It has been seven years since we first introduced the native packages for Gerrit Code Review. At that time, Docker was just two years old and was starting to pick up momentum: the native packages found their first incarnation in the Gerrit Code Review base on images published on DockerHub.
Since then, Gerrit has always been released as both a “plain vanilla” war file and the equivalent “native packaging” flavors, including the base Docker images.
In the beginning, the release managers mainly used the Gerrit Docker images to simulate pre-configured test environments for testing purposes. However, the adoption spiked up when Kubernetes and AWS Container Services (aka ECS) started to become mainstream.
Nowadays, the Gerrit base images on Dockerhub are pulled millions of times and used as the baseline for creating Enterprise-grade setups, like in the aws-gerrit recipes.
x86 Native Packaging
Even though it wasn’t initially thought off, the native packages ended up mainly in x86-based containers, even though Gerrit is a 100% pure-Java application. How was that possible?
- Dependencies: gerrit.sh requires some basic OS services to work properly, including the native git command line.
- Build & testing: the build of gerrit.war and associated testing was always performed on x86, also due to the restrictions of the platform supported by Bazel at that time.
ARM-64 takes off
The ARM processor comes from the historical legacy of Acorn Computers Ltd, a British-born company of the 80s, well known for the BBC Micro project. Back in the 90s, a new joint venture was created with Apple Computer and VLSI Technology to design a brand-new Advanced Risc Machine (aka ARM).
Over time, ARM has created first a 32-bit architecture and subsequently a 64-bit architecture processor, well known and appreciated for its low-power consumption and performance efficiency.
Whilst Intel, with its x86 architecture, dominated the desktop and the server market, the ARM architecture found its natural market space in the low-power devices and, more recently, the mobile phones market.
Apple goes ARM-64, everywhere
Apple initially adopted the ARM architecture on its mobile phones and portable devices, licensing the instruction set to build its microchips in 2010. Ten years later, Apple announced it was also transitioning all the other desktop devices to its ARM-based silicon.
Nowadays, nearly all Apple laptops are on ARM and the other devices are migrating to that too. The applications are rapidly adapting to the new instruction set and getting rebuilt quickly, gaining in both performance and increased battery life.
Cloud services are moving to ARM-64 too.
The move from x86 to ARM-64 brings noticeable advantages in terms of costs and energy efficiency has been recently amplified by the increase in the costs of electricity triggered by the spiked wholesale prices of oil, gas, and other fossil fuel.
Gerrit has always put high performance and low operating costs at the top of its agenda, allowing companies to keep their development teams highly productive with minimum dedicated staff looking after the system.
Now it is also time to reduce the Gerrit Code Review Cloud hosting costs and increase efficiency while preserving all the benefits that Gerrit brings.
Introducing ARM-64 native packages for Gerrit Code Review
Gerrit Code Review native packages are now available for ARM-64 on all its recent releases, from v3.4.8 onwards. If you are currently running on x86, you can easily switch to ARM-64 transparently by just rebuilding from the base image. All the DockerHub images have been repackaged and republished:
Gerrit Native packages on bare-metal
If you are running Gerrit native packages on bare-metal, you would need to setup the GerritForge’s updated RPM repository:
rpm -i https://gerritforge.com/gerritforge-repo-1-4.noarch.rpm
On Debian, just refresh the repository cache with ‘apt-get update‘ and the new packages will automatically show-up and be available for setup.
Because this is a repackaging of the existing Gerrit release, the 4th number of the package name has been updated, e.g., gerrit-3.4.8-2 is the package name associated with the ARM-64 compatible package.
Ready to switch to ARM-64?
The Gerrit maintainers have already switched to ARM-64 with the recent wave of MacBook upgrades: all the non-EOL Gerrit releases are typically developed on Apple M1 or M2 which are based on ARM-64 rather than x86.
The need to reduce costs and the overall carbon footprint of the Gerrit project would most likely drive the CI agents’ switch to ARM-64 very soon.
Are you ready to switch to ARM-64 to reduce your operating costs and help the planet by reducing your Gerrit consumption?
Q1. Are Gerrit on x86 and ARM-64 compatible in terms of data?
Yes, because the underlying data structure is platform-independent and is all based on Git, which is already interoperable cross-platform.
Q2. Can I mix&match x86 and ARM-64 Gerrit nodes?
Yes, by adopting the Gerrit multi-site setup, you can configure and host different sites on different architectures.
Q3. Will Gerrit on x86 continue to be supported?
Yes, because we want to allow the Gerrit administrator to choose the most suitable platform for his users and compatible with his Company’s requirements.
Luca Milanesio – GerritForge
Gerrit Code Review Maintainer
Gerrit Code Review Release Manager