Setting up Helloworld on GitHub in Starlark

Using Starlark, configure and set up a code repository for access by Dispatch, including configuring a Dispatchfile

This topic provides a step-by-step tutorial for setting up dispatch and getting your first successful cloud native CI build on your GitHub repository. It will leverage the Starlark front end language.


  • Some basic knowledge of git, bash, and Docker.
  • A GitHub account.
  • Owner permissions for a project hosted on GitHub or access to create one.
  • Deploy access to a namespace in Kubernetes cluster.
  • Dispatch CLI installed in the environment.

Setup a git repository

Initialize a git repository

Begin by creating a new repository on GitHub and clone it locally. You may skip this if you intend to use an existing repository on GitHub. Throughout the rest of this tutorial, this repository is named helloworld.

For the purposes of this tutorial, focus on creating a CI check that uses a Docker image to test the source code. This tutorial assumes the Docker image is testing the golang source code present in the repository but this can be replaced with any other Docker image trivially.

Go to the directory where you’ve cloned the repository

cd helloworld

Add some golang source and test files:


package main

import "fmt"

func main() {
	fmt.Printf("Hello %v!", World())

func World() string {
	return "World"


package main

import (

func Test_World(t *testing.T) {
	actual := World()
	if actual != "World" {

If you have go in the environment, you can verify that the above code works using go test -v ./....

For the sake of this tutorial, we can add a simple Dockerfile that builds from the base golang image to run the tests. Create this dockerfile:


FROM golang:1.14.0

ADD main.go /test/main.go
ADD main_test.go /test/main_test.go

In the later sections, we will setup CI infrastructure to run the tests on every pull request. As a side note, real life test scripts are much more complicated (obviously!) such as launching a kind cluster and running some tests on the cluster. The focus of this tutorial is to demonstrate the ability to run a simple CI build and this should be extendable to more complicated tests.

Install Dispatch

Refer to this guide for install options.

By default, Dispatch installs to dispatch namespace and can be overridden during install time. This tutorial assumes Dispatch is installed to dispatch namespace.

Rest of the tutorial assumes you are working with default namespace for pipelines. Add a --namespace flag to commands as applicable if you are working with a different namespace.

Setup credentials & Service accounts

Refer to this guide on setting up credentials.

For the purposes of this tutorial, you need at least Github & Docker credentials. At the bare minimum, you should have executed (with appropriate names):

  1. Create a service account named team-1

    dispatch serviceaccount create team-1
  2. Create a Docker credential

    dispatch login docker --service-account team-1
  3. Create a github credential

    dispatch login github --service-account team-1 --user $YOURGITHUBUSERNAME --token $YOURGITHUBTOKEN

    NOTE: If your Kubernetes cluster endpoint presents a self-signed TLS certificates you must pass `--insecure-webhook-skip-tls-verify` to the `login github` command, otherwise GitHub will refuse to deliver webhook events to Dispatch.

  1. Create a git SSH credential only if you want to be able to build locally

    dispatch login git --service-account team-1 --private-key-path $SSH_KEY_PATH

Setup repository in Dispatch

Refer to this guide for repo setup.

At the least, you should execute the following:

dispatch ci repository create --service-account=team-1

In the next section, we are going to define the build specification in a file named Dispatchfile

Adding a Dispatchfile to git repository

In this tutorial, we are going to use Starlark and create a file named Dispatchfile which holds our build specification. This is a step-by-step walk-through of creating our Dispatchfile:

  1. Declare the DSL (Domain Specific Language) syntax for our Dispatchfile using shebang:


    This specifies to use version 0.5 of Starlark DSL parser.

  2. Dispatch Catalog holds syntactic sugar for reusing various Starlark functions that makes your Dispatchfile smaller and lets you focus on actual testing aspects. Let’s import the following helpers:

    1. gitResource: to declare the git repository as a resource that can be sent as input to tasks
    2. pullRequest: to declare a condition to trigger the builds whenever a pull request is updated
    3. kaniko: to build and publish the Docker image
    # Import the gitResource, pullRequest, and kaniko helpers from dispatch catalog
    load("", "gitResource", "pullRequest")
    load("", "kaniko")
  3. Declare the git resource:

    git = gitResource("helloworld-git")

    Any valid Kubernetes resource name can be chosen here.

  4. Declare a task to build and push the Docker image using kaniko:

    # Build and push the docker image
    simple_docker = kaniko(git, "$YOURDOCKERUSERNAME/helloworld")
  5. Declare a task using above Docker image to run tests:

    # This is a simple unit test that uses the base golang image to validate the go source code
            command=["go", "test", "./..."])])

    We specified the workingDir as /test as that is the location of our source code. Access to repo source code can be gained by using git as one of the inputs and setting workingDir to "/workspace/{}".format(git).

  6. Define an Action to run the task on every pull request:

    simpleTasks = ["unit-test-simple"]
    action(tasks=simpleTasks, on=pullRequest())
    action(tasks=simpleTasks, on=pullRequest(chatops=["test"]))

    The first action triggers the unit-test-simple task upon creating/updating a pull request. The second action triggers unit-test-simple whenever a comment /test is made on the pull request.

Hence, The entire Dispatchfile becomes:


# vi:syntax=python

load("", "gitResource", "pullRequest")
load("", "kaniko")

git = gitResource("helloworld-git")

# Build and push the docker image
simple_docker = kaniko(git, "$YOURDOCKERUSERNAME/helloworld")

# Use the pushed docker image to run CI
        command=["go", "test", "./..."])])

simpleTasks = ["unit-test-simple"]
action(tasks=simpleTasks, on=pullRequest())
action(tasks=simpleTasks, on=pullRequest(chatops=["build"]))

You can use the Dispatch CLI to validate above Dispatchfile:

dispatch ci render --file=Dispatchfile

which would result in an output similar to:

# vi:syntax=yaml

- "on":
    pull_request: {}
  - unit-test-simple
- "on":
      - build
  - unit-test-simple
      digest: $(inputs.resources.$YOURDOCKERUSERNAME-helloworld.digest)
      url: $YOURDOCKERUSERNAME/helloworld:$(
    type: image
      revision: $(context.git.commit)
      url: $(context.git.url)
    type: git
    - helloworld-git
    - $YOURDOCKERUSERNAME-helloworld
    - args:
      - --destination=$YOURDOCKERUSERNAME/helloworld:$(
      - --context=/workspace/helloworld-git/
      - --oci-layout-path=/workspace/output/$YOURDOCKERUSERNAME-helloworld
      - --dockerfile=/workspace/helloworld-git/Dockerfile
      name: docker-build
      resources: {}
    - $YOURDOCKERUSERNAME-helloworld
    - command:
      - go
      - test
      - ./...
      image: $YOURDOCKERUSERNAME/helloworld:$(
      name: unit-test-docker
      resources: {}
      workingDir: /test

See full reference of a Dispatchfile.

After setting up Dispatch, adding relevant credentials, and creating helloworld repository, we can move on to running our CI.

Continuous Integration in Action

After creating your Dispatchfile, you can push it to a branch of your choice and create a pull request against default branch (or any branch). When you executed the dispatch ci create repository command in earlier sections, Dispatch repository controller created a webhook in your GitHub repository. This webhook enables Dispatch to receive events (such as pull request events) from GitHub. When you create a Pull Request, a PullRequest event is posted to Dispatch and this in turn triggers a pipeline to run unit-test-simple task as declared in your Dispatchfile. If you make a comment on the Pull Request that starts with /test then this would have a similar effect (useful in cases where you want to rerun a flaky CI test). Make such a comment and the build status should be reflected shortly on your Pull Request as soon as the build is scheduled. See the troubleshooting guide if you are having problems.

You can look at logs of various Dispatch components as well as pipelines.

Advanced reading

There may be cases where you may need to have Docker runtime in your CI builds (e.g.: launch a kind cluster and run tests on it). The dindTask provided in dispatch-catalog can be used exactly for this purpose. As an example, the unit-test-simple task from earlier can be rewritten as follows:


# Import the predefined Docker-in-Docker task from Dispatch Catalog.
load("", "dindTask")

# This is the same test as above rewritten using Docker-in-Docker image
    inputs=[git], steps=[k8s.corev1.Container(
        "--volume", "/workspace/{}:/workspace/{}".format(git, git),
        "--workdir", "/workspace/{}".format(git),
        "go", "test", "./..."])])

This is similar to previous task definition except that this runs mesosphere/dispatch-dind:1.0.0 Docker-in-Docker image. You can override the image by using image field in Container definition above and run any arbitrary scripts that require Docker. Explore various other predefined constructs from dispatch-catalog and contribute your own!