A Closer Look at Azure DevOps

Microsoft’s Azure DevOps Server is emerging as one of the most popular cloud application development environments. Like most continuous integration/continuous delivery (CI/CD) platforms, it provides features such as version control, reporting, project management, automated builds, and testing. It covers all aspects of the application life cycle and enables DevOps. Here’s a closer look at this cloud computing environment.

Azure DevOps provides a number of different developer services that allow DevOps teams to plan work, collaborate on code development and build and deploy applications. It is highly collaborative and brings together developers, project managers and individual contributors to develop software. It allows organizations to create and improve products much faster than with traditional software development approaches.

Services or Server?

Teams can work in the cloud using Azure DevOps Services or on-premises using Azure DevOps Server.

The cloud offering, Azure DevOps Services, is a scalable, reliable and globally available hosted service. It’s backed by a 99.9% SLA, is monitored by Microsoft’s 24/7 operations team and is available in local data centers around the world.

The on-premises offering, Azure DevOps Server, is built on a SQL Server back end. The on-premises version is preferable when organizations need their data to stay within their network or when they want access to SQL Server reporting services that integrate with Azure DevOps Server data and tools.

Although both offerings provide the same essential services, Azure DevOps Services offers some added benefits:

  • Simplified server management.
  • Immediate access to the new features and updates.
  • Improved connectivity with remote sites.
  • A transition from capital expenditures (servers, etc.) to operational expenditures (subscriptions).

There are also some other key differences depending on your organization’s or your team’s needs. These can also be helpful if you’re migrating from on-premises to the cloud:

Differences in Specific Feature Areas

Although Azure DevOps Services is a hosted version of Azure DevOps Server, there are some feature differences. Some Server features aren’t supported in Services; for example, Azure DevOps Services doesn’t integrate with SQL Server Analysis Services to support reporting. Process customization and reporting also differ in their support.

Integrated Features

Azure DevOps provides integrated features that can be accessed through a web browser or an IDE client. One or more of the following standalone services can be used based on your organization’s business needs:

  • Azure Repos: Azure repos provides Git repositories or Team Foundation Version Control (TFVC) for source control.
  • Azure Pipelines: This service provides build and release services to support continuous integration and continuous delivery of applications.
  • Azure Boards: This suite of Agile tools supports planning and tracking work, code defects and issues using Kanban and Scrum methods.
  • Azure Test Plans: Azure Test Plans provides several tools to test applications, including manual/exploratory testing and continuous testing.
  • Azure Artifacts: These allow teams to share packages such as Maven, npm, NuGet and more from both public and private sources and integrate package sharing into pipelines.

Use of the following collaboration tools is also supported:

  • Customizable team dashboards with configurable widgets to share information, progress and trends.
  • Built-in wikis for sharing information.
  • Configurable notifications.

Azure DevOps supports adding extensions and integrating with other popular services, such as Campfire, Slack, Trello, UserVoice and more. In addition, DevOps teams can also develop their own custom extensions.

Azure DevOps Services supports integration with GitHub and GitHub Enterprise Server code repositories. Azure DevOps Server supports integration with GitHub Enterprise Server repositories.

Getting Started

When you sign up for Azure DevOps, you must first register an organization, project and version control type. DevOps teams can create multiple projects and differentiate them with separate names and access permissions. Projects can be set to public or private. Teams can also use Azure Boards for collaboration and project management, and can also configure use of Agile practices. After setting up your team, you can use the platform to begin deploying your applications to Azure.

In addition to a collaborative environment, Azure DevOps provides access to an Azure Pipeline service that supports multiple languages and platforms. The Azure DevOps pipeline is a set of services that are grouped into individual projects. 

Additionally, Azure Test Plans feature facilitates automated testing. It is also possible to set up deployment pipelines with different components for multiple applications. 

Azure Pipeline can track work status, manage backlogs and create custom reports. With the help of the Azure DevOps pipeline, developers can create, manage and deploy their projects in a single environment. With this solution, DevOps teams will have a single point of contact and can communicate with each other.

A Closer Look at Azure DevOps

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