Ideas & Insights

Build Engineers on the Rise

In Santa Clara County, CA there are currently 11,000 job openings for build engineers listed on ZipRecruiter. The median annual base salary is $129,000. Why are build engineers in high demand?

Well, many development leaders are realizing that build engineers are critical to unblocking developers and unlocking productivity gains. In fact, simple math demonstrates that an investment in a build engineer dedicated to introducing and overseeing Developer Productivity Engineering practices can be recovered in a matter of months. One such practice is implementing build and test acceleration technologies like Build Caching and Distributed Testing which typically make build times 2X to 10X faster. Suppose you could shave 5 minutes off your average 10 minute local build time, and each developer ran 10 builds a day and waited an equal amount of time for CI builds to complete. In one year, the average wait time cost per engineer would be around $12,000 if each developer cost $1 minute and 50% of that wait time is unproductive.

With a modest team of 20 developers, your breakeven point for a typical Silicon Valley build engineer would be less than six months, without even considering the value of other DPE benefits. These include dramatically reduced Mean Time to Resolution for software incidents; better management of flaky tests and other avoidable failures; and more efficient CI resource consumption. Of course, your mileage may vary, but you can use our online calculator to easily estimate the value of productivity gains you could achieve in your own environment by investing in a DPE initiative.

Expert Takes

Even the Experts Can Get it Wrong

The key to effective troubleshooting is not to rely on our assumptions about what is happening, but rather have an actual snapshot of what happened, says Hans Dockter, Gradle CEO.

We were working with a company whose build engineering experts insisted that when they tried out our build acceleration technology (Build Cache), build and test time had increased 5X. And they assured us they were running the before and after builds the exact same way. We convinced them to run and compare the two builds using Build Scans (which is our data collection and reporting technology). An examination of the data revealed that the “before” Maven build was run with 128 threads while the “after” build using our technology was run with only one thread due to a misconfiguration of the directory hierarchy.

The lesson we learned together is that when it comes to toolchain support we rely way too much on what we think or hypothesize. We think we have assigned a certain amount of memory. We think we have assigned a certain number of processes. But, even us experts are often mistaken. Fact-based, data-driven software development organizations run their builds and tests faster, more efficiently, and avoid many costly mistakes based on false recollections and assumptions. Tools are available that collect and organize the relevant data for you. Take advantage of them.

Get more expert takes and learn more best practices from the definitive guide to Developer Productivity Engineering.

New Technology

Flaky Test Management Enhancements

Just like failing tests, flaky tests indicate that something might be wrong with the user-facing behavior of your product. It is important to track and fix them as soon as possible. Gradle Enterprise 2020.2 features test analysis improvements that streamline test debugging and root cause identification. They include:

  • A redesigned test result view that provides quick access to relevant contextual information such as recent test history, and other failed/flaky tests from the same build
  • Colocation of all executions of a single test to make output and exception comparisons simpler
  • Stacktrace analysis that shows only stackframes relevant to the current context

In a recent Blog post, Eric Wendelin, Analytics Lead Engineer, explores each of these improvements in detail with a blow-by-blow account of how he leveraged these new capabilities to debug a nasty flaky test in Gradle’s own build

Success Stories

Reflections on Successful DPE Experiments at SoundCloud

While an Android developer at SoundCloud, Nelson Osacky was one the leaders of SoundCloud’s Developer Productivity Engineering initiative and a member of the team conducting experiments on the impact of build cache and other DPE practices as part of their Gradle Enterprise trial. Nelson discusses the results of the trial experience in a recent webcast entitled “The Gradle Enterprise Proof-of-Value Trial Experience.”

In the Webcast, Nelson describes some of the pain points the SoundCloud team encountered in their Android build environment—including slow feedback cycles and inefficient root cause analysis. He also related some of the benefits he experienced as a result of the trial, such as learning how to be a developer productivity engineer and using data to “solve [developer productivity] puzzles”.

Last summer Nelson wrote a two-part Blog series for SoundCloud on dealing with “Gradle Remote Build Cache Misses” in their Android build environment. He has become so passionate about helping other companies address their developer productivity engineering challenges, that he has become a frequent speaker and evangelist for the movement.

Featured Upcoming Event

Droidcon Online - Scaling your Android Build

On June 18, Droidcon will host and Gradle will present a webcast entitled: “Not Just Another Modularization Talk: Scaling Your Android Build with Gradle .” The premise of the talk is that Android build speeds can get out of hand pretty quickly once you start piling on the build flavors. And while Gradle Plugins and modularization help a lot with bringing build times down, the question remains, what if anything, else can be done? The will answer that question and will specifically cover:

  • Expert tips and tricks on scaling your Android build
  • Best Practices to ensure a productive development environment
  • Developer Productivity Engineering technologies that can be used to accelerate local and CI builds
  • Collaborative debugging and optimization using build scans
  • Measuring your Android scaling initiative success

More Upcoming Events

Don’t Miss these Opportunities to Learn More

See the Gradle Training webpage for an up-to-date list of upcoming educational and training events.

Until next time!

The Gradle Team


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