Fabien Huitelec

Replay a Jenkins build pipeline locally

January 24, 2017

Let me introduce you, in a nutshell, a way to iterate on a Jenkins pipeline on your local machine.

Don’t get me wrong, the Replay feature is great, but only when you deal with one Jenkinsfile. If you have 1+ groovy files and the Jenkinsfile, it becomes a nightmare.

When developing a complex build pipeline, we all have our time-consuming routine with a text editor, git and + Tab / Alt + Tab to switch between CLI and Jenkins UI. Let’s see what I had to do, on each iteration, for the last build pipeline I built:

# Just edited Jenkinsfile dealing with some deploy when merging on master
git add Jenkinsfile lib/jenkins/Servers.groovy # git add 
git commit -m "WIP build pipeline" # git commit
git push origin master --force # previously rebased 50 "WIP build pipeline" in git history
                               # push force on master, yolo

# Wait for the build to be triggered
# ⌘ + Tab
# 3 clicks on Jenkins to get the build output
# Build failed, there's a freaking typo in on the sh() I added

# And so on

Basic knowledge

I’ll take for granted that you know how to use docker and docker-compose and that you know the basics of Jenkins and Jenkins Pipelines.

Prep time

Get your docker stack ready.o published ports on:

  • 80 (Jenkins web UI
  • 2222 (Jenkins SSH CLI
  • 8181 (Jetty server for the example)

I forked the official Jenkins workflow demo: you can view/get the sources here to get a sense of this article.

Quick note: the Makefile recipes are just here to help a bit, you might want to build your own dev-oriented Jenkins image with more advanced scripted helpers.

That being said, let’s run Jenkins. To make things easier, there’s a docker-compose file mounting the repository:

docker-compose -p jenkins -f infrastructure/docker-compose.yml up -d

Let’s dig in!

A CLI you said?

That’s right, Jenkins comes with a CLI, partly accessible via SSH on a port exposed by Jenkins itself or via a jar executable you can get from your Jenkins instance.

As I read in the documentation, the SSH accessor have some limits, so I will stick with the bare CLI.

“How do I get the CLI?”, I hear you say. No more suspense:

wget http://localhost/jnlpJars/jenkins-cli.jar

But we don’t need it locally, we want it accessible in the container, so run a make init that does the following:

docker exec -i jenkins_jenkins_1 bash -c ' \
  cd /application/vendor/jenkins && \
  wget http://localhost:8080/jnlpJars/jenkins-cli.jar \

To be able to replay the build pipeline, you can see in infrastructure/docker-compose.yml, I bound the repository as a volume so we are going to use the CLI inside the container in the mounted directory called /application.

Push no more

In the following example, I’ll use a custom library import Servers.groovy to see how we replay a handful of scripts.

We are going to edit these files to try the CLI:

  • In bin/Jenkinsfile, let’s add a dummy sh(echo Toto)
  • In demo/lib/src/demo/Servers.groovy, let’s replace String id = UUID.randomUUID().toString() by String id = "tmp-${UUID.randomUUID()}"

Usually, it would be:

git add .
git commit -m "WIP build pipeline"
git push origin master

# Wait the build to be triggered
# ⌘ + Tab
# Wait for the build to end


make cli-replay # ⌘ + Tab - Wait the build

Under the hood, it uses your Jenkins instance CLI:

docker exec -i jenkins_jenkins_1 bash -c ' \
  java -jar /application/vendor/jenkins/jenkins-cli.jar -s http://localhost:8080 \
  replay-pipeline cd/master \
  -s Jenkinsfile < /application/demo/repo/Jenkinsfile \
  -s demo.Servers < /application/demo/lib/src/demo/Servers.groovy \

Decrypting the command

# Use your docker instance to run the commands below
docker exec -i jenkins_jenkins_1 bash -c

# Run locally (in the container, Jenkins runs on 8080) Jenkins CLI
# on your running instance
java -jar /application/vendor/jenkins/jenkins-cli.jar -s http://localhost:8080

# Run the command `replay-pipeline` on the cd item and master branch
replay-pipeline cd/master

# Replace the Script "Jenkinsfile" with the updated file in input
-s Jenkinsfile < /application/demo/repo/Jenkinsfile

# Same as above, use the Script "demo.Servers" and replace it with the input
-s demo.Servers < /application/demo/lib/src/demo/Servers.groovy


You have to explicitly tell to the CLI which scripts to rerun and replace the script via the input (<): using a little script might not be a bad idea.

Don’t follow to the letter the official Cloudbees blog post or even the Jenkins one: they wrote -s Script1 < some_file but you have to specify the filenames used by the Pipeline.

For the Jenkinsfile, it’s quite simple: Jenkinsfile. For external libraries, it is their FQCN ; for Servers, in this example, it’s its package name demo and the classname Servers: demo.Servers.

I had a hard time figuring this out.

Final notes

This article and related repository are far from being bulletproof but it’s a good introduction on how to use Jenkins CLI to make build pipeline conception workflow more fluid.

Fabien Huitelec