Azure DevOps, previously known as Visual Studio Team Services, is a hosted service providing development and collaboration tool. Customers have the option of a free tier to get started along with no need to run their own agents, ensuring they can get up and running as soon as possible. 

In this article, we will cover everything you need to know about Azure DevOps: 

The Key Features of DevOps 

  • Git closets for source control
  • Form and Relief pipelines for CI/CD mechanization
  • Agile tools including Kanban/scrum project methodologies
  • Many pre-built deployment tasks/steps to reach the most common user problems and the capacity to extend this with your tasks.
  • Hosted build/release agents with the ability to run your own additionally
  • Custom dashboards to communicate on build/release and agile metrics.
  • Built-in wiki

Azure DevOps has several inbuilt functionalities that allow teams to get up and work with leading their project and automating their workflows to improve productivity with a tiny initial learning hook.

Getting Started

Signing up to use Azure DevOps is simple and requires just a Microsoft Account and a few items about your organization. You can log in by visiting the Azure DevOps Services website https://azure.microsoft.com/en-gb/services/devops/ and clicking ‘Start for free’. Once Registered, you will have a dedicated system URL which will follow the signs:

Projects

Once signed-in into your Azure DevOps dashboard, the first thing you will see is immediate to create a project. Creating a plan is as easy as giving a name/description & setting the advertising of the project. Additionally, you can decide between using Git and Team Foundation Source Control and your team’s agile practice.

Boards

Boards within Azure DevOps copy the functionality of Atlassian’s Issue & Project Tracking Software, Jira. Within Boards, you can create Kanban boards, account items, feature items, backlog items, sprints and query items to question your entire design items.

Essentially, Boards is your ultimate, built-in Agile project outlining and administration tool and has all of the functionality you would require to find in a stand-alone section of software with the capability to link work parts and tasks with your pipelines. 

Weirdly, Boards have a subsection inside itself. The main Boards Heading is the entire project planning/tracking discussion within Azure DevOps. The second board’s subheading is the KanBan boards produced within your plan. You can create various kanban boards for multiple teams and strategies and execute tasks within them.

Work Items

Work Items is a division within boards to maintain, document, assign and prioritize errors, epics, comments, issues, assignments, test cases, and user accounts for later insertion on kanban boards and sprints.

Repos

The Repo’s functionality differs within choosing Git or Team Foundation Source Control as your Git report when creating a plan. The most popular choice is Git, and therefore this report will focus on that. Within Repo’s, you can build or import repositories and manage them using your standard git GUI or git CLI. All of the functionality you would expect from Git is there with the combined advantage of linking commits and pull offers to Work Items and CI.

Additionally, Azure DevOps possesses an inbuilt IDE for quickly writing code within your project files, seen under the Files subheading.

Pipelines

Pipelines in Azure DevOps is the CI/CD tool that provides the construction, experimentation, and deployment of code using DevOps methods.

Build Pipelines

Build Pipelines give you the functionality required to develop and organize your application code utilizing a host of pre-defined build tasks. The capacity to link your Build Pipelines with either GitHub or Azure DevOps Git Repositories means you practice CI to automatically trigger your builds and describe their status on every commit, pull application or merge. In previous stories of Azure DevOps (VSTS) build pipelines could be achieved using the web GUI, however, in the modern variant the only option to create and manage build pipelines is by utilizing YAML pipelines.

Release Pipelines

Release pipelines are very alike to build pipelines; however, they are for expanding your applications to your servers. Release pipelines can still be performed using the GUI (and exported to YAML if required) however YAML release pipelines are soon to be completed in Q3 2018.

Creating statement pipelines is a very natural, user-friendly drag and drop method. Within a few minutes, you can be expanding your diligence to your servers with minimal, if any, coding.

A list of built-in Build, Test, and Release tasks can be found in the standard Azure DevOps Documentation which can be practiced within your pipelines. Additionally, there is a Task Marketplace wherever you can find and install several additional tasks that are not pre-bundled.

Pricing

Given there are a lot of open-source tools that can be connected to deliver the functionality that Azure DevOps does, it’s crucial to know that you can get excited with Azure DevOps for free if you’re working on an open-source project or if your team is smaller than 5.

Also, Azure DevOps begins at £22.35 +VAT per month for up to 10 Users. Concurrency using the Free Hosted Build Agents is where the free tier limitation begins – but you can determine that by running your self hosted build agents.

To summarise, Azure DevOps is an all in one Agile focussed plan tracking and preparation tool coupled with Developer and DevOps tools for writing, developing and deploying code to your server estate. It has a friendly GUI and unique integrations. Getting started is very straightforward – so much so that you can be running tasks and building/deploying applications almost quickly and pain-free.

Microsoft appears to be settling a lot of focus into Azure DevOps at the moment, and features are improved/added often so there will be many beautiful things to come.

Microsoft Azure: Blockchain Case Study 

Redback Technologies  

Redback Technologies has always been looking for new ways to integrate blockchain technologies into its energy products and services. However, considering blockchain technology and frameworks are extremely new and many practices and processes haven’t been determined yet, the company had very little guidance on how to implement DevOps around blockchain products. 

Microsoft Azure helped Redback implement their initial DevOps process, which allowed the developers on their team to modify their contracts and maintain a continuous integration (CI). They were able to confirm that there were no build errors and provided an in-memory test blockchain to run the integration tests. 

 A truly rare and unique case study, Azure DevOps was able to find solutions for newer technologies, thereby proving its tremendous potential. If you too want to know more about Azure DevOps and DevOps best practices in general, then upskill yourself in various DevOps certification courses.

Some of the popular DevOps certification courses that professionals can take up are:

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Ethan Miller is a technology enthusiast with his major interest in DevOps adoption across industry sectors. He works as a DevOps Engineer and leads DevOps practices on Agile transformations. Ethan possesses 8+ years of experience in accelerating software delivery using innovative approaches and focuses on various aspects of the production phase to ensure timeliness and quality. He has varied experience in helping both private and public entities in the US and abroad to adopt DevOps and achieve efficient IT service delivery.

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