Running batch changes server-side is moving to beta


Running batch changes server-side is moving to beta. This feature was initially built to enable large customers to run batch changes on very large amounts of repositories. It also comes with UX improvements that will allow developers to iterate on batch changes more quickly. This feature requires installing executors, which comes with additional resource requirements and maintenance. Executors are like CI agents, that Sourcegraph uses to offload expensive tasks. Executors also power code intelligence auto-indexing. Running batch changes server-side is available both for self-hosted and Sourcegraph Cloud customers. Self-hosted customers need to deploy executors as part of their Sourcegraph deployment. Sourcegraph Cloud (a.k.a. managed instance) customers have managed executors available by default (Sourcegraph hosts those as part of the cloud offering).

What is running batch changes server-side?

Batch Changes is a way to apply and track code changes to many repositories and codehosts. Batch Changes users develop a code rewrite script, and Batch Changes takes care of applying it on many repos, open changesets, and provide a tracking dashboard.

A key step in this workflow today is that users run their batch change locally thanks to a local command line interface (src-cli). For large amounts of repositories or resource-intensive code rewrites, running src-cli locally could take an impractical amount of time or be brittle.

For example, a complex Java refactor could take 15 min to run per repository. Running it on a 1000 repositories would take 250 hours, which is an unreasonable amount of time.

Running batch changes server-side (beta) removes the need for running that CLI locally to create the batch changes. Instead, the batch change will be ran on one or multiple separate compute instance.

This feature requires to setup executors, which Sourcegraph will use to offload expensive tasks. The best way to think about executors is that they’re much like CI agents. Executors can also be used to run Code Intelligence auto-indexing.

Watch the session recording for a quick demo.

What are the benefits?

This feature mostly benefits end users of Batch Changes.

  • Main benefit: run large-scale or resource intensive batch changes. That will mostly benefit Enterprise or Strategic customers.
    • Offload running batch changes, to avoid clogging a local machine.
    • Run large batch changes faster by distributing them across an autoscaled pool of compute instances.
    • For example, a complex Java refactor could take 15 min to run per repository. Running it on a 1000 repositories would take 250 hours, which is an unreasonable amount of time. Distributing that to 20 executors would result in a much more reasonable runtime of 12h30.
  • Shorter iterations, better development experience. Get a better debugging experience, with logs being streamed directly into Sourcegraph. Fire and forget: start your batch change run, do something else on your local machine, and get back to it later.
  • Trade-off a little more setup for the Sourcegraph admin, against less setup for users (no local src-cli). Many end users get errors due to their local docker setup, slowing them down and requiring their Sourcegraph admin or Developer Experience team to step in. Running batch changes server-side removes that failure mode.

What customers are most likely to benefit?

  • All devs will benefit from having a frictionless experience. This makes Batch Changes much more approachable.
  • Large customers with 1,000s of repositories benefit most, because running Batch Changes at their scale is impractical without server-side runs.
  • All Batch Changes users benefit from the improved debugging experience, streaming logs, and not having to rely on a local setup.

What plan or pricing tier is this part of?

This is a free feature for all the customers of the Batch Changes add-on.

Why is it moving to Beta? Are there limitations?

  • It is moving to Beta after we got positive feedback from a few early adopters during the Experimental phase.
  • Limitations are listed out in the Running batch changes server-side docs.


Are there customers currently running batch changes server-side?

Yes. You can track this here

For self-hosted customers, running batch changes server-side requires customers to self-host executors. How much work is that?

  • Self-hosting executors requires customers to provision executors and upgrade them monthly at each Sourcegraph release. This requires some time from the site-admin.
  • We provide Terraform modules to install executors on AWS and GCP, making it relatively comfortable to spin them up and relatively automated to upgrade them. We also offer binaries that users can deploy wherever they want. See the documentation on what configuration is needed for each option.
  • Executors are also used for code-intel auto-indexing. While there’s an initial time investment to install them, they power two very useful features.

Are executors available on Cloud?

Executors are available by default on single-tenant Cloud (a.k.a. managed instances).

Do we have server-side pings?

Yes, but not yet available in Looker:

Why are we moving some workloads to executors?

  • Some workloads such as server-side runs or code-intel auto-indexing are very resource-intensive and potentially spiky. This is handled gracefully by executors as they can be autoscaled up or down.
  • Besides, batch changes run arbitrary user-provided code, so they need to be ran in isolation. Executors can provide the required isolation.

Executors are a beta technology. What does this mean for our customers?

See experimental and beta.

How do self-hosted customers deploy executors?

See deploying executors

How do Cloud customers use executors?

Executors are provided by default to every cloud customer. What that means is that server-side batch changes is on by default for all cloud customers.

Are there pricing implications for executors?

  • For self-hosted customers, executors are provided free of charge. Customers will have to self-host them though, which will cause infrastructure costs.
  • For cloud customers, 1 or more executors are included in their deployment by default, depending on their ARR. If customers need more executors that included, this will come at an extra charge as defined in the Sourcegraph billing page.

What are the most common complications/issues with deploying & using executors?

Executors are best run on GCP or AWS using our provided terraform modules. If a customer can’t or doesn’t want to use terraform and one of these Cloud providers, they need to take manual steps, outlined in the docs. These may change over the releases, so this has to be monitored and adjusted for. In the future, we will provide a more straightforward non-cloud-specific setup. When using firecracker KVM-level isolation (recommended for high security and the default on Sourcegraph Cloud), AWS instances need to be metal type instances (eg. m5.metal), as AWS doesn’t support nested virtualization. On self-managed bare metal machines, KVM support needs to be available for this feature. Customers have heterogenous requirements for infrastructure, and it’s likely we don’t cover all of them yet (like custom encryption, networking tweaks, etc). The provided terraform modules are designed to be as flexible as possible, but we are also happy to add more customization options if they are generalizable. Some customers chose to fork our modules to extend them for their use cases as well. Please reach out in #wg-shipping-executors, specifying the customer name and we’ll get in touch with them to evaluate their requirements.

How should issues with executors be escalated?

Executors are beta, and we encounter a very heterogenous customer setup, so it’s expected that executor-related questions will be escalated fast. Raise either via the normal channels, or in #wg-shipping-executors.

How many executors do customers need to run batch changes?

This highly depends on the number of concurrent batch changes, the nature of the batch changes, and the number of repositories per batch change. The general answers is the more executors the higher the throughput and the snappier the feedback cycle (workfloads will be executed fast), but also the more cost. To get an answer tailored to a customer, please collect the following and post in #wg-shipping-executors:

  • how many batch changes will be ran concurrently?
  • how many repos will be a typical batch change target
  • what’s the nature of the batch changes? What tool will be used to create the changes? Any specific requirements to run that tool (RAM, disk, CPU)?