As of Bazel 2.1, you can now use any locally-available Xcode version with dynamic execution! Read on to learn more about why we created this new functionality, how it works, why you would (or wouldn’t) want to use it, and how to opt into it if you do.
Setting the scene
One of our major projects in the last year has been improving build times for interactive iOS builds by adding support for the Google-internal remote execution service from Mac. Combined with dynamic execution, which helps mitigate deficiencies in our remote Mac executors by running some actions locally, we are now able to deliver the best possible clean and incremental build times.
This was a hands down performance improvement, but users kept opting out. Why? Were they nostalgic for slower builds?
Bazel performs Xcode selection based on the
--xcode_config takes an instance of the
xcode_config rule, which contains information about the default and available Xcode versions, and selects a single Xcode version to be used. The selected Xcode is either the value of the
--xcode_version flag, if it’s available, otherwise it’s the default version of the
xcode_config rule also validates the values of both flags.
xcode_config rule takes a list of
xcode_version targets for its
versions attribute, and a single
xcode_version as the
default, like this:
xcode_version( name = ‘xcode10.2’ version = ‘10.2.1’ ) xcode_version( name = ‘xcode11.1’, version = ‘11.1’ ) xcode_config( name = ‘my_config’, default = ‘xcode10.2’, versions = [‘:xcode10.2’ ,’:xcode11.1’] )
This shape works well for purely local or purely remote builds---that is, any case when all of the possible Xcodes are on a single platform.
However, having a single pool of Xcode versions doesn’t really express the reality for dynamic execution, where the remote and local platforms have separate, and potentially disjoint, sets of Xcode versions available.
To make this rule shape work with dynamic execution, we used an
--xcode_config that just contained the remotely available Xcode versions, then required our users to have the selected Xcode version (either
--xcode_version or the remote default) installed on their machines.
What’s wrong with that?
There are two problems here.
First of all, the default version has no awareness of the locally available Xcode versions, which means that Bazel could choose an Xcode version that wasn’t available locally, and then fail to build. This was frustrating to developers, exacerbated by the fact that the resulting error message made it seem like they’d passed an invalid
--xcode_version. We needed Bazel to select a more intelligent default.
More importantly, requiring that the selected Xcode version be available both locally and remotely was problematic for developers who needed to use the newest Xcode version before that Xcode version was available remotely. A common problem was that an engineers’ devices would auto-update to require the newest Xcode version, while we were still vetting and deploying that version to the remote build system, a process that could take weeks. Developers would disable dynamic remote builds, tolerate very slow local builds, and, not knowing when their Xcode version became remotely and they could re-enable dynamic execution, would suffer poor performance forever. We needed to figure out how to enable users to use the Xcode version of their choice, without requiring them to disable dynamic remote builds.
The solution we chose took two parts: * Adapting the Xcode config rule to better express the Xcode versions available for dynamic scheduling. * Configuring dynamic execution to tolerate local- or remote-only Xcode versions, by setting action execution requirements based on the availability of the selected Xcode.
The new xcode_config rule
We first introduced a new rule,
available_xcodes, which takes the same fields as the original
xcode_config rule shape, but exposes them all instead of performing Xcode selection.
xcode_version( name = ‘xcode10.2’, version = ‘10.2.1’ ) xcode_version( name = ‘xcode11.1’, version = ‘11.1’ ) available_xcodes( name = ‘local_xcodes’, default = ‘xcode10.2’, versions = [‘:xcode10.2’ ,’:xcode11.1’] ) available_xcodes( name = ‘remote_xcodes’, default = ‘xcode11.1’, versions = [,’:xcode11.1’] )
Does that look familiar?
We then modified the
xcode_config rule to accept two
available_xcodes dependencies to represent the locally and remotely available Xcode versions. Note that this new shape doesn’t accept the original attributes,
versions. These concepts are reflected in the
xcode_config( name = ‘my_config’, local_versions = ‘:local_xcodes’, remote_versions = ‘remote_xcodes’ )
Xcode version selection
xcode_config shapes select the value of
--xcode_version if it’s present, or else the default. They differ, however, in what constitutes the default, and in the behavior if the selected Xcode is only present on a single platform.
You might remember that we were using the remote
xcode_config with dynamic execution, which resulted in build failures if the default (remote) version wasn’t available locally. We addressed this issue firstly by having the new
xcode_config set a mutually available Xcode version as the default if possible (otherwise the default of the
local_versions target), and secondly by allowing selection of any Xcode version present in
A mutually available Xcode should result in the best performance, since it enables both local and remote execution, and since some actions (e.g. Swift compiles) must be executed locally, the local default is the next best thing. Xcode version selection occurs in this order, mutual first, then local default, but you can skip straight to the local default by passing
Since the new
xcode_config requires both dependencies to be set, we will never default to a remote-only Xcode version. We considered allowing a remote-only Xcode version in the absence of a locally available Xcode, but decided that preventing builds from failing cryptically if there was no Xcode to execute local actions was more important than providing the flexibility for dynamic execution to behave like a purely remote strategy.
Configuring dynamic execution
The last piece is having Bazel execute actions in the right location based on the availability of the selected Xcode. If we’ve selected a local-only or remote-only Xcode, either via
--xcode_version or by accepting the default, we want to keep the dynamic scheduler from trying to execute Xcode-related actions on the other system.
We considered bypassing the dynamic scheduler by setting an overall execution strategy based on the Xcode availability. However, we do want to be able to use either platform for actions that don’t care about Xcodes (plus, this proposal was pretty complicated to implement).
Instead, we had the dynamic scheduler set the execution strategy on a per-action basis. We did this by having the
XcodeConfig provide a list of execution requirements, including location-based restrictions like
no-remote. Implementations of rules that depend on
XcodeConfig were modified to propagate these execution requirements to the actions they produce. The dynamic scheduler then checks each action for its location-based requirements, and disables the incompatible execution location, if there is one.
If you use dynamic execution, you should use the new
xcode_config rule shape to get more flexibility, better defaults, and more reasonable error messages!
You should still use the old
xcode_config shape for local-only or remote-only builds.
We’re excited to roll this out internally, so more developers can reap the benefits of dynamic scheduling.