Debian CI: 10 years later

It was 2013, and I was on a break from work between Christmas and New Year of 2013. I had been working at Linaro for well over a year, on the LAVA project. I was living and breathing automated testing infrastructure, mostly for testing low-level components such as kernels and bootloaders, on real hardware.

At this point I was also a Debian contributor for quite some years, and had become an official project members two years prior. Most of my involvement was in the Ruby team, where we were already consistently running upstream test suites during package builds.

During that break, I put these two contexts together, and came to the conclusion that Debian needed a dedicated service that would test the contents of the Debian archive. I was aware of the existance of autopkgtest, and started working on a very simple service that would later become Debian CI.

In January 2014, debci was initially announced on that month's Misc Developer News, and later uploaded to Debian. It's been continuously developed for the last 10 years, evolved from a single shell script running tests in a loop into a distributed system with 47 geographically-distributed machines as of writing this piece, became part of the official Debian release process gating migrations to testing, had 5 Summer of Code and Outrechy interns working on it, and processed beyond 40 million test runs.

In there years, Debian CI has received contributions from a lot of people, but I would like to give special credits to the following:

  • Ian Jackson - created autopkgtest.
  • Martin Pitt - was the maintainer of autopkgtest when Debian CI launched and helped a lot for some time.
  • Paul Gevers - decided that he wanted Debian CI test runs to control testing migration. While at it, became a member of the Debian Release Team and the other half of the permanent Debian CI team together with me.
  • Lucas Kanashiro - Google Summer of Code intern, 2014.
  • Brandon Fairchild - Google Summer of Code intern, 2014.
  • Candy Tsai - Outreachy intern, 2019.
  • Pavit Kaur - Google Summer of Code intern, 2021
  • Abiola Ajadi - Outreachy intern, December 2021-2022.