Build duration

What is build duration?

Build duration is a metric that quantifies the total time required to complete a software build process. This includes compiling code, running automated tests, and packaging the code into a usable format, such as an executable or library. To calculate build duration, you simply measure the time from the initiation of the build process to its completion. This can be automatically tracked by most continuous integration/continuous deployment (CI/CD) tools.

Why is build duration important?

Efficiency. Faster build times mean that software engineers can iterate more quickly. This efficiency is crucial during development, where shorter build durations can significantly reduce the waiting time for developers to receive feedback on their code. This leads to a more agile development process and quicker adjustments to the software being developed.

Cost-effectiveness. Build duration directly impacts the cost of cloud-based development environments and local resources. Longer build times tie up these resources, which can increase costs. By optimizing build duration, a company can reduce the amount of computing resources needed, thereby reducing operational costs.

Developer satisfaction. Long build durations can lead to frustration and decreased productivity among developers. When builds are quick, developers are more likely to remain engaged and productive. This is particularly important in a competitive tech environment where retaining talent is crucial. Efficient build processes contribute to a better developer experience and higher overall job satisfaction.

What are the limitations of build duration?

Does not measure quality. While build duration measures how quickly a build can be completed, it does not provide insights into the quality of the build itself. A quick build could still contain significant errors or performance issues that are not reflected in the duration.

Environment dependent. Build duration can vary significantly depending on the environment in which the software is built. Differences in hardware, software, network conditions, and even the configuration of the build tools can lead to variations in build times, which might not accurately reflect changes in the development process.

Can encourage poor practices. Focusing too much on reducing build duration might lead developers to cut corners, such as reducing the number or thoroughness of automated tests. This could lead to a faster build process but at the cost of software quality and long-term reliability.

Metrics related to build duration

Build time. Build time is fundamentally linked to build duration as it specifically measures the time taken for the build process itself, excluding other pre and post-build activities covered under build duration. Optimizing build time is one of the most direct ways to improve build duration.

Deployment frequency. Deployment frequency refers to how often software deployments occur. There is a natural correlation between build duration and deployment frequency; shorter build durations can enable more frequent deployments. This allows teams to be more responsive to changes and quicker in delivering updates.

Test pass rate. Test pass rate measures the percentage of tests that pass during each build cycle. This metric is closely related to build duration as the reliability of a build (indicated by a high test pass rate) can influence the build process. For instance, frequent test failures may lead to longer build durations due to the need for additional fixes and retests.

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