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We’re partway through a migration of our build system to Bazel. Bazel is a modern build system with better performance characteristics and correctness guarantees than we currently have with make/go build. Today, you can perform almost all day-to-day CRDB dev tasks with Bazel rather than with make. make is deprecated and we will remove this option for building Cockroach at some point in the next release cycle.

For the few tasks that you can't/don't know how to do with Bazel, please ask a question or contribute a solution. The Bazel migration is actively in progress and we always accept contributions even for minor/QOL improvements.

NOTE: for specific debugging tips on:
- Build failures, see “How to ensure your code builds with Bazel
- Test failures, see “How to ensure your tests can run in the Bazel sandbox


Follow the directions on "Getting and building CockroachDB from source" or "Building from source on macOS" to get your development environment set up.

Note that you do need a full installation of XCode to build on macOS. (No, a command-line tools instance does not suffice.) If you’ve already installed a command-line tools instance as part of setting up Homebrew or other tools, switch to the full XCode instance and accept the XCode license agreement with:

sudo xcode-select -s /Applications/ && sudo xcodebuild -license accept

Getting started

Introduction to dev

dev is a light wrapper around Bazel that is well-suited to specific CRDB development tasks. Properly, when we say dev, we’re referring to the Go binary whose source lives in cockroach/pkg/cmd/dev, side-by-side with the Cockroach source. At the top level of the repo there is a wrapper script also called dev whose only job is to build pkg/cmd/dev and then invoke it with the passed-in arguments. This means that you can always type ./dev to run the version of dev at the commit you’ve checked out, which is typically what you want to do.

Note that dev is meant to supplement bazel rather than replace it. dev makes certain tasks easier than bazel, but simple builds and tests are easy enough to run via bazel directly.

Doctor, doctor

Before trying to build anything, run the following:

./dev doctor

If dev notices any issues with your system that might prevent you from being able to build, it will let you know and tell you how to fix it. Make sure to run dev doctor before you ask for help just in case it catches something you didn’t know about.

NOTE: dev will take a while to run the first time you execute it since it needs to build itself. Be patient. (smile)

First steps: building cockroach

Start by building cockroach-short as follows:

bazel build pkg/cmd/cockroach-short

./dev build short also works as an alias. Bazel will pretty-print build output to the terminal.

You can also build the full cockroach binary which includes

bazel build pkg/cmd/cockroach --config=with_ui

./dev build (or equivalently, ./dev build cockroach) is a synonym for this.

dev build is a light wrapper for bazel build that supports aliases for common targets (for example, ./dev build crlfmt instead of the harder-to-remember bazel build @com_github_cockroachdb_crlfmt//:crlfmt). dev also copies binaries out of the Bazel output directories for you into your workspace; for example, bazel build pkg/cmd/cockroach-short puts the binary in _bazel/bin/pkg/cmd/cockroach-short/cockroach-short_/cockroach-short, but if you dev build short the binary will be staged at ./cockroach instead.

Run ./dev help build for more information about what you can do with dev build. Note that you can pass additional arguments directly to bazel build by adding them after --:

# build "verbosely", outputting all commands as they are run
./dev build short -- -s

dev lets you cross-compile with the --cross option, as in:

./dev build --cross

--cross takes an optional argument which is the platform to cross-compile to: --cross=linux, --cross=windows, --cross=macos, --cross=linuxarm, --cross=macosarm. dev will copy the built binaries into the artifacts directory in this case. Note that cross-building requires Docker. Cross-compiling should work on M1 Macs, but this support is experimental, so report issues if you should observe any.

For more debugging tips on building with Bazel, see “How to ensure your code builds with Bazel”.

Running tests

You can run all tests in a given package (for example, pkg/sql) with:

bazel test pkg/sql:all

bazel test pkg/sql/... will instead run all tests under the pkg/sql directory recursively, including all the tests under pkg/sql/types and pkg/sql/rowinfra among others.

If the test passes, you’ll see a brief message indicating which tests were run and their status:

INFO: Elapsed time: 7.842s, Critical Path: 7.26s
INFO: 48 processes: 3 internal, 45 darwin-sandbox.
INFO: Build completed successfully, 48 total actions
//pkg/sql/types:types_test                                               PASSED in 0.7s

If the test doesn’t pass, Bazel will print the location of the test’s log file:

INFO: Elapsed time: 8.763s, Critical Path: 7.94s
INFO: 46 processes: 1 internal, 45 darwin-sandbox.
INFO: Build completed, 1 test FAILED, 46 total actions
//pkg/sql/types:types_test                                               FAILED in 1.5s

You can examine that file to see the complete logs for the test.

./dev test is provided as a shorthand for bazel test with some additional conveniences. Run ./dev test with the name of one or more packages to execute all tests from those packages:

./dev test pkg/sql

Tips and tricks

  • dev test has a --stress flag for running tests under stress and --race for running tests with the race detector enabled.

  • Next to the test.log file produced by your test, you can find a test.xml file. This file contains specific information on each test run and its status, as well as timing information.

  • The -v argument to dev test will result in more verbose logging as well as more detailed information written to the test.xml. You can make this the default behavior on your machine by adding test --test_env=GO_TEST_WRAP_TESTV=1 to your .bazelrc.user file.

  • As with dev build, dev test allows you to pass additional arguments directly to Bazel by putting them after --: for example, dev test pkg/sql/types -- --verbose_failures --sandbox_debug.

  • To get test results printed as tests are being run add -v -- --test_output streamed to the test command. Note that this reduces test parallelism.

  • For more tips on debugging test failures, see “How to ensure your tests can run in the Bazel sandbox

Other tasks

# Run acceptance tests
./dev acceptance
# Run compose tests
./dev compose
# Run benchmarks for pkg/sql/parser
./dev bench pkg/sql/parser
# Generate code (run this before submitting your PR).
./dev generate
# Run lints
./dev lint
# logic tests!
./dev testlogic --files=$FILES --subtests=$SUBTESTS --config=$CONFIG
# Open a container running the "bazelbuilder" image. Requires Docker.
./dev builder

dev vs. make

This is a (non-exhaustive) 1-to-1 mapping of dev commands to their make equivalents. Feel free to add to this (smile)

dev/bazel command

equivalent non-bazel command

./dev build

make build

./dev build short

make buildshort

./dev build pkg/sql/...

make build PKG=./pkg/sql/...

./dev test

make test

./dev test pkg/sql/parser -f TestParse

make test PKG=./pkg/sql/parser TESTS=TestParse

./dev test pkg/sql/parser -f TestParse --test-args '-test.count=5 -show-logs'

make test PKG=./pkg/sql/parser TESTS=TestParse TESTFLAGS='-count=5 -show-logs'

./dev bench pkg/sql/parser -f BenchmarkParse

make bench PKG=./pkg/sql/parser BENCHES=BenchmarkParse

./dev build --cross

build/ mkrelease

./dev builder


./dev testlogic base --files=fk --subtests=20042 --config=local

make testbaselogic FILES=fk SUBTESTS=20042 TESTCONFIG=local

Add build --define gotags=bazel,gss,X,Y to .bazelrc.user, then running dev

make ... TAGS=X,Y

Add gc_goopts = ["S"], to the go_library target in the BUILD.bazel file for the package you’re interested in, then running dev

make ... GOFLAGS=-gcflags=-S

General dev tips

The top-level dev script uses Bazel to build pkg/cmd/dev before running unless another dev binary with the same increasing integer ID has already been built. Generally dev will invoke the dev binary “as of” that commit, which should usually be the correct behavior. However, if the default behavior does not work for some reason, you can find all the built versions of dev under bin/dev-versions.

A (hopefully) fast and error proof dev workflow

TODO(a UI developer): fill in gaps for UI dev workflow

1. Switch to a new branch

2. If your workflow involves an IDE, generate your protos ./dev gen protobuf

  • Your IDE relies on generated files for many tasks (e.g. code navigation, IntelliSense, debugging), and will complain unless you have re-generated those files.

    • If you need to re-generate all generated go files, use the slower ./dev gen go

    • If the above fails, run the slowest ./dev gen to update all of your generated files.

    • You may recall that with make , this step was not necessary. If you’re curious why, see this slack thread.

3. Write some code!

  • If you add new files or imports, run ./dev gen bazel before compiling or running a test. compilepkg: missing strict dependencies: is usually the indicator that ./dev gen bazel needs to be re-run.

    • to skip this step, see tip below on ALWAYS_RUN_GAZELLE

  • Build the binary: ./dev build short

4. Run a test

  • On an IDE: your normal workflow should work if your generated files are up to date (See step 2).

  • From the command line: ./dev test [path/to/pkg] --filter [test_name]

5. Before opening/updating a PR:

  • Run ./dev lint --short (maybe additionally make lintshort as dev's linter doesn’t have 100% coverage yet)

  • Assert your workspace is clean by running ./dev gen bazel . If you modified other generated files, run the appropriate ./dev gen [file_type] command.

General Bazel tips

  • Bazel has a configuration file called .bazelrc. You can put a global configuration file at ~/.bazelrc or a per-repository file at .bazelrc.user in the root of your cockroach repo.

  • Tired of running ./dev gen bazel? Set the ALWAYS_RUN_GAZELLE env-var to automatically run ./dev gen bazel before every dev test or dev build incantation. Note this does add a tiny delay – noticeable when iterating on small tests through dev test.

    • i.e. echo 'export ALWAYS_RUN_GAZELLE=1' >> ~/.zshrc

  • If you have ccache installed, bazel will fail with an error like ccache: error: Failed to create temporary file for /home/alyshanjahani/.ccache/tmp/message_li.stdout: Read-only file system. To avoid this you should get the ccache links out of your PATH manually (i.e. uninstall ccache).

    • Alternatively, if you would like to use Bazel with ccache, you can enable support for writing outside the sandbox by adding the following to your $HOME/.bazelrc or <repo>/.bazelrc.user file:
      - For MacOS/Darwin:

      build --sandbox_writable_path=/Users/<USER>/Library/Caches/ccache/

      - For Linux:

      build --sandbox_writable_path=/home/<USER>/.ccache

If you’re using a different ccache directory (ccache --get-config cache_dir) point to that instead.

dev vs. Bazel

You can always use bazel directly instead of going through dev but there are some things you might want to keep in mind:

  • You should still ask dev doctor if your machine is up-to-snuff before you try to bazel build. The checks it performs aren’t dev-specific. dev doctor also sets up a local cache for you.

  • dev prints out the (relevant) calls to bazel it makes before it does so. You can therefore run dev once just to learn how to ask Bazel to perform your build/test and then just directly call into bazel on subsequent iterations.

    • When running tests under stress, race, or --rewritedev does the legwork to invoke with the necessary flags with bazel. This involves running under another binary (stress), running with certain gotags (race), or allowing certain paths outside the bazel sandbox to be written to (testdata). Feel free to see the actual bazel command invoked and tweak as necessary.

  • If you want to build with the UI, you must include the --config with_ui argument to bazel build. (dev takes care of this for you if you are using it.)

  • If you want to build a test without running it, you must include the the --config test argument to bazel build. (dev takes care of this for you if you are using it.)

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