Software Development

Replacing Bugzilla with Tuleap

Bugzilla has served the Eclipse Community well for many years, easily scaling to serve the needs of over 500 open source projects, servicing a community of thousands of software developers generating half of a million issue reports over close to two decades (I’m taking some liberties with that last one: it’s been about 17 years). When I say “easily”, I mean that our world-class IT team has made it look easy.

While generally robust, Bugzilla isn’t sexy, and it’s missing some valuable features. I’m also a little concerned that the team responsible for maintaining Bugzilla doesn’t seem to have the resources necessary to move Bugzilla forward (though, I’ll admit that I have only limited insight).

I’ve been investigating Tuleap, which is billed as “software development and project management tool”, as a potential successor to Bugzilla. Any effort to make Tuleap a first-class service for Eclipse projects will include the deprecation and eventual retirement of Bugzilla. Much like our migration from CVS to Git, I expect that project teams will start slowly adopting the new technology. Much like that other migration, the pace will likely pick up quickly as project teams see the benefits being reaped by the earlier adopters. This is how it will have to be: with project teams migrating themselves completely off Bugzilla and into the new system.

The criteria for picking a Bugzilla successor is pretty straightforward. Any new issue tracking software we adopt must:

  1. be able to import our existing issue (bug) data;
  2. be open source;
  3. have a strong community behind it; and
  4. provide equivalent functionality to what Bugzilla provides today.

Tuleap can import existing Bugzilla data directly, so that’s a huge win. We’ve discussed potential for synchronising data across systems, but that’s a big and expensive challenge that I’d really like to avoid. Once a team decides to move to Tuleap, the data will be moved and they’ll be off. This is an important consideration for project teams that might be considering participating in the ongoing proof of concept: we do have a means of moving your existing data from Bugzilla to Tuleap, but currently don’t have a means of making the return trip should we decide to move in a different direction.

Requiring that the replacement be open source is, I think, obvious. All of our public-facing systems are open source today and this will continue into the future.  Tuleap is 100% open source.

Having a strong community is important and ties into the open source requirement. Replacing Bugzilla is going to be a massive undertaking and we need to have confidence that the replacement that we choose has some staying power. Tuleap appears to have some large enterprise organizations adopting the technology, which is encouraging. We’ll expect to contribute to the open source project, but we need to be part of a community that plans to contribute and continue to evolve the product.

I think that it would be a mistake to look for a feature-to-feature replacement for Bugzilla. If we’re going to make this change, then we need to do some dreaming. Having said that, with my experimentation so far, I believe that Tuleap provides most of the fundamental functionality that we require.

A small number of our projects have started to independently evaluate the potential to use Tuleap. I’m certainly not an expert, but I’ve engaged with both the Tuleap project itself and several the Eclipse projects testing Tuleap via Tuleap as a user, so I’m starting to get a pretty good feel for it. So far, my experience has shown that it’s a pretty awesome bit of software and the projects that are currently using it seem to be moving along nicely.

Tuleap is more than an issue tracker. What I think sells a lot of project teams on Tuleap is the ability to engage in a full Scrum or Kanban process, but Tuleap provides all sorts of other services, including a wiki, document management, Git hosting, Gerrit integration, and more. It is relatively easy for a project team to create additional Git repositories from directly within the Tuleap interface. There is a notion of a project landing page that likely overlaps (at least a little) with the PMI; it may be worth investigating integration options (I’m not particularly keen on project teams being required to manage multiple landing pages on different services).

Tuleap provides fine-grained permissions which would make it relatively easy to, for example, give a project lead the ability to grant access to non-committer triagers (I believe that our various policies permit this sort of thing).

It is possible to add custom fields into a project team’s bucket to capture information that may be specific to the project. My understanding, however, is that the user experience for this sort of administrative task is not as refined as the user-facing interface. Customisation can be templated, which may make it possible to share some set of common customisations. But customisation introduces a troubling problem: since the source and target may have different customisation, moving issues from one team’s bucket to another team’s bucket is not currently supported: moving issues must be easy (especially considering the number of bugs that are incorrectly opened against JDT). Tuleap also does not currently provide an easy means of marking duplicates. According to the project team, these important features just haven’t been implemented yet. I’ve opened an artifact to track the need requirement to easily move issues.

Unfortunately, I believe that the abilities to move an issue from one project team to another, and to quickly and easily mark duplicates are critical to our adoption and so are show stoppers for the moment.

I have been trying to think a bit outside of the box. One of the bigger drivers for the need to be able to move issues is that the JDT team is the target for any and every issue that comes up in any variant of an Eclipse IDE that includes Java development tools. Maybe we can use adoption of a new issue tracking system as an opportunity to help our users find the right place to report issues without having to navigate our project structure. That’s going to require a lot of thought and energy from the community as a whole.

I think that Tuleap has a lot of potential, but we’re not quite ready for widespread adoption by Eclipse projects. I’ve managed to identify two show stoppers, but they’re point-in-time problems that will be addressed. I believe that we’re setting up a BoF at EclipseCon Europe 2016; if you’re using Tuleap now, or are interested in being a part of the decision making process for widespread adoption, please attend that session (and, of course, please do feel free to connect with me one-on-one at the conference). Please also to interact with the projects currently using Tuleap and let me know if your project is interested in participating in the experiment.

Finally, please join the discussion on Bug 497333.

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