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Pipelines

Having an automated release process is one of the most important parts of software delivery, so Copilot wants to make setting up that process as easy as possible 🚀.

In this section, we'll talk about using Copilot to set up a CodePipeline that automatically builds your service code when you push to your GitHub, Bitbucket or AWS CodeCommit repository, deploys to your environments, and runs automated testing.

Why?

We won't get too philosophical about releasing software, but what's the point of having a release pipeline? With copilot deploy you can deploy your service directly from your computer to ECS, so why add a middleman? That's a great question. For some apps, manually using deploy is enough, but as your release process gets more complicated (as you add more environments or add automated testing, for example) you want to offload the boring work of repeatedly orchestrating that process to a service. With two services, each having two environments (test and production, say), running integration tests after you deploy to your test environment becomes surprisingly cumbersome to do by hand.

Using an automated release tool like CodePipeline helps make your release manageable. Even if your release isn't particularly complicated, knowing that you can just git push to deploy your change always feels a little magical 🌈.

Pipeline structure

Copilot can set up a CodePipeline for you with a few commands - but before we jump into that, let's talk a little bit about the structure of the pipeline we'll be generating. Our pipeline will have the following basic structure:

  1. Source Stage - when you push to a configured GitHub, Bitbucket, or CodeCommit repository branch, a new pipeline execution is triggered.
  2. Build Stage - after your source code is pulled from your repository host, your service's container image is built and published to every environment's ECR repository.
  3. Deploy Stages - after your code is built, you can deploy to any or all of your environments, with optional post-deployment tests or manual approvals.

Once you've set up a CodePipeline using Copilot, all you'll have to do is push to your GitHub, Bitbucket, or CodeCommit repository, and CodePipeline will orchestrate the deployments.

Want to learn more about CodePipeline? Check out their getting started docs.

Creating a Pipeline in 3 steps

Creating a Pipeline requires only three steps:

  1. Preparing the pipeline structure.
  2. Committing and pushing the files generated in the copilot/ directory.
  3. Creating the actual CodePipeline.

Follow the three steps below, from your workspace root:

$ copilot pipeline init
$ git add copilot/pipeline.yml copilot/buildspec.yml copilot/.workspace && git commit -m "Adding pipeline artifacts" && git push
$ copilot pipeline update

✨ And you'll have a new pipeline configured in your application account. Want to understand a little bit more what's going on? Read on!

Setting up a Pipeline, step by step

Step 1: Configuring your Pipeline

Pipeline configurations are created at a workspace level. If your workspace has a single service, then your pipeline will be triggered only for that service. However, if you have multiple services in a workspace, then the pipeline will build all the services in the workspace. To start setting up a pipeline, cd into your service(s)'s workspace and run:

copilot pipeline init

This won't create your pipeline, but it will create some local files that will be used when creating your pipeline.

  • Release order: You'll be prompted for environments you want to deploy to - select them based on the order you want them to be deployed in your pipeline (deployments happen one environment at a time). You may, for example, want to deploy to your test environment first, and then your prod environment.

  • Tracking repository: After you've selected the environments you want to deploy to, you'll be prompted to select which repository you want your CodePipeline to track. This is the repository that, when pushed to, will trigger a pipeline execution. (If the repository you're interested in doesn't show up, you can pass it in using the --url flag.)

Step 2: Updating the Pipeline manifest (optional)

Just like your service has a simple manifest file, so does your pipeline. After you run pipeline init, two files are created: pipeline.yml and buildspec.yml, both in your copilot/ directory. If you poke in, you'll see that the pipeline.yml looks something like this (for a service called "api-frontend" with two environments, "test" and "prod"):

# The manifest for the "pipeline-ecs-kudos-kohidave-demo-api-frontend" pipeline.
# This YAML file defines your pipeline: the source repository it tracks and the order of the environments to deploy to.
# For more info: https://aws.github.io/copilot-cli/docs/manifest/pipeline/

# The name of the pipeline.
name: pipeline-ecs-kudos-kohidave-demo-api-frontend

# The version of the schema used in this template.
version: 1

# This section defines your source, changes to which trigger your pipeline.
source:
  # The name of the provider that is used to store the source artifacts.
  # (i.e. GitHub, Bitbucket, CodeCommit)
  provider: GitHub
  # Additional properties that further specify the location of the artifacts.
  properties:
    branch: main
    repository: https://github.com/kohidave/demo-api-frontend
    # Optional: specify the name of an existing CodeStar Connections connection.
    # connection_name: a-connection

# This section defines the order of the environments your pipeline will deploy to.
stages:
    - # The name of the environment.
      name: test
      test_commands:
        - make test
        - echo "woo! Tests passed"
    - # The name of the environment.
      name: prod
      # requires_approval: true
You can see every available configuration option for pipeline.yml on the pipeline manifest page.

There are 3 main parts of this file: the name field, which is the name of your CodePipeline, the source section, which details the repository and branch to track, and the stages section, which lists the environments you want this pipeline to deploy to. You can update this anytime, but you must run copilot pipeline update afterwards.

Typically, you'll update this file if you add new environments you want to deploy to, or want to track a different branch. If you are using CodeStar Connections to connect to your repository and would like to utilize an existing connection rather than let Copilot generate one for you, you may add the connection name here. The pipeline manifest is also where you may add a manual approval step before deployment or commands to run tests (see "Adding Tests," below) after deployment.

Step 3: Updating the Buildspec (optional)

Along with pipeline.yml, the pipeline init command also generated a buildspec.yml file in the copilot/ directory. This contains the instructions for building and publishing your service. If you want to run any additional commands, besides docker build, such as unit tests or style checkers, feel free to add them to the buildspec's build phase.

When this buildspec runs, it pulls down the version of Copilot which was used when you ran pipeline init, to ensure backwards compatibility.

Step 4: Pushing New Files to your Repository

Now that your pipeline.yml, buildspec.yml, and .workspace files have been created, add them to your repository. These files in your copilot/ directory are required for your pipeline's build stage to run successfully.

Step 5: Creating your Pipeline

Here's the fun part! Run:

copilot pipeline update

This parses your pipeline.yml, creates a CodePipeline in the same account and region as your application and kicks off a pipeline execution. Log into the AWS Console to watch your pipeline go, or run copilot pipeline status to check in on its execution.

Your completed CodePipeline

Info

If you have selected a GitHub or Bitbucket repository, Copilot will help you connect to your source code with CodeStar Connections. You will need to install the AWS authentication app on your third-party account and update the connection status. Copilot and the AWS Management Console will guide you through these steps.

Adding Tests

Of course, one of the most important parts of a pipeline is the automated testing. To add tests, such as integration or end-to-end tests, that run after a deployment stage, include those commands in the test_commands section. If all the tests succeed, your change is promoted to the next stage.

Adding test_commands generates a CodeBuild project with the aws/codebuild/amazonlinux2-x86_64-standard:3.0 image - so most commands from Amazon Linux 2 (including make) are available for use.

Are your tests configured to run inside a Docker container? Copilot's test commands CodeBuild project supports Docker, so docker build commands are available as well.

In the example below, the pipeline will run the make test command (in your source code directory) and only promote the change to the prod stage if that command exits successfully.

name: pipeline-ecs-kudos-kohidave-demo-api-frontend
version: 1
source:
  provider: GitHub
  properties:
    branch: main
    repository: https://github.com/kohidave/demo-api-frontend

stages:
    -
      name: test
      # A change will only deploy to the production stage if the
      # make test and echo commands exit successfully. 
      test_commands:
        - make test
        - echo "woo! Tests passed"
    -
      name: prod