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Visual Studio Team Services: Making DevOps Easier

buildAfter attending some of the sessions at Build 2016 and talking with various Microsoft employees, it has become very obvious to me that Microsoft has made DevOps a first-class citizen in Visual Studio Team Services (VSTS).  Here are some of the notes that I was able to jot down about VSTS.
Home Page and Work Items
It all starts with lots of productivity changes that have been made in the UI. The team project home page is a dashboard and is completely configurable. You can also have multiple dashboards defined, and switch between these on the team project home page. Adding widgets to your dashboard is all point and click.
There are also lots of improvements to the various types of work items. You can now finally delete them and move them! (Previously you could not do this.) There is a new work item form that supports hash tagging of people and work items in the discussion areas, and you can also customize the layout of the backlog items.

Git Integration Improvements
Lots of progress is being made on the Git integration front. The VSTS team is really working hard on getting all of the features of Git into VSTS. Some of the improvements are:

  • Git submodules are now supported!
  • SSH support has been added to the Clone functionality
  • Can now search across all code repositories and all branches in the repositories
  • Added graph to the history, can right-click on it and issue Git commands
  • Can annotate code with comments (conversations) on Project web site in VSTS
  • Branch policies – really powerful rules that can be executed on pull requests

Build Management
Some of the areas highlighted for the build management functionality were:

  • Continuous Integration – cross-platform, open-source, extensible
  • Package Management – private hosted feeds for your enterprise
  • Lots of build tasks for non-Microsoft stuff, such as Bower, Gulp, etc.
  • SonarQube – this is a new build task that can analyze technical debt in your code!
  • Nuget Package and Publish tasks!
  • Nuget Installer build task will get all public and private Nuget packages
  • Lots of support for Java applications has been added!
  • Custom extensions – you can write your own build tasks!

Release Management
When discussing the Release Management capabilities, a lot of focus was devoted to the concept of environments.  Think of environments as DEV, QA, PROD, etc.  Lots of support added for approval workflows (on its own tab of the Environment window).   Need to deploy to your on-premises servers, no problem! Just create your own build agent server and register it with VSTS.  It was also emphasized that it doesn’t matter where your source control lives, VSTS can connect to it and use it in the build and deploy process.
Future Enhancements
Some of the future enhancements include:

  • Ability to change a work item type
  • More agile process customization
  • Re-designed Branches Hub with GitFlow
  • NPM support for Package Management
  • Release Management REST API’s and service hooks – everything that is done in VSTS for release management will be exposed as REST endpoints.
  • Import from TFS GA

Overall, I personally cannot imagine having to do DevOps without VSTS!  I really think Microsoft has gotten this product right.

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Tim McCarthy

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