Automated Build Studio 1.4
Automate Your ASP.NET Build Cycles with Ease
By Mike Riley
Building applications has become a complex process. Sure, simple apps that have simple functionality can be compiled and run with a click of the Run button, but as application development continues to evolve into a complex process of checking in source, notifying team members of code changes, updating databases with schema changes, and having installers with additional files, a one-click button rapidly expands to any number of laborious manual steps. Although determined developers with time on their hands might be able to create custom scripts to handle such tasks, these are often brittle, specific to a single project, and maintained by the author who often is the only one who knows why a script processes the way it does.
AutomatedQA, a company that has built an award-winning reputation on debugging and optimization tools such as AQtime and TestComplete (see my reviews of these products at http://www.aspnetpro.com/productreviews/2004/11/asp200411mr_p/asp200411mr_p.asp and http://www.delphizine.com/productreviews/2003/12/di200312mr_p/di200312mr_p.asp, respectively), has obviously encountered this scenario in the development of their own products. As such, they ve scratched their itch with this latest addition to their product family. Now in its fourth point release, Automated Build Studio (ABS) is a macro-writer s playground. Even though it is optimized to automate the workflows of an application build experience, it can quite honestly be used for any Windows macro execution task. In fact, during the course of reviewing the product, I created a workflow to check in my work to a CVS, zip up my Documents directory, and back it up to a local server and e-mail me any problems with the process. Constructing this script took me less than five minutes; using the simple workflow palette and dialog boxes, even the most complex processes take a fraction of the time it would for even the most proficient scriptwriter to manually code. Construction is made even easier with the ABS context-sensitive assistant that quickly orients new users to setting up their workflows.
Figure 1: Stringing together a series of macros and operations is as easy as point and click. Workflows can be as easy or complex as the build process demands.
The number of automation categories bundled with ABS is staggering. In addition to supporting the AutomatedQA family of tools, ABS can archive files in RAR or ZIP format, compile and build applications using Microsoft and Borland tools (as well as Ant and NAnt), and provide version control in all the popular source management systems, from CVS and Microsoft Visual SourceSafe to StarTeam and even Subversion. ABS has modules for file operations, from the usual compare, copy, and move to FTP operations. Modules for unit testing are included for MSTest and NUnit and its Java counterpart, JUnit. Scripts written in VBScript, JScript, and even DelphiScript can both drive ABS and be consumed by it. Other operations, ranging from HTTP communications, e-mail messaging (both send and receive), MSN Messenger, ICQ IM, SQL service support, help compiler, and installer automation to writing CD-ROMs and DVDs, are just a handful of the types of modules available out of the box. And any of these tasks can be scheduled for execution at any time, making it perfect for triggering build processes in the wee hours of the morning.
Figure 2: Plenty of useful metrics are presented on the Log and Summary tab after any build sequence is executed, providing step-by-step details of every operation either attempted or successfully executed by ABS.
In addition to the aforementioned support for StarTeam and Subversion services, the 1.4 release also features enhancements for working with Visual Studio.NET (including a nifty new Send key sequence simulated typing within a virtual machine) and Compile Visual Studio Workspace for automating build configurations within the VS.NET IDE workspace. SQL Server support has also been enhanced with several features, such as the ability to automate SQL Server database backups and restores, execute stored procedures, and rebuild indexes. ABS 1.4 also includes a new utility, RunInteractive.exe, which allows for remote execution of processes on distributed computers via WMI. About the only items that I use every day still missing from this release are SSH/SCP and SOAP messaging support.
Automate Your Life with other ABS Features
Besides the obvious intended purpose of automating build scenarios, ABS can be used for automating nearly anything associated with a purely digital task. Combined with its ability to consume and execute external scripts, the possibilities are broad indeed. System Administrators could use ABS as a prototyping tool for server management needs. Graphic designers could use it to prep workspaces and configure application files to a client s specifications. Programmers will certainly extend the tool beyond its build intentions to incorporate more phases of the application lifecycle. The tool is easy enough to understand that even non-technical people (sales and marketing staff, for example) could come up with ways to automate the formatting and submission of office documents and presentations. To that end, AutomatedQA should regularly post on their Web site scenarios and success stories of out-of-the-box thinking with ABS.
AutomatedQA has just added another stellar product to their catalog. Automated Build Studio is an incredibly powerful, easy to use, and, well, fun to use utility that will save countless hours in repetitive manual build steps or, for the ambitious developer who never sleeps, minimize the time writing script code to do almost everything in the build process that ABS can do with a few clicks of a mouse. If AutomatedQA could extend the power of ABS to the rest of the overall application lifecycle, it would be the first company to realize the dream that the Model Driven Architecture crowd has been chasing for years. In the meantime, ABS succeeds in collapsing the complexity of an application s build phase back to the simple click of a mouse.
Mike Riley is an advanced computing professional specializing in emerging technologies and new development trends. He also is a contributing editor for asp.netPRO. Readers may contact Mike at mailto:[email protected].
Web Site: http://www.automatedqa.com
Price: Named user license, US$349.99; site license, US$2,999.99