[GHC DevOps Group] CircleCI status

Ben Gamari ben at well-typed.com
Wed Dec 12 23:21:27 UTC 2018

TL;DR. CircleCI's free tier will no longer include the large instances
       used by GHC CI starting next week.

Hello everyone,

Prompted by a rather surprisingly short-notice email from CircleCI I
just got off of the phone with them to discuss a change in their pricing
model. This new model, which they will be instituting later this week,
will users of medium+ and larger instances will no longer be covered
by the free tier of service which we currently use.

Currently we are using CircleCI for only a fraction of what we would
like to validate:

 * commit validation (which we have been checking manually while we
   transition to GitLab) in a handful of configuration
 * nightly intensive validation
 * release binary distributions (but don't yet produce all distributions via CI)

Ultimately we would like to also introduce merge request validation, which
will add a large volume of builds once implemented later this month.

However, even our current usage totals to around 2.5 million CircleCI
credits. Up to this point we have been covered by CircleCI's free tier
service. However, under the new pricing model the extra-large instances
which we use are no longer covered in the free tier.

Note that medium instances are still covered by the free tier service.
However, the GHC build on such an instance does not fit within
CircleCI's five hour build-time limit.

It seems we have a few options:

 a. Pay for our credits. The 2.5 million credits we used last month
    would cost approximately 2,400 USD/month. I asked CircleCI last
    summer and when I was on the phone with them today and they will not
    offer us a reduced price.

 b. Find another solution. Thankfully, the move to GitLab has freed us
    from any particular CI provider.

Happily, our CI setup is nearly fully Dockerised at this point, so
moving is quite straightforward. With the move to GitLab, we have no
need for the provisioning and queue management functionality that
CircleCI provides.

Finally, I find the 2,400 USD/month number to be extremely high given
the service we are getting. By comparison:

 * The machine sitting next to my desk cost ~$2,500, a couple hundred
   USD/year in electricity and yet finishes six builds in the time it
   takes a CircleCI XL instance to finish one.

 * A machine comparable to mine from Packet.net is only 700 USD/month

 * A EC2 instance comparable to the CircleCI XL would only amount to a
   few hundred USD/month.

 * A dedicated Hetzner box comparable to the XL is ~40 EUR/month

In my opinion, any of these solutions would be a better use of our
limited resources.

Regardless, I have convinced CircleCI to extend us a one-week trial
period allowing us a bit of breathing room. If necessary we can pay for
CircleCI on a month-by-month basis if we need additional time.

- Ben
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