Repeatable builds and maven?

A repeatable build is a build which you can re-run multiple times using the same source and the same commands, and that then results in exactly the same build output time and time again. The capability to do repeatable builds is an important cornerstone of every mature release management setup.

Of course, lots of people use some silly much more limited definition of a repeatable build, and are happy as long as “all tests pass”.

Getting to repeatable builds is nearly impossible for mere mortals using maven 1 (heck, maven 1 out of the box doesn’t even work anymore, since the ibiblio repository was changed in a way that causes maven 1 to break), and it is still prohibitively difficult with maven 2.

Of course, the people that do repeatable builds really well tend to create big all-encompassing solutions that are really hard to use with the tools used in real life, and they only really help you when you either do not have a gazillion dependencies, or you do the SCM for all your dependencies, too. For the average java developer, that all breaks down when you find out you can’t quite bootstrap the sun JDK very well, or are missing some other bit of important ‘source’.

Don’t get me wrong. Maven can be a very useful tool. Moreover, in practice, if you do large-scale java, you simply tend to run into maven at some point, and as a release engineer you cannot always do much about that. You must simply realize that when you’re doing release engineering based around maven, that is only sensible if you still really, really pay lots of attention to what you’re doing. Like running maven in offline mode for official builds. And wiping your local repository before you build releases. And keeping archived local repositories around with your distributions. And such and so forth.

Not paying attention or not thinking these kinds of tricky release engineering things through just isn’t very sensible, not when you’re doing so-called enterprise stuff where you might have to re-run a build 3 years after the fact. You cannot afford to count on maven to just magically do the right thing for you. Historically and typically, it doesn’t, at least not quite.