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Configuring CI/CD to generate and publish TechDocs sites

In the Recommended deployment setup, TechDocs reads the static generated documentation files from a cloud storage bucket (GCS, AWS S3, etc.). The documentation site is generated on the CI/CD workflow associated with the repository containing the documentation files. This document explains the steps needed to generate docs on CI and publish to a cloud storage using techdocs-cli.

The steps here target all kinds of CI providers (GitHub Actions, CircleCI, Jenkins, etc.). Specific tools for individual providers will also be made available here for simplicity (e.g. a GitHub Actions runner, CircleCI orb, etc.).

A summary of the instructions below looks like this -

# This is an example script

# Prepare
cd repo

# Install @techdocs/cli, mkdocs and mkdocs plugins
npm install -g @techdocs/cli
pip install "mkdocs-techdocs-core==1.*"

# Generate
techdocs-cli generate --no-docker

# Publish
techdocs-cli publish --publisher-type awsS3 --storage-name <bucket/container> --entity <Namespace/Kind/Name>

That's it!

Take a look at techdocs-cli for the complete command reference, details, and options.


1. Setup a workflow

The TechDocs workflow should trigger on CI when any changes are made in the repository containing the documentation files. You can be specific and configure the workflow to be triggered only when files inside the docs/ directory or mkdocs.yml are changed.

2. Prepare step

The first step on the CI is to clone your documentation source repository in a working directory. This is almost always the first step in most CI workflows.

On GitHub Actions, you can add a step

- uses: actions@checkout@v3.

On CircleCI, you can add a special checkout step.

Eventually we are trying to do a git clone <https://path/to/docs-repository/>.

3. Generate step

Install npx to use it for running techdocs-cli. Or you can install using npm install -g @techdocs/cli.

We are going to use the techdocs-cli generate command in this step.

npx @techdocs/cli generate --no-docker --source-dir PATH_TO_REPO --output-dir ./site

PATH_TO_REPO should be the location in the file path where the prepare step above clones the repository.

4. Publish step

Depending on your cloud storage provider (AWS, Google Cloud, or Azure), set the necessary authentication environment variables.

And then run the techdocs-cli publish command.

npx @techdocs/cli publish --publisher-type <awsS3|googleGcs> --storage-name <bucket/container> --entity <namespace/kind/name> --directory ./site

The updated TechDocs site built in this workflow is now ready to be served by the TechDocs plugin in your Backstage app.

Example: GitHub Actions CI and AWS S3

Here is an example workflow using GitHub Actions CI and AWS S3 storage. You can use any CI and any other TechDocs supported cloud storage providers.

Add a .github/workflows/techdocs.yml file in your Software Template(s) like this -

name: Publish TechDocs Site

branches: [main]
# You can even set it to run only when TechDocs related files are updated.
# paths:
# - "docs/**"
# - "mkdocs.yml"

runs-on: ubuntu-latest

# The following secrets are required in your CI environment for publishing files to AWS S3.
# e.g. You can use GitHub Organization secrets to set them for all existing and new repositories.
AWS_REGION: ${{ secrets.AWS_REGION }}
ENTITY_KIND: 'Component'
ENTITY_NAME: 'my-doc-entity'
# In a Software template, Scaffolder will replace {{cookiecutter.component_id | jsonify}}
# with the correct entity name. This is same as in the entity's catalog-info.yaml
# ENTITY_NAME: '{{ cookiecutter.component_id | jsonify }}'

- name: Checkout code
uses: actions/checkout@v3

- uses: actions/setup-node@v3
- uses: actions/setup-python@v4
python-version: '3.9'

# the 2 steps below can be removed if you aren't using plantuml in your documentation
- name: setup java
uses: actions/setup-java@v3
distribution: 'zulu'
java-version: '11'
- name: download, validate, install plantuml and its dependencies
run: |
curl -o plantuml.jar -L
echo "be498123d20eaea95a94b174d770ef94adfdca18 plantuml.jar" | sha1sum -c -
mv plantuml.jar /opt/plantuml.jar
mkdir -p "$HOME/.local/bin"
echo $'#!/bin/sh\n\njava -jar '/opt/plantuml.jar' ${@}' >> "$HOME/.local/bin/plantuml"
chmod +x "$HOME/.local/bin/plantuml"
echo "$HOME/.local/bin" >> $GITHUB_PATH
sudo apt-get install -y graphviz

- name: Install techdocs-cli
run: sudo npm install -g @techdocs/cli

- name: Install mkdocs and mkdocs plugins
run: python -m pip install mkdocs-techdocs-core==1.*

- name: Generate docs site
run: techdocs-cli generate --no-docker --verbose

- name: Publish docs site
run: techdocs-cli publish --publisher-type awsS3 --storage-name $TECHDOCS_S3_BUCKET_NAME --entity $ENTITY_NAMESPACE/$ENTITY_KIND/$ENTITY_NAME

When the new repository is scaffolded or new documentation updates are committed, the GitHub Action workflow will publish the TechDocs site, which can be viewed in your Backstage app.