Zuul Concepts

Zuul’s configuration is organized around the concept of a pipeline. In Zuul, a pipeline encompasses a workflow process which can be applied to one or more projects. For instance, a “check” pipeline might describe the actions which should cause newly proposed changes to projects to be tested. A “gate” pipeline might implement Project Gating to automate merging changes to projects only if their tests pass. A “post” pipeline might update published documentation for a project when changes land.

The names “check”, “gate”, and “post” are arbitrary – these are not concepts built into Zuul, but rather they are just a few common examples of workflow processes that can be described to Zuul and implemented as pipelines.

Once a pipeline has been defined, any number of projects may be associated with it, each one specifying what jobs should be run for that project in a given pipeline.

Pipelines have associated triggers which are descriptions of events which should cause something to be enqueued into a pipeline. For example, when a patchset is uploaded to Gerrit, a Gerrit patchset-created event is emitted. A pipeline configured to trigger on patchset-created events would then enqueue the associated change when Zuul receives that event. If there are jobs associated with that project and pipeline, they will be run. In addition to Gerrit, other triggers are available, including GitHub, timer, and zuul. See Drivers for a full list of available triggers.

Once all of the jobs for an item in a pipeline have been run, the pipeline’s reporters are responsible for reporting the results of all of the jobs. Continuing the example from earlier, if a pipeline were configured with a Gerrit reporter, it would leave a review comment on the change and set any approval votes that are configured. There are several reporting phases available; each of which may be configured with any number of reporters. See Drivers for a full list of available reporters.

The items enqueued into a pipeline are each associated with a git ref. That ref may point to a proposed change, or it may be the tip of a branch or a tag. The triggering event determines the ref, and whether it represents a proposed or merged commit. Zuul prepares the ref for an item before running jobs. In the case of a proposed change, that means speculatively merging the change into its target branch. This means that any jobs that operate on the change will run with the git repo in the state it will be in after the change merges (which may be substantially different than the git repo state of the change itself since the repo may have merged other changes since the change was originally authored). Items in a pipeline may depend on other items, and if they do, all of their dependent changes will be included in the git repo state that Zuul prepares. For more detail on this process, see Project Gating and Cross-Project Dependencies.

The configuration for nearly everything described above is held in files inside of the git repos upon which Zuul operates. Zuul’s configuration is global, but distributed. Jobs which are defined in one project might be used in another project while pipelines are available to all projects. When Zuul starts, it reads its configuration from all of the projects it knows about, and when changes to its configuration are proposed, those changes may take effect temporarily as part of the proposed change, or immediately after the change merges, depending on the type of project in which the change appears.

Jobs specify the type and quantity of nodes which they require. Before executing each job, Zuul will contact its companion program, Nodepool, to supply them. Nodepool may be configured to supply static nodes or contact cloud providers to create or delete nodes as necessary. The types of nodes available to Zuul are determined by the Nodepool administrator.

The executable contents of jobs themselves are Ansible playbooks. Ansible’s support for orchestrating tasks on remote nodes is particularly suited to Zuul’s support for multi-node testing. Ansible is also easy to use for simple tasks (such as executing a shell script) or sophisticated deployment scenarios. When Zuul runs Ansible, it attempts to do so in a manner most similar to the way that Ansible might be used to orchestrate remote systems. Ansible itself is run on the executor and acts remotely upon the test nodes supplied to a job. This facilitates continuous delivery by making it possible to use the same Ansible playbooks in testing and production.