Automating clearcase

One of the biggest pain points we have encountered on the current project I am on is the use of ClearCase by the dev team.  I won’t go into depth on the time we have wasted wrestling with this most frustrating of source control systems but will describe some of the things we have gotten to work that automate the tasks we previously had to do manually.

There are two pieces that we have automated that have made our lives easier:

Checking development branch is in-sync with main branch – This was a simple implementation but a fantastic means of notification. Main branch check ins happen infrequently within the development environment here (1-3 times a month) and there is supposed to be email notifications that get sent out each time but, as with anything, they can sometimes not get sent or just get lost in the daily email delude. As such, we setup a simple check that compares our branch to the main branch and checks to see if anything on the main branch has not been merged into our branch:

    <taskdef name="cc-findmerge" classname="">
        <classpath path="${customAnt.dir}/ccfindmergeanttask.jar" />
        <classpath path="${log4j.dir}/log4j-1.2.14.jar" />

    <target name="check-insync-with-clearcase-main" description="Checks that the view is up-to-date with the main branch">
        <cc-findmerge viewpath="${view.dir}" version="/main/LATEST" />

Here we are using the CCFindMerge task which compares the viewpath to the version and determines if a merge is required. If it is, it will cause the build to fail. We run this task on a nightly basis as part of a validation and metrics build and it gives us an instant heads up that something new has been checked into the main branch and we need to merge it.

Automating merge from dev branch into integration branch – The branching strategy at the client required that we do all development work in our development branch and then merge those changes into a shared integration branch. Since we are following an Agile methodology (and therefore commit code is small changes that are tested to work), we basically are able to merge into the integration branch on every succesful build of our development branch. Unfortunately, merging manually is a long process and was not worth the effort but we wondered if it would be possible to do an automated code merge on a nightly basis (is a fairly heavy process so don’t want it running on every checkin). Here is the solution we came up with:

  • Update the local copy of the integration branch with the latest codebase
  • Attempts to do an automated clearcase merge from our dev branch into the local copy of the integration branch
  • Find all files that have been checked out as a result of the automated merge attempt
  • If the automated merge was succesful, checkin all the files found
  • If the automated merge failed, undo all checkouts and fail the build

Rather than anything to fancy, most of these calls are done using the available command line interface from ClearCase – cleartool.exe. To do the auto merge attempt, we run the following ant target which puts the result of the command into a property called merge.outcome:

    <target name="merge-from-view" description="Attempts to merge 2 views - if merge is non-trivial, fails and undoes checkout" if="">
        <exec executable="cleartool.exe" failonerror="false" resultproperty="merge.outcome">
            <arg line="findmerge" />
            <arg line="${btweb.view.dir}" />
            <arg line="-fversion /main/${}/LATEST" />
            <arg line="-log NUL" />
            <arg line="-c 'Merging latest from ${}'" />
            <arg line="-unreserved" />
            <arg line="-merge" />

We then run a target to find all checkouts in the directory and put them into a property called checkout.files:

    <target name="find-checkouts" description="Finds all local checkouts">
        <exec executable="cleartool.exe" failonerror="true" outputproperty="checkout.files">
            <arg line="lscheckout" />
            <arg line="-cview" />
            <arg line="-recurse" />
            <arg line="-fmt '%n;'" />
            <arg line="${btweb.view.dir}" />
        <echo message="${checkout.files}" file="${btweb.view.dir}/mergeResult.log" />

Finally we use the property merge.outcome to determine if we should checkin or undo checkout of all the files in the checkout.files property:

    <target name="decide-merge" depends="decide-merge-outcome, checkin-files, undo-checkouts" />

    <target name="decide-merge-outcome">
            <equals arg1="${merge.outcome}" arg2="0" />
            <then />
                <property name="merge.failure" value="true"/>
    <target name="checkin-files" unless="merge.failure">
        <foreach target="checkin-file" param="file" inheritall="true" list="${checkout.files}" delimiter=";" />
    <target name="checkin-file">
        <echo message="Checking in changes to ${file}" />
        <cc-checkin viewpath="${file}" comment="ANT - checking in from merge of ${}" nowarn="true" keepcopy="false" identical="true" />
    <target name="undo-checkouts" if="merge.failure">
        <foreach target="undo-checkout" param="file" inheritall="true" list="${checkout.files}" delimiter=";" />

    <target name="undo-checkout">
        <echo message="trying to uncheckout ${file}" />
        <cc-uncheckout viewpath="${file}" keepcopy="false" failonerr="true" />

As well, we use the merge.outcome to determine if we should fail the build due to the inability to automatically merge the files:

    <target name="fail-if-merge-failed" if="merge.failure">
        <fail message="Merging of changes from ${} failed, all checkouts were undone - please attempt a manual merge" />

The process isn’t perfect and could do with a bit of improvement. It succeeds about 95% of the time to automatically merge the changes but when it fails, the undo-checkout command can often fail, especially when dealing with files that have been newly added or deleted. The other major issue is when the branch is being used in some way while the merge is attempted. If a user has a Reserved Checkout or if the branch is in use by another process (i.e. being checked out or backed up), the automatic merge attempt fails.