Setting up continuous integration

Kentico provides a continuous integration solution that allows you to serialize the data of objects from the database into XML files on the file system. You can then add the files to a source control system (for example Team Foundation Server or Git) and use them to synchronize database data between team members. The system ensures that the XML data of matching objects is always identical and consistent (including element and attribute order), even when serialized on different instances of Kentico.

The system stores the XML files containing the serialized data of objects in the project's CMS\App_Data\CIRepository folder. For details about the folder and file structure, see Continuous integration repository structure.

Continuous integration overview

The continuous integration solution is usable in the following environment:

  • Multiple development instances, each with its own project files and database
    – AND –
  • A central source control system that provides change management and version control for files

MVC development model

The continuous integration solution is fully supported when using the MVC development model. The only requirement is that both applications (MVC live site and Kentico administration) use a shared location for the continuous integration repository. This ensures that content or object changes made through the MVC website are correctly reflected in the continuous integration data.

By default, all MVC projects created by the Installer have their continuous integration repository mapped to the CMS\App_Data\CIRepository folder of the related administration projects, and no manual steps are necessary.

If you wish to adjust the repository location or perform the configuration manually for an MVC project, see the Storing the continuous integration files in a custom location section.

To start developing sites using the continuous integration solution:

  1. Set up your development environment and continuous integration according to the instructions in:
  2. Establish a process for transferring objects back into the database from the CIRepository XML files. See Restoring continuous integration files to the database and Synchronizing database changes not managed by continuous integration.
  3. Begin development. We strongly recommend following the best practices described in Using continuous integration with Visual Studio. The page primarily focuses on using Visual Studio in combination with a Team Foundation Version Control or Git source control repository, but many of the recommendations also apply generally to any source control system.

Usage and relationship with other features

Continuous integration is designed to allow synchronization and version control of database data during development (through an external source control system).

Continuous integration has a negative impact on site performance. The impact is not significant for development instances with a low number of users, but continuous integration should not be enabled on production sites. For more information about deployment options, see the Deploying data to production sites section.

Additionally, we do not recommend using continuous integration together with the other team development and versioning features in Kentico:

Continuous integration always works with the main version of each object in the database. Older or deleted versions of objects and non-published versions of pages (including their child objects) are ignored. For example:

  • If you use the object versioning feature, continuous integration ignores all versions of objects except for the latest. If you roll back an object to an older version, the object is updated in the CIRepository folder.
  • If you delete an object or page to the recycle bin, continuous integration fully removes the corresponding XML file. If you restore the object, an XML file is added as if a completely new object were created.
  • If you edit an object's code externally (e.g. the code of a CSS stylesheet), changes are ignored by continuous integration until you synchronize the code back into the database. You can still synchronize the code without the continuous integration solution by including the external file in your source control.

Page workflow

When using the page workflow feature, the majority of workflow information is not tracked by continuous integration. This includes moving pages to different workflow steps and using the check-in/check-out functionality. Pages under workflow are fully stored in the repository only after they are published. When creating a new page, the page data is stored without its child objects. If you make changes to the content of a page, non-versioned page data is stored immediately while versioned page data is stored only when the page is published.

Note: The workflow functionality itself (including Content locking and Page versioning) is not affected when used together with continuous integration. For example, your content editors can use basic and advanced workflows to manage life cycles of pages on a single Kentico instance. When pages reach the Published step, the page content is stored in the repository.

Limitations

Continuous integration currently has the following limitations:

  • Continuous integration only tracks object changes made through the Kentico administration interface or API. Changes made directly in the database or by external tools that modify the database are not tracked. After making such changes, you need to manually serialize all objects in the Continuous integration application to synchronize the database with the file system repository. For example, continuous integration does not track roles imported by the AD import external utility.
  • You cannot reliably use continuous integration in environments where the CIRepository folder is located on a shared file system (multiple Kentico instances with separate databases connected to the same file system repository). Common examples of shared file systems are external storage providers, such as Azure storage or Amazon S3.**
  • Object types that represent live site data or are strictly related to specific instances are not supported. See Object types supported by continuous integration for a complete list of supported object types.

Preparing the development environment

Before you can use the continuous integration solution, you need to set up Kentico instances for your development team.

Start by preparing an initial instance:

  1. Either install a new instance of Kentico or select an existing instance as a starting point.
  2. Enable continuous integration on the given instance (see Enabling continuous integration for details).
  3. Create a backup of the instance's database.
  4. Add the entire Kentico solution to your source control (adding only the CIRepository folder may lead to problems and is not recommended).

To add development instances into your environment, perform the following steps for each instance:

  1. Connect to the source control from the development machine and load the latest version of the solution files onto the local file system.
  2. If you use IIS to run your development sites, register the project as an application in IIS:
    1. Open Internet Information Services (IIS) Manager.
    2. Add a new application under your IIS web site and map the Physical path to the project's CMS folder.
    3. Create a new application pool for the application (or use an existing application pool).
  3. Create (restore) a copy of the initial database on your SQL server.
  4. Connect the instance to the new copy of the database (set the appropriate connection string in the project's web.config).

After you complete the process, all development machines will contain their own Kentico project files connected to a separate copy of the database. You can start using your source control system to synchronize project files between the instances. The continuous integration solution serializes database data onto the file system and you can include it in your source control, just like any other files.

The process described above ensures that objects have identical GUID values (globally unique identifiers) across your entire development environment. If you perform a separate database installation for each development instance, you will need to manually resolve a large number of GUID conflicts when synchronizing data through the continuous integration solution.

If you need to add further instances later (after development with continuous integration starts), use the same process. However, you need to make sure the database is synchronized with the rest of the development environment. Use one of the following approaches:

  • Maintain a central database connected to the mainline source control and always create an up-to-date backup for new developers.
    – OR –
  • Use the original database backup and then get the latest data:
    1. Restore the current object status from the continuous integration repository into the database. See Restoring continuous integration files to the database.
    2. Manually transfer changes made to the data of object types not supported by continuous integration (maintain documentation of such changes). You can use the export and import feature.

Enabling continuous integration

To configure a Kentico instance to use the continuous integration solution, perform the following steps:

  1. Disable running of scheduled tasks (using the Settings -> System -> Scheduled tasks enabled setting).
  2. Open the Continuous integration application in the Kentico administration interface.
  3. Select the Enable continuous integration checkbox.
  4. Click Save.
  5. Click Serialize all objects.
  6. Wait until the serialization process finishes and then re-enable scheduled tasks.

The project's CMS\App_Data\CIRepository folder now contains XML files storing the serialized data of all supported objects from the database. The system also tracks create, update and delete operations for the given objects and automatically transfers the changes to the serialized data on the file system.

Configuring instances to synchronize macros

For detailed information, see: Working with macro signatures

To ensure that macro expressions work correctly when synchronizing objects using the continuous integration solution, all development instances must use the same hash salt value.

If your development instances do not all start with the same web.config file, you need to set a matching value for the CMSHashStringSalt key in the appSettings section on all instances. The best option is the hash salt used by the starting instance that you used to create your initial database backup. You can use any string as the value, but the salt should be random and at least 16 characters long. For example, a randomly generated GUID is a strong salt:

<add key="CMSHashStringSalt" value="e68b9ad6-a461-4707-8e3e-ece73f03dd02" />

The salt value is used as part of the input for the hash function that creates the security signatures of macros. Having the same hash salt value on all instances is necessary to ensure that macro signatures are valid when transferring data between instances.

The best option is to set the hash salt value before you start development. Changing the salt causes all current hash values to become invalid. To fix existing macro expressions in the system after changing the hash salt, you need to re-sign the macros.

Synchronizing macros between instances with different users

You may also encounter problems with invalid macros if you do not synchronize all users between the instances in your environment. Macros are not valid if the user in the signature does not exist on the given instance.

To ensure that all macros work correctly regardless of the available users, set up macro signature identities:

  1. Find groups of users in your environment who require the same permissions.
  2. In the System application, create a macro identity object for each group on all instances, with a matching Identity name.

  3. Assign an Effective user with appropriate permissions to each macro identity. The effective user can be different on each instance.

  4. Assign the macro identity to the appropriate users in the Users application.

Macros will now be signed using the assigned identities instead of user names. The identities are available on all instances, so you do not need to synchronize the user accounts.

Deploying data to production sites

Deployment of content and data to instances that host live websites is not the primary purpose of the continuous integration solution. Instead, we recommend using the Staging functionality for deployment:

  1. Set up one of the instances in your continuous integration environment as a source server for staging.
  2. After restoring continuous integration data on the given instance, synchronize the changes via staging tasks to any required target servers.

If you use staging to deploy pages, we also recommend setting the CMSStagingUseAutomaticOrdering key to false in the appSettings section of the web.config file on all target servers.

<add key="CMSStagingUseAutomaticOrdering" value="false" />

The key ensures that the order of pages in the content tree remains consistent after staging. If you leave automatic ordering enabled on the target staging servers, the Content -> Content management -> New page ordering setting of each site may override the original page order created by the continuous integration restore process.

Deploying via continuous integration

If you do decide to deploy data to a live production site via the continuous integration restore functionality, use the following process:

Warning

Restoring data through continuous integration deletes any pages and supported objects that are missing in the CIRepository folder. You may lose content created directly on the production instance through standard editing or live site interaction.

For example, the following scenario is possible:

  • You prepare a content update in your development environment and copy the CIRepository folder to the production instance.
  • Live site users meanwhile create new pages via user contributions.
  • You restore the CIRepository content to the database.
  • The pages added by the live site users are deleted, because they are not included in the restored data.

Optionally, you can configure the repository.config file on the production instance to exclude any object types that you do not wish to update and overwrite on the live site.

  1. Leave continuous integration disabled on your production instance of Kentico (the setting in the Continuous integration application). Continuous integration has a negative impact on site performance and should not be enabled on production sites.

    Important: You can restore data even when continuous integration is disabled.

  2. Upload the CIRepository folder containing the required data into the CMS\App_Data folder of your production instance.
  3. Restore the CIRepository content to the production database – see Restoring continuous integration files to the database.
    • We strongly recommend performing the restore process at a time when the site has minimal traffic and no editing is taking place.
    • The restore process may take longer than usual when continuous integration is disabled.
  4. Restart the application (if not done automatically by your restore process). Open the System application and click Restart application on the General tab.

The data is now deployed to the production database. Keep in mind that any changes made in the administration interface or on the live site will not be tracked and reflected in the CIRepository folder.

Upgrading projects that use continuous integration

If you need to apply a hotfix or upgrade to an instance that has continuous integration enabled, use the following procedure:

  1. Restore objects from the continuous integration repository to your database.

    You can skip the restore if you are sure that your database is synchronized with the current status of your CIRepository folder.

  2. Apply the hotfix or upgrade.
  3. Run complete serialization for all objects to recreate the content of the CIRepository folder:
    1. Disable running of scheduled tasks (using the Settings -> System -> Scheduled tasks enabled setting).
    2. Open the Continuous integration application in the Kentico administration interface.
    3. Click Serialize all objects.
    4. Wait until the serialization process finishes and then re-enable scheduled tasks.

This approach ensures that your CIRepository folder contains all object changes made by the hotfix or upgrade and that the serialization process itself runs according to the new version.

For hotfixes, you need to apply the update separately for each development instance. After one developer commits the hotfixed changes to the source control, other developers CANNOT commit or load changes until they apply the hotfix to their own instance.

For major upgrades, it may be more efficient to upgrade only one instance and then set up your environment again according to the process described in Preparing the development environment.

Storing the continuous integration files in a custom location

After you set up and enable continuous integration, the system serializes database data into XML and stores the results on the file system. By default, the files are created in the project's CMS\App_Data\CIRepository folder.

If your development environment requires a different location for the continuous integration file repository, add the CMSCIRepositoryPath key to the appSettings section of your project's web.config file. The key's value must be an absolute or relative path of a folder on a local drive, or a network location for which the application has sufficient permissions, for example:

Example
<add key="CMSCIRepositoryPath" value="C:\ExternalSourceControl\CIRepository" />

When serializing object data to the file system or restoring data back to the database, the system now uses the specified folder as the root of the continuous integration repository. You can add the folder into your source control system.

If you have multiple projects that work with the same Kentico database (for example when developing MVC websites), you can use the key to set a shared continuous integration repository. This is the default configuration for MVC projects created by the Kentico installer.

Important

We recommend keeping your continuous integration repository in the App_Data folder of the Kentico web project and having the entire Kentico solution included within your source control. This setup allows you to easily synchronize all types of related project files together with the database data tracked by the continuous integration solution.

If you do decide to change the CIRepository location, do NOT use the new folder as the root of your overall source control repository. Always add it as a subfolder under a different root folder. The continuous integration solution deletes all folders within CIRepository when storing all objects. If the folder is the root of your source control repository, you may encounter errors or other problems when using source control systems that utilize custom folders in the root.

Configuring the character encoding for repository files

By default, the continuous integration solution generates non-binary files in the CIRepository folder using UTF-8 character encoding.

If you need to use a different encoding type for the repository files (for example due to requirements of a file comparison tool), add the CMSCIEncoding key to the appSettings section of your project's web.config file. For example:

<add key="CMSCIEncoding" value="utf-16" />

The CMSCIEncoding key supports values matching the encoding names listed in the Encoding Class article.

Note

Changing the value of the CMSCIEncoding key does not update the encoding type of existing files in the CIRepository folder. To fully update the encoding of the repository content, you need to:

  • Run complete serialization for all objects.
  • Manually update the encoding type of your repository.config file.

Was this page helpful?