Partial Update Generation


Windows, Mac and Linux releases have partial updates, to reduce the file size end-users have to download in order to receive new versions. These are created using a docker image, some Python, mbsdiff, and the tools in tools/update-packaging

The task has been called ‘Funsize’ for quite some time. This might make sense depending on what brands of chocolate bar are available near you.

How the Task Works

Funsize uses a docker image that’s built in-tree, named funsize-update-generator. The image contains some Python to examine the task definition and determine what needs to be done, but it downloads tools like mar and mbsdiff from either locations specified in the task definition, or default mozilla-central locations.

The ‘extra’ section of the task definition contains most of the payload, under the ‘funsize’ key. In here is a list of partials that this specific task will generate, and each entry includes the earlier (or ‘from’) version, and the most recent (or ‘to’) version, which for most releases will likely be a taskcluster artifact.

   "to_mar": "",
   "product": "Firefox",
   "dest_mar": "target-60.0b8.partial.mar",
   "locale": "ach",
   "from_mar": "",
   "update_number": 2,
   "platform": "linux32",
   "previousVersion": "60.0b8",
   "previousBuildNumber": "1",
   "branch": "mozilla-beta"

The ‘update number’ indicates how many released versions there are between ‘to’ and the current ‘from’. For example, if we are building a partial update for the current nightly from the previous one, the update number will be 1. For the release before that, it will be 2. This lets us use generic output artifact names that we can rename in the later beetmover tasks.

Inside the task, for each partial it has been told to generate, it will download, unpack and virus scan the ‘from_mar’ and ‘to_mar’, download the tools, and run from tools/update-packaging.

If a scope is given for a set of temporary S3 credentials, the task will use a caching script, to allow re-use of the diffs made for larger files. Some of the larger files are not localised, and this allows us to save a lot of compute time.

For Releases

Partials are made as part of the promote task group. The previous versions used to create the update are specified in ship-it by Release Management.

Data About Partials

Some metrics are collected in Datadog about partial update tasks. The prefix used is releng.releases.partials, so the relevant metric names will all start with that.

Some dashboards in Datadog are public, some require a login. If you need access, file a bug under ‘Cloud Services :: Operations: Metrics/Monitoring’

Some examples of potentially useful metrics:

  • releng.releases.partials.partial_mar_size (tagged with branch, platform and update-number)
  • releng.releases.partials.task_duration - the time the task took, running partial generation concurrently.
  • releng.releases.partials.generate_partial.time - the time taken to make one partial update

Nightly Partials

Since nightly releases don’t appear in ship-it, the partials to create are determined in the decision task. This was controversial, and so here are the assumptions and reasons, so that when an alternative solution is discovered, we can assess it in context:

  1. Balrog is the source of truth for previous nightly releases.
  2. Re-running a task should produce the same results.
  3. A task’s input and output should be specified in the definition.
  4. A task transform should avoid external dependencies. This is to increase the number of scenarios in which ‘mach taskgraph’ works.
  5. A task graph doesn’t explicitly know that it’s intended for nightlies, only that specific tasks are only present for nightly.
  6. The decision task is explicitly told that its target is nightly using the target-tasks-method argument.
  1. From 2 and 3, this means that the partials task itself cannot query balrog for the history, as it may get different results when re-run, and hides the inputs and outputs from the task definition.
  2. From 4, anything run by ‘mach taskgraph’ is an inappropriate place to query Balrog, even if it results in a repeatable task graph.
  3. Since these restrictions don’t apply to the decision task, and given 6, we can query Balrog in the decision task if the target-tasks-method given contains ‘nightly’, such as ‘nightly_desktop’ or ‘nightly_linux’

Using the decision task involves making fewer, larger queries to Balrog, and storing the results for task graph regeneration and later audit. At the moment this data is stored in the parameters under the label release_history, since the parameters are an existing method for passing data to the task transforms, but a case could be made for adding a separate store, as it’s a significantly larger number of records than anything else in the parameters.

Nightly Partials and Beetmover

A release for a specific platform and locale may not have a history of prior releases that can be used to build partial updates. This could be for a variety of reasons, such as a new locale, or a hiatus in nightly releases creating too long a gap in the history.

This means that the partials and partials-signing tasks may have nothing to do for a platform and locale. If this is true, then the tasks are filtered out in the transform.

This does mean that the downstream task, beetmover-repackage can not rely on the partials-signing task existing. It depends on both the partials-signing and repackage-signing task, and chooses which to depend on in the transform.

If there is a history in the parameters release_history section then beetmover-repackage will depend on partials-signing. Otherwise, it will depend on repackage-signing.

This is not ideal, as it results in unclear logic in the task graph generation. It will be improved.