Golang modules and gitlab CI

By Stephan Dilly

This is a quick writeup of how to set up a simple ci pipeline for a go project on gitlab using golang’s 1.11 modules.

I was working on an Alexa Skill written in go and in fact did my first steps in go. I am still a noob when it comes to the go-world, so I googled on how to set up continuous integration for a go project…

Turns out using go in a CI Job was not as easy as I thought. Let’s see what different approaches the top hits on the google search for ‘golang gitlab ci’ propose:

1 — The ‘official way’

see about.gitlab.com/2017/11/27/go-tools-and-gitlab-how-to-do-continuous-integration-like-a-boss

  • ✅ shows usage of lots of nice tools: code coverage, linter …
  • ⛔️ uses crude bash scripts
  • ⛔️ uses copy-code-to-gopath hack (read below)
  • ⛔️ spreads wrong information: my rant tweet
  • ⛔️ pretty sad for an official blog post by gitlab itself

2 — Using glide

see blog.boatswain.io/post/build-go-project-with-gitlab-ci

  • ✅ short and sweet read
  • ⛔️ uses 3rd party tool glide
  • ⛔️ same old copy-code-to-gopath hack like the rest of the bunch

3 — Using dep

see blog.netways.de/2018/06/07/continuous-integration-with-golang-and-gitlab

  • ✅ the tool dep feels more official being part of go
  • ⛔️ still dep does not ship with go
  • ⛔️ same old copy-code-to-gopath hack like the rest of the bunch

As you can see it does not turn out to be an easy topic. Most hassle in this area comes from go having this concept of a workspace. Workspaces were a design decision that go took on day 1. They enforce a certain mindset on you: All go projects have to live in a central folder on your hard drive (including the downloaded dependencies). This is for some (or most) a very unnatural way of structuring their projects. It also comes with lots of strings attached: Like CI jobs copying their code on the fly into the $HOME/go folder to build and resolve 🤢.

I am not an early adopter (lucky me 🥳) and go was working on this already. This years release 1.11 comes with a first version of module support: golang modules

Modules allow you to have your projects independently structured much like most of the third party package managers eg. glide/dep. Since this concept is so new, most of the online sources do not mention it as being an easy alternative to build go projects yet, hence my post here.

Lets look at our source code: go files’ import-statements act as depdencies right away, some of them can be renamed to protect name collisions. go deeply connects to git using git repos as the definition of a dependency:

To initialize go modules in your project (‘alexa-prost’ being my project name here) simply run:

go mod init alexa-prost

This generates a go.mod file looking like this:

This file contains the versions of the dependencies that were downloaded. These versions enable a reliable deterministic build that can be reproduced everywhere.

Now this allows us to leave our repository wherever we want and makes our gitlab-ci script super simple:

  1. 👎 mod is not final — We are using a very early feature of go here and it might change and contain bugs.
  2. 👎 gitlab ci caching not supported — if you want to use gitlab-ci’s caching, you still need to use the same ol’ copy-around trick.

Even with go 1.11’s modules the dependencies will live in the $GOPATH - so no node_modules-like folder in your project’s path. This can still be solved a little more elegantly than copying your project code around. Since you just want to cache the dependencies, we copy those around which is less verbose:

Note: My OCD felt better once I had caching of dependencies working — but the build still was not faster. That might be due to it currently being too small to be limited by the dependency download/build process.

Originally published at extrawurst.github.io on December 5, 2018.