Zevi Reinitz and Roy Razon from Livecycle contributed this guest post.
A collaborative workflow is essential for successful development — developers need a way to quickly and easily share their work, and team members need a quick way to review and provide feedback. The sooner developers can share changes and get clear feedback, the faster the feedback loop can be closed and the new code can be merged to production.
Livecycle’s Docker Extension makes it easy for developers to share their work-in-progress and collaborate with the team to get changes reviewed. With a single click, you can securely share your local development environment, and get it reviewed to ensure your code meets your team’s requirements. In this post, we provide step-by-step instructions for setting up and getting started with the Livecycle Docker Extension.
Meet Livecycle — A fast way for dev teams to collaborate
Livecycle enables development teams to collaborate faster, and in context. Generally, getting feedback on bug fixes and new features results in multiple iterations and long feedback loops between team members. Dev teams quickly struggle to have detailed discussions out of context, causing frustration and hurting productivity. Livecycle shortens the feedback loop by allowing you to share your work instantly and collect feedback immediately while everyone is still in context.
Livecycle’s open source tool, Preevy, integrates into your CI pipeline to convert your pull requests into public or private preview environments, provisioned on your cloud provider or Kubernetes cluster.
And, with the launch of our new Docker Desktop Extension, you can now do the same for your local development environment, by sharing it securely with your team and getting the review and feedback process started much earlier in the development lifecycle (Figure 1).
The Livecycle architecture can be presented as two possible flows — one that works in the CI and the other using the Docker Extension, as follows.
When running a CI build to create a preview environment for a pull request, for example, the Preevy CLI provisions a VM on your cloud provider or a Pod on your Kubernetes cluster, and it runs a Docker server, which hosts your Docker Compose project containers.
The Preevy CLI also starts a companion container, the Preevy Agent, which creates an SSH connection to the Preevy Tunnel Server. For every published port in your Docker Compose project, an SSH tunnel is created with its own HTTPS URL. When an HTTPS request arrives at the Tunnel Server, it gets routed to your specific service according to the hostname. If the service is defined as private, the Tunnel Server also handles authentication.
When using the Livecycle Docker Extension, the same Preevy CLI (bundled in the extension) is used to start the companion Preevy Agent on the local Docker Desktop server. A public or private URL is created for every published port in your Docker Compose project.
The Livecycle architecture is shown in Figure 2.
Why run Livecycle as a Docker Extension?
In the context of the development workflow, true collaboration is achieved when dev teams can share changes quickly and collect clear feedback from others on the team. If you can achieve both, you’re in excellent collaborative shape. If either the ability to share quickly or the ability to collect feedback is lacking, your team will not be able to collaborate effectively.
And that’s precisely the benefit of running Livecycle as a Docker Extension — to exploit both of these collaborative opportunities to the fullest extent possible:
- The fastest way to share changes at the earliest possible point: The Livecycle extension shares local containers without the headache of staging environments or CI builds. This is the fastest and earliest way to kick off a collaborative review cycle.
- The most convenient way to collect feedback from everyone: The Livecycle extension provides built-in review tools so anyone on the team can give technical or visual feedback in context.
More developers now see the benefits of a “shift-left” approach, and Docker’s native toolkit helps them do that. Using Livecycle as a Docker extension extends this concept further and brings a truly collaborative review cycle to an earlier part of the software development life cycle (SDLC). And that is something that can save time and also help benefit everyone on the team.
Getting started with the Livecycle Docker Extension
Getting started with the Livecycle Docker Extension is simple once you have Docker Desktop installed. Here’s a step-by-step walkthrough of the initial setup:
1. Installing the extension
Navigate to the Livecycle extension or search for “Livecycle” in the Docker Desktop Extensions Marketplace. Select Install to install the extension (Figure 3).
2. Setting up a Livecycle account
Once you have installed the extension and opened it, you will be greeted with a login screen (Figure 4). You can choose to log in with your GitHub account or Google account. If you previously used Livecycle and created an organization, you can log in with your Livecycle account.
3. Getting shareable URLs
As soon as you log in, you will be shown a list of running Docker Compose applications and all the services that are running in them. To get a public shareable URL for every service, turn on the toggle next to the compose application name. After that, you will be prompted to choose the access level (Figure 5).
You can choose between public and private access. If you choose public access, you will get a public URL to share with anyone. If you choose private access, you will get a private URL that requires authentication and can only be used by your organization members. Then, select Share to get the shareable URL (Figure 6).
4. Accessing the shared URL
URLs created by the extension are consistent, shareable, and can be used by a browser or any other HTTP client. Using these URLs, your team members can see and interact with your local version of the app as long as the tunnel is open and your workstation is running (Figure 7).
Private environments require adding team members to your organization, and upon access, your team members will be prompted to authenticate.
5. Accessing Livecycle dashboard
You can also access the Livecycle dashboard to see the logs and debug your application. Choose Open Link to open the Livecycle dashboard (Figure 8). On the dashboard, you can see all the running applications and services. The Livecycle dashboard requires authentication and organization membership, similarly to private environments/services.
6. Debugging, inspecting, and logging
Once you have opened the Livecycle dashboard, you will see all the environments/apps that are running. Select the name of the environment for which you want to see the logs, terminal, etc. You can view the logs, terminal, and container inspection for each service (Figure 9).
That’s it! You have successfully installed the Livecycle Docker Extension and shared your local development environment with your team.
Flexibility to begin collaborating at any point
Livecycle is flexible by design and can be added to your workflow in several ways, so you can initiate collaborative reviews at any point.
Our Docker extension extends this flexibility even more by enabling teams working on dockerized applications to shift the review process much farther left than ever before — while the code is still on the developer’s machine.
This setup means that code changes, bug fixes, and new features can be reviewed instantly without the hassle of staging environments or CI builds. It also has the potential to directly impact a company’s bottom line by saving time and improving code quality.
Common use cases
Let’s look at common use cases for the Livecycle Docker Extension to illustrate its benefit to development teams.
- Instant UI Reviews: Livecycle enables collaboration between developers and non-technical stakeholders early in the workflow. Using the Livecycle extension, you can get instant feedback on the latest front-end changes you’re working on your machine.
Opening a tunnel and creating a shareable URL enables anyone on the team to use a browser to access the relevant services securely. Designers, QA, marketing, and management can view the application and use built-in commenting and collaboration tools to leave clear, actionable feedback.
- Code reviews and debugging: Another common use case is enabling developers to work together to review and debug code changes as soon as possible. Using the Livecycle extension, you can instantly share any front-end or back-end service running on your machine.
Your team can securely access services to see real-time logging, catch errors, and execute commands in a terminal, so you can collaboratively fix issues much earlier in the development lifecycle.
Livecycle’s Docker Extension makes it easy to share your work in progress and quickly collaborate with your team. And tighter feedback loops will enable you to deliver higher quality code faster.
If you’re currently using Docker for your projects, you can use the Livecycle extension to easily share them without deployment/CI dependencies.