tricks I needed to employ to make the whole testing process smooth in both cases, which I’ll document here for posterity:

  1. You can ADD a set of files / directories to a docker environment inside your Dockerfile, but if you want your set of tests to pick up any changes made since the environment was created, you really should mount your testing directory inside the container using the -v option.
  2. If you need to download/install a piece of software when building the docker container, use the RUN directive instead of ADD. This will speed up rebuilding the container while you’re iterating on it (because you can take advantage of the Docker layers cache).
  3. You almost certainly want to create a script (example) to streamline all the steps of running the tests: this will make running the tests easier for anyone wanting to contribute to your project and reduce the amount of documentation that you will have to write.

The relevant files and documentation are in the repositories linked above.