Use Azure Container Instances as a Jenkins build agent

Azure Container Instances (ACI) provides an on-demand, burstable, and isolated environment for running containerized workloads. Because of these attributes, ACI makes a great platform for running Jenkins build jobs at a large scale. This article walks through deploying and using a Jenkins server that's pre-configured with ACI as a build target.

For more information on Azure Container Instances, see About Azure Container Instances.

Deploy a Jenkins server

  1. In the Azure portal, select Create a resource and search for Jenkins. Select the Jenkins offering with a publisher of Microsoft, and then select Create.

  2. Enter the following information on the Basics form, and then select OK.

    • Name: Enter a name for the Jenkins deployment.
    • User name: Enter a name for the admin user of the Jenkins virtual machine.
    • Authentication type: We recommend an SSH public key for authentication. If you select this option, paste in an SSH public key to be used for logging in to the Jenkins virtual machine.
    • Subscription: Select an Azure subscription.
    • Resource group: Create a resource group or select an existing one.
    • Location: Select a location for the Jenkins server.

    Basic settings for Jenkins portal deployment

  3. On the Additional Settings form, complete the following items:

    • Size: Select the appropriate sizing option for your Jenkins virtual machine.
    • VM disk type: Specify either HDD (hard-disk drive) or SSD (solid-state drive) for the Jenkins server.
    • Virtual network: Select the arrow if you want to modify the default settings.
    • Subnets: Select the arrow, verify the information, and select OK.
    • Public IP address: Select the arrow to give the public IP address a custom name, configure the SKU, and set the assignment method.
    • Domain name label: Specify a value to create a fully qualified URL to the Jenkins virtual machine.
    • Jenkins release type: Select the desired release type from the options: LTS, Weekly build, or Azure Verified.

    Additional settings for Jenkins portal deployment

  4. For service principal integration, select Auto(MSI) to have managed identities for Azure resources automatically create an authentication identity for the Jenkins instance. Select Manual to provide your own service principal credentials.

  5. Cloud agents configure a cloud-based platform for Jenkins build jobs. For the sake of this article, select ACI. With the ACI cloud agent, each Jenkins build job is run in a container instance.

    Cloud integration settings for Jenkins portal deployment

  6. When you're done with the integration settings, select OK, and then select OK again on the validation summary. Select Create on the Terms of use summary. The Jenkins server takes a few minutes to deploy.

Configure Jenkins

  1. In the Azure portal, browse to the Jenkins resource group, select the Jenkins virtual machine, and take note of the DNS name.

    DNS name in details about the Jenkins virtual machine

  2. Browse to the DNS name of the Jenkins VM and copy the returned SSH string.

    Jenkins login instructions with SSH string

  3. Open a terminal session on your development system, and paste in the SSH string from the last step. Update username to the username that you specified when you deployed the Jenkins server.

  4. After the session is connected, run the following command to retrieve the initial admin password:

    sudo cat /var/lib/jenkins/secrets/initialAdminPassword
  5. Leave the SSH session and tunnel running, and go to http://localhost:8080 in a browser. Paste the initial admin password into the box, and then select Continue.

    "Unlock Jenkins" screen with the box for the administrator password

  6. Select Install suggested plugins to install all recommended Jenkins plugins.

    "Customize Jenkins" screen with "Install suggested plugins" selected

  7. Create an admin user account. This account is used for logging in to and working with your Jenkins instance.

    "Create First Admin User" screen, with credentials filled in

  8. Select Save and Finish, and then select Start using Jenkins to complete the configuration.

Jenkins is now configured and ready to build and deploy code. For this example, a simple Java application is used to demonstrate a Jenkins build on Azure Container Instances.

Create a build job

Now, a Jenkins build job is created to demonstrate Jenkins builds on an Azure container instance.

  1. Select New Item, give the build project a name such as aci-demo, select Freestyle project, and select OK.

    Box for the name of the build job, and list of project types

  2. Under General, ensure that Restrict where this project can be run is selected. Enter linux for the label expression. This configuration ensures that this build job runs on the ACI cloud.

    "General" tab with configuration details

  3. Under Build, select Add build step and select Execute Shell. Enter echo "aci-demo" as the command.

    "Build" tab with selections for the build step

  4. Select Save.

Run the build job

To test the build job and observe Azure Container Instances as the build platform, manually start a build.

  1. Select Build Now to start a build job. It takes a few minutes for the job to start. You should see a status that's similar to the following image:

    "Build History" information with job status

  2. While the job is running, open the Azure portal and look at the Jenkins resource group. You should see that a container instance has been created. The Jenkins job is running inside this instance.

    Container instance in the resource group

  3. As Jenkins runs more jobs than the configured number of Jenkins executors (default 2), multiple container instances are created.

    Newly created container instances

  4. After all build jobs have finished, the container instances are removed.

    Resource group with container instances removed

Troubleshooting the Jenkins plugin

If you encounter any bugs with the Jenkins plugins, file an issue in the Jenkins JIRA for the specific component.

Next steps

To learn more about Jenkins on Azure, see Azure and Jenkins.