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Getting started tutorial

In this tutorial, we'll create a TypeScript-based API that makes calls to another API and uses Yarn to manage NPM packages, and use batect to manage our development environment and tasks.

This tutorial is based on the TypeScript sample project, and assumes some basic familiarity with Docker and Yarn.

It should take 15-20 minutes to complete.

Installation

Before you begin, follow the setup instructions to setup batect.

First task

Let's start by defining our very first task. As is tradition, we'll be creating a "hello world" task.

In batect, there are two major concepts:

  • Tasks define commands to run and how to run them - for example, building your application, running tests or deploying your application.

  • Containers define the environment tasks run in - for example, the Docker image used, the folders mounted from your local machine and the ports exposed back to your local machine.

Both tasks and containers are defined in a YAML configuration file, normally called batect.yml. Let's start by defining our build environment container, build-env:

containers:
  build-env:
    image: node:14.3.0

build-env uses the publicly-available node image, and specifies the particular version of the image to use.

Tip

It's a good idea to specify a particular image tag (eg. 14.3.0 in our example above) rather than using latest - this ensures everyone using your configuration runs the same image.

We can use that container to define our hello-world task:

containers:
  build-env:
    image: node:14.3.0

tasks:
  hello-world:
    description: Say hello to everyone
    run:
      container: build-env
      command: echo 'Hello world!'

Then we can run our task with ./batect hello-world:

Running hello-world...
build-env: running echo 'Hello world!'

Hello world!

hello-world finished with exit code 0 in 1.2s.

Congratulations! You've successfully configured and run your first batect task.

It's worth spending a moment to explain what batect just did:

  • First, batect loaded our configuration from batect.yml.
  • It then checked if the node:14.3.0 image had already been pulled, and if it was not already pulled, pulled it.
  • Next, it started our build-env container, which ran our hello world command.
  • Once the container finished, it then cleaned up the container, leaving nothing running.

There's one more thing we can check: ./batect --list-tasks. --list-tasks doesn't run a task - instead, it prints all the available tasks in our configuration file, including any description or group.

Let's try running ./batect --list-tasks (or ./batect -T for short) now:

Available tasks:
- hello-world: Say hello to everyone

There's nothing too surprising here, given we just created our configuration file. However, as our project grows, this can be very useful for someone who is unfamiliar with our project and wants to understand what tasks they can perform.

First running application

So we have our first task, but it's not exactly earth-shattering. Let's fix that by creating our TypeScript application.

Normally, we could run yarn init and then yarn add typescript to do this, but then we're using the version of Yarn installed on our machine, if there even is one.

It would be much better if we could use the version of Yarn available in our build-env container - then we don't need to install anything, and we don't have to worry about using different versions.

To do that, let's create a shell task that starts a shell in our build environment:

# ... other configuration omitted for clarity

tasks:
  shell:
    description: Start a shell in the development environment
    run:
      container: build-env
      command: bash

We can run this with ./batect shell, then run yarn init . and yarn add typescript to create a package.json with a reference to TypeScript. However, if you exit the shell with exit, after batect finishes cleaning up, you'll notice there's no package.json in our project directory.

What happened to package.json? By default, containers started with batect share nothing with the host machine, so package.json was lost when the container was removed by batect. The benefit of this is that containers are as isolated as possible, making tasks run consistently across different machines, even different operating systems.

However, complete isolation isn't particularly useful - we need to keep these files around, and we'll need to be able to share our source code with the container soon as well.

Let's mount our project directory into build-env with volumes:

containers:
  build-env:
    image: node:14.3.0
    volumes:
      - local: .
        container: /code
        options: cached
    working_directory: /code

# ... tasks omitted for clarity

With this change, when build-env starts, the project directory (the directory containing batect.yml) will be mounted into the container at /code. Setting working_directory to /code means that the container will start in that directory by default.

If you start a shell with ./batect shell and run yarn init . and yarn add typescript again, you'll notice that this time, package.json has been saved to your local machine.

Tip

If you're using macOS or Windows, you may have noticed that yarn add typescript took longer than normal. This is due to the overhead introduced by using node_modules from your local machine inside the container.

Unfortunately, the performance of Docker volume mounts on macOS and Windows isn't great, and even with options: cached, the difference can be noticeable.

The solution is to use a batect cache for the node_modules folder, for example:

containers:
  build-env:
    image: node:14.3.0
    volumes:
      - local: .
        container: /code
        options: cached
      - type: cache
        container: /code/node_modules
        name: node_modules
    working_directory: /code

This cache persists between each task run and doesn't incur the same performance penalty as mounting a local directory.

There's more details about this in the I/O performance section of the documentation.

With that out of the way, let's create a basic HTTP API. Create a file called index.ts in the same directory as our batect.yml with the following contents:

import * as express from "express";

const app = express();
const port = 8080;

app.get("/", (req, res) => {
  res.send("Hello from the API!");
});

app.listen(port, () => {
  console.log(`Listening on port ${port}.`);
});

We'll need a few more Yarn packages - start another shell and run yarn add @types/express express ts-node to add the remaining dependencies.

Let's run our application and see it in action. Add a run task to batect.yml:

tasks:
  run:
    description: Run the application
    run:
      container: build-env
      command: yarn exec ts-node index.ts
      ports:
        - local: 8080
          container: 8080

# ... other configuration omitted for clarity

Our command uses Yarn and ts-node to run our TypeScript application, and maps port 8080 on our local machine to port 8080 on the container. This means that if we go to http://localhost:8080 on our local machine, we'll see our "Hello from the API!" message.

batect also supports mapping ports in container definitions, however, given we only need the port when running the application, we've mapped the port as part of the task definition. Both have exactly the same end result.

Note

We're using ts-node in this tutorial because it's simple and convenient. A production-grade application would compile TypeScript down to JavaScript using tsc and run it using node. We'll change this below.

We're pretty much done now - we can run our application in a consistent, isolated environment with a single command: ./batect run.

However, there's one more thing we should do to make it easy for others to start using our project. With the current setup, people using our project will need to run ./batect shell and then run yarn install to download the NPM packages we're using. It would be much better if there was a batect task they could run that did this for them, so let's add one:

tasks:
  setup:
    description: Install dependencies needed to build and run the application
    run:
      container: build-env
      command: yarn install

# ... other configuration omitted for clarity

Now, when someone wants to start using our project, they just need to run ./batect setup once, then ./batect run to start the application - easy!

First dependency

Now that we've got a basic API up and running, let's expand our API to include calling an external service - and expand our batect setup to orchestrate setting up both our application and the external service. We're going to enhance our 'hello world' message with a joke of the day.

Let's start by adding the joke service to our batect.yml:

containers:
  # ... build-env omitted for clarity

  joke-service:
    image: yesinteractive/dadjokes

We'll also need to tell batect to start joke-service when it runs our application. We can do this by adding it as a dependency for the run task:

tasks:
  run:
    description: Run the application
    dependencies:
      - joke-service
    run:
      container: build-env
      command: yarn exec ts-node index.ts
      ports:
        - local: 8080
          container: 8080

Finally, we need to update our application to call the service and return the joke in our message. The joke service responds to GET / requests with jokes, so let's call that endpoint in index.ts:

import fetch from "node-fetch";
import * as express from "express";

const app = express();
const port = 8080;

app.get("/", async (req, res) => {
  const response = await fetch("http://joke-service");

  if (!response.ok) {
    res.sendStatus(503);
    res.send(`Joke service call failed with HTTP ${response.status} (${response.statusText})`);
    return;
  }

  const responseBody = await response.json();

  res.send(`Hello from the API! The joke of the day is: ${responseBody.Joke.Opener} ${responseBody.Joke.Punchline}`);
});

app.listen(port, () => {
  console.log(`Listening on port ${port}.`);
});

We now have a dependency on the node-fetch package, so run yarn add node-fetch @types/node-fetch from a shell to add it to package.json.

Finally, we can run the application with ./batect run, and then open http://localhost:8080 to see our new message, complete with joke:

Hello from the API! The joke of the day is: I made a belt out of watches once... It was a waist of time.

You might be wondering why we didn't have to expose any ports on the joke-service container, and how we could use joke-service as a hostname to address that container. Under the hood, when batect starts a task, it also creates a Docker network and adds all containers in the task to that network. This allows them to address each other by name (eg. making HTTP requests to joke-service) and access any port without explicitly exposing the port or exposing it on the host machine.

Tip

This same technique can be used to run integration or end-to-end tests against dependencies like external services or databases in consistent, isolated environments.

Take a look at the sample projects for some examples of this. batect can also help manage the startup order of dependencies to reduce flakiness and retries in tests.

First prerequisite

The final major feature of batect that we'll explore is the concept of prerequisites.

These allow you to declare that one task requires another to run first. For example, maybe your application needs to be compiled before it is run, some data needs to be generated before the tests are executed, or a number of tasks should be run as part of a pre-commit check.

To see this in action, let's add a task to compile our TypeScript down to JavaScript:

  build:
    description: Build the application
    run:
      container: build-env
      command: yarn exec tsc -- --outDir build --sourceMap --strict index.ts

We can now change our run task to run build and then run that built JavaScript:

  run:
    description: Run the application
    prerequisites:
      - build
    run:
      container: build-env
      command: yarn exec node -- build/index.js
      ports:
        - local: 8080
          container: 8080

Voila! Running ./batect run now runs the build task, then starts run to use our freshly built code.

Note

We're using yarn exec to start node in run to workaround issues with node not responding to signals such as Ctrl+C when running in a container. There are more details on this in the Node usage section of the batect documentation, including another solution to the issue.

Summary

We've finished our whirlwind tour of batect. We can now easily setup, build and run our application in an isolated, consistent, repeatable way, and others can quickly start working with our project just by running ./batect --list-tasks.

Where next?