I recently was reviewing some monthly expenses and noticed that my Digital Ocean monthly bill was higher than I once thought. After digging around, I realized there was an extra 1gb droplet that wasn’t doing much anymore.

The only service it was running was my small Jenkins server that I use for some continuous integration and testing. I decided to switch it over to another smaller server I have that wasn’t being completely utilized. Migrating a single node Jenkins server wasn’t as straightforward as I thought it might be, so here’s a little overview of the process I went through to switch it.


Before we get started, check out this Stack Overflow question that gives high level steps to migration. It gave me a good foundation to get started, but there were many small things to fix along the way that I’ll write about.

Here are the major components to migrating:

  • on your new server, install jenkins. I am running Ubuntu, so I followed this article.
  • on both servers, stop jenkins by running sudo service jenkins stop (again, I am running Ubuntu 14.04). Your mileage may vary depending on your system.
  • next, you’ll need to zip up your JENKINS_HOME directory before sending it to your new server. For my installation, the default was in /var/lib/jenkins. I used tar -zcvf jenkins-backup.tar.gz /var/lib/jenkins/*.
  • you can now use scp to send the entire tar package to your new server. If you don’t have SSH credentials set up, check out this blog post.
  • unzip the file into your new JENKINS_HOME using tar xvzf <tar_name>.
  • now you are ready to restart Jenkins! Run sudo service jenkins start to get jenkins running again with your new configuration.


Along the way, I ran into many speedbumps as there always are. Some took more time than others, so here’s a short list of potential issues to watch out for:

SSH Credentials

For whatever reason, Jenkins ssh credential files were not copied (although the references were still in my Jenkins config). I simply ran ssh-keygen to generate a new pair of SSH credentials, and added the new public key to the remote location.

Some of my Jenkins jobs were configured to SSH into remote servers and run some commands. Turns out that some of those remote hosts were now under a different user on the same machine as the Jenkins process. While at first I fiddled around with using rsync and cp locally, soon I realized it wasn’t worth the hassle of dealing with user and group permissions.

If you find yourself in the boat, you can SSH into a different account on localhost for a password-less login. Here’s an example:

rsync -a . phil@localhost:/home/user/my_custom_path/ 

Memory Issues

Jenkins is a Java service, and it will eat memory every meal of the week if you let it. After I copied over my Jenkins configuration and updated my old jobs, it was time to start Jenkins on the new server. While I restarted, I tailed the logs, and everything looked fine but the processes would randomly crash and Jenkins would die.

After watching htop for a couople more starts/deaths, I realized it was because Jenkins was quickly consuming memory. Because it was OOM’ing, it was getting killed before it could log anything to the Jenkins log files. I ack’d my /var/log/kern.log file to find it, and here it showed up:

Dec  7 09:24:48 piper kernel: [35657191.139947] Out of memory: Kill process
2691 (java) score 350 or sacrifice child
Dec  7 09:24:48 piper kernel: [35657191.140076] Killed process 2691 (java)
total-vm:2143088kB, anon-rss:175172kB, file-rss:0kB
Dec  7 09:30:53 piper kernel: [35657556.376662] java invoked oom-killer:
gfp_mask=0x201da, order=0, oom_score_adj=0
Dec  7 09:30:53 piper kernel: [35657556.376677] java cpuset=/ mems_allowed=0
Dec  7 09:30:53 piper kernel: [35657556.376690] CPU: 0 PID: 3365 Comm: java Not
tainted 3.13.0-57-generic #95-Ubuntu

While Jenkins configurations can become massive and require lots of resources, mine certainly doesn’t, so I went ahead and set some worker and memory limits on my configuration.

In /etc/default/jenkins, I modified the following line from:


to this:

JAVA_ARGS="-Djava.awt.headless=true -Xmx256m"

By setting that above, you limit the maximum size of the memory allocation pool. As a heads up, Xmx is not the total size of the memory used by your JVM, it is the memory size of the heap.

Next, I modified /var/lib/jenkins/config.xml and changed the numExecutors xml tag from 2 to 1. While this limits my Jenkins configuration to process one queued job at once, it’s ok as I don’t have any running concurrently. This might be overkill for you, especially if you are on a server with more than 1gb of RAM.

Finally, I also added some swap for heavy loads, using one of Digital Ocean’s fantastic tutorials.

Updating Documentation/webhooks

The final and most obvious heads-up is to make sure that all of your services, processes and workflows that depend on Jenkins switch to the new server location. Don’t forget your GitHub hooks, integrated tests, and anything else that depends on Jenkins.

This shouldn’t be too hard if you centralize all of your documentation :)