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ASP.NET website Continuous Integration+Deployment using CruiseControl.NET, Subversion, MSBuild and Robocopy

You can setup continuous integration and automated deployment for your web application using CruiseControl.NET, Subversion, MSBuild and Robocopy. I will show you how you can automatically build the entire solution, email build report to developers and QA, deploy latest code in IIS all using CruiseControl.NET every N minutes.

First get the following:

  • CruiseControl.NET
  • Subversion (install the command line tools and add the Subversion bin path to PATH environment variable)
  • Robocopy (Windows Vista/2008 has it built-in, here's the link for Windows 2003)
  • Install .NET Framework. You need it for MSBuild.

You will learn how I have configured Continuous Integration and Deployment for my open source AJAX Portal project The code is hosted at CodePlex. When some developer makes a commit, CruiseControl downloads the latest code, builds the entire solution, emails build report and then deploys the latest web site to IIS 6.0.

After installing CruiseControl.NET, go to Programs -> Cruise Control -> CruiseControl.NET Config.

Now keep copying and pasting the following XML blocks and make sure you understand each block and make necessary changes:

   1: <cruisecontrol>
   2:     <project name="Dropthings" queue="DropthingsQueue" queuePriority="1">
   3:         <!-- 
   4:         Path to the trunk folder where the full solution starts from. This is where
   5:         subversion checkout and incremental update is performed 
   6:         -->
   7:         <workingDirectory>d:\cc\dropthings\code\trunk\</workingDirectory>
   8:         <!-- Some path where CCNet writes its logs and stuffs. It can be outside the log folder -->
   9:         <artifactDirectory>d:\cc\dropthings\artifact\</artifactDirectory>
  10:         <category>Dropthings</category>
  11:         <!-- CCNet installs a web dashboard. Enter the URL of that dashboard here -->
  12:         <webURL>http://localhost/ccnet/</webURL>
  13:         <modificationDelaySeconds>60</modificationDelaySeconds>
  14:         <labeller type="defaultlabeller">
  15:             <prefix>0.1.</prefix>
  16:             <incrementOnFailure>true</incrementOnFailure>
  17:             <labelFormat>000</labelFormat>
  18:         </labeller>
  19:         <state type="state" directory="State" />

First change the working directory. It needs to be the path of the folder where you will have the solution downloaded. I generally create folder structure like this:

  • D:\CC - Root for all CC.NET enabled projects
    • \ProjectName - Root project folder
      • \Code - Code folder where code is downloaded from subversion
      • \Artifact - CC.NET generates a lot of stuff. All goes here.

Next comes the Subversion integration block:

   1: <sourcecontrol type="svn">
   2:     <!-- Subversion trunk repository to keep checking for latest code -->
   3:     <trunkUrl>http://localhost:8081/</trunkUrl>
   4:     <workingDirectory></workingDirectory>
   5:     <username>***** SUBVERSION USER NAME *****</username>
   6:     <password>***** SUBVERSION PATH *****</password>
   7: </sourcecontrol>

Here specify the subversion location where you want to download code to the working folder. You should download the entire solution because you will be building the entire solution using MSBuild soon.

I left <workingDirectory> empty. This means whatever is specified earlier in the <workingDirectory> is used. Otherwise you can put some relative folder path here or any absolute folder.

Now we start building the tasks that CC.NET executes - Build, Email, and Deploy.

   1: <tasks>
   2:     <artifactcleanup   cleanUpMethod="KeepLastXBuilds"   cleanUpValue="5" />
   3:     <modificationWriter>
   4:         <filename>mods.xml</filename>
   5:         <path></path>
   6:     </modificationWriter>
   8:     <!-- MSBuild task to build a .msbuild file that basically builds a .sln file -->
   9:     <msbuild>
  10:         <executable>C:\windows\Microsoft.NET\Framework64\v3.5\MSBuild.exe</executable>
  11:         <workingDirectory></workingDirectory>
  12:         <projectFile>Dropthings.msbuild</projectFile>
  13:         <targets>Build</targets>
  14:         <timeout>300</timeout>
  15:         <logger>C:\Program Files (x86)\CruiseControl.NET\server\ThoughtWorks.CruiseControl.MsBuild.dll</logger>
  16:     </msbuild>

This block first says, keep artifacts for last 5 build and remove olders. Artifacts are like build reports, logs etc. You can increase the value for longer history.

Then the most important <msbuild> task. The executable path is to the MSBuild.exe. I am using .NET 3.5 Framework 64bit edition. You might have .NET 2.0 and 32bit version. So, set the right path here for the MSbuild.exe.

<projectFile> maps to a MSBuild file. It's a skeleton MSBuild file which basically says build this Visual Studio solution file. Here's how the msbuild file looks like:

<Project DefaultTargets="Build" xmlns="">
  <Target Name="Build"> 
    <!-- Rebuild entire solution -->
    <MSBuild Projects="Dropthings.sln" Targets="Rebuild" />

The Dropthings.msbuild and Dropthings.sln file exists in the same trunk folder. This file says - build Dropthings.sln and do a rebuild.

Now you got the build done. Next is to deploy it. You will be using robocopy to copy files from the code folder to a destination folder which is mapped in IIS to a website. Robocopy will do a synchronization of the directories. It will add new files, overwrite old files and removes files from destination folder which no longer exists in the source folder.

Before you can deploy, you need to stop the website or restart IIS. Otherwise some files may be in use and you will not be able to delete or overwrite the files. Here's how to stop IIS using the iisreset command line tool:

Stop IIS before copying over the latest web project files so that there's no write lock and IIS does not
start restarting the site half way through

If you do not want to stop the entire IIS, instead just stop a website and recycle an application pool, you can use the iisweb.vbs script for stopping a website and iisapp.vbs script for recycling application pool. Here's an example:

    <buildArgs>/stop "Dropthings"</buildArgs>
    <buildArgs> /a "Dropthings" /r</buildArgs>

You need to first register cscript as the default script runtime. In order to do this, go to command line and enter iisweb. It will tell you that it cannot use wscript to run this script and it needs to make cscript default. Let it make cscript as default.

Now the time to do the deployment of latest web site files. The following task launches robocopy to do the deployment:

Sync the web project folder with the deployment folder. The deployment folder is where IIS
is mapped to serve the site. The deployment folder is at the buildArgs node. The robocopy 
utility does an exact sync, adding new files, updating old files, deleting files that no longer
    <!--<executable>C:\Program Files (x86)\Windows Resource Kits\Tools\robocopy.exe</executable>-->
    <buildArgs>.\ d:\cc\Dropthings\Deploy *.* /E /XA:H /PURGE /XO /XD ".svn" /NDL /NC /NS /NP</buildArgs>

First you need to correct the robocopy.exe path. For Windows Vista/Windows 2008, keep it as it is. For Windows 2003, you need to specify the full path. You also need to remove the (x86) from the path if you have 32bit OS.

Next is the <baseDirectory>. This is relative to the working directory. It's the path of the website folder. Dropthings website folder is located under the Dropthings folder under trunk. So, I have specified Dropthings\ as the subfolder where the website files are located. You need to specify your project's website folder's relative path here form the <workingDirectory>.

Next change the path in the <buildArgs> node. First one is the source ".\" which you keep as it is. It means copy files from the baseDirectory. Next is the absolute path to the deployment folder where the web site is mapped in IIS. You can use both relative or absolute path here. While using relative path, just keep in mind the robocopy is running from the <workingDirectory>\<baseDirectory> folder.

After the path keep the *.* and the remaining flags intact. The flags mean:

  • Copy all subdirectories /E
  • Copy hidded files /XA:H
  • Do not copy old files /XO
  • Exclude .svn directory while copying files /XD ".svn"
  • Do not show list of files and directories being copie /NDL, /NC, /NP

After the deployment, you need to turn IIS back on or start the website that you stopped:

<!-- Turn IIS back on -->
    <buildArgs>/start "Dropthings"</buildArgs>

Now we got the build and deployment done. Next is to email a nice report to developers and QA. If build succeeds, email both developers and QA so that they can check out the latest build. But if build fails, email only developers.

    <xmllogger />
    <statistics />
    <!-- Email build report to development and QA team -->
    <email from="" mailhost="localhost" mailport="25" includeDetails="TRUE"
           mailhostUsername="" mailhostPassword="" useSSL="FALSE">
            <user name="Developer1" group="devs" address=""/>
            <user name="Developer2" group="devs" address=""/>
            <user name="Developer3" group="devs" address=""/>
            <user name="QA1" group="qa" address=""/>
            <user name="QA2" group="qa" address=""/>
            <user name="QA3" group="qa" address=""/>                    
            <group name="devs" notification="Always"/>
            <group name="qa" notification="Success"/>
            <!--<regexConverter find="$" replace="" />-->
    <modificationHistory  onlyLogWhenChangesFound="true" />

First you need to change the <email> tab where you specify the from address, mail server name, and optionally a user account for the email address that you need to use to send out emails.

Then edit the <users> node and put your developers and QA.

That's it! You got the configuration file done. Next step is to launch the CruiseControl.NET from Programs -> CruiseControl.NET -> CruiseControl.NET. It will launch a process that will execute the tasks according to the configuration. On Windows Vista, you will have to run it with Administrative privilege.

There's also a Windows Service that gets installed. It's named CruiseControl.NET. You can start the service as well on a server and go to sleep. It will do continuous integration and automated deployment for you.

There's also a web based Dashboard that you can use to force a build or stop a build or see detail build reports.


You can create multiple projects. You can have one project to build trunk code only, but do no deployment. Then you can create another project to build, deploy some branch that's ready for production. You can create another project to build and deploy on QA server and so on.

Here's the full configuration file that you can use as your baseline.


kick it on


mpeterson said:

Nice article.

There are many ways to do this. I am just using MSBuild and some custom tasks (using Source Safe), but it is good to have other options.

# October 6, 2008 11:01 AM

Aarush said:

If the cruise control is configured in a particular host say x. From this ccnet config script is there a way to start/stop iis in a different host say y which is my webclient.

# February 3, 2009 3:50 AM