The Buildmaster consists of several pieces:
Each Builder is configured with a list of BuildSlaves that it will use for its builds. These buildslaves are expected to behave identically: the only reason to use multiple BuildSlaves for a single Builder is to provide a measure of load-balancing.
Within a single BuildSlave, each Builder creates its own SlaveBuilder instance. These SlaveBuilders operate independently from each other. Each gets its own base directory to work in. It is quite common to have many Builders sharing the same buildslave. For example, there might be two buildslaves: one for i386, and a second for PowerPC. There may then be a pair of Builders that do a full compile/test run, one for each architecture, and a lone Builder that creates snapshot source tarballs if the full builders complete successfully. The full builders would each run on a single buildslave, whereas the tarball creation step might run on either buildslave (since the platform doesn't matter when creating source tarballs). In this case, the mapping would look like:
Builder(full-i386) -> BuildSlaves(slave-i386) Builder(full-ppc) -> BuildSlaves(slave-ppc) Builder(source-tarball) -> BuildSlaves(slave-i386, slave-ppc)
and each BuildSlave would have two SlaveBuilders inside it, one for a full builder, and a second for the source-tarball builder.
Once a SlaveBuilder is available, the Builder pulls one or more BuildRequests off its incoming queue. (It may pull more than one if it determines that it can merge the requests together; for example, there may be multiple requests to build the current HEAD revision). These requests are merged into a single Build instance, which includes the SourceStamp that describes what exact version of the source code should be used for the build. The Build is then randomly assigned to a free SlaveBuilder and the build begins.
The behaviour when BuildRequests are merged can be customized, see Merging Build Requests.