Beginners Guide to Microsoft Azure DevOps

Businesses are facing increasing pressure to build, develop, and deploy ICT and business solutions faster than ever to keep up with the ever competitive market. During these times, many different project practices, methodologies and softwares have emerged to adapt to these ever-changing conditions – one of which being Microsoft Azure DevOps. So what is Azure DevOps and why is it one of the most powerful tools for software development?

What is DevOps?

Before jumping into Azure DevOps, it’s important to understand what DevOps itself is.

The combined abbreviation of development and operations to form the word ‘DevOps’ is very much reflective of its goal. DevOps is the process of integrating Developer and Operation teams to improve collaboration and productivity predominantly through the automation of workflows and continuous development.

In the traditional software development process, developers and operations teams are often pitted against each other with conflicting measures of success that constantly shakes up the deployment process. This constant battle not only cost valuable resources but also made software development slower in an industry where speed was of the essence. It is out of this need for speed and collaboration that DevOps emerged.

DevOps is built upon the basic principles of Agile with its focus on individuals, interactions, and cooperation. Simply put it places an importance on people over process and it is this very nature that makes DevOps stand out as not simply a project methodology but a broader force for organisational culture change. 

By focusing on three core pillars – tools, processes, and people – DevOps builds a culture in which teams are able to collaborate more effectively by eliminating the boundaries between previously isolated disciplines and teams. By consolidating people, processes, and technologies together, DevOps enable teams to continuously deliver value to their end users.

What is the DevOps Lifecycle

DevOps delivers continuous collaboration, development and value through their continuous DevOps model or lifecycle depicted in the image below. The lifecycle consists of eight distinct phases – plan, code, build, test, release, deploy, operate, and monitor. A typical product will continuously cycle in an interactive fashion  through these different phases along through interdisciplinary teams to deliver software and solutions quickly and effectively.

The eight phases can be subdivided into four broader overarching development stages:

Stage One: Continuous Development (Plan and Code)

In this stage, all stakeholders build a deep understanding of the team’s capabilities and capacities, allowing them to easily distribute and prioritize tasks accordingly. Simultaneously, activities are constantly being identified and monitored through visual means (such as Kanban boards) that help break down the development process. Once the proposed solution or software has been divided into multiple sprints or short development cycles, code can then be shared through a version control system like Git.

Stage Two: Continuous Integration (Build and Test)

During this stage, the new code is tested by quality assurance teams for bugs and to ensure it satisfies the product requirements in different test environments. This testing is done early and continuously to allow issues to be quickly addressed. Once completed, the validated code can be securely and continuously integrated to the main branch.

Stage three: Continuous Deployment (Release and Deploy)

The tested and validated version of the software can now be transferred to the production environment where the new code can be implemented on the servers to result in the eventual deployment of the product. It is through this stage that end users have first contact with the actual production and can access its new functions.

Stage four: Continuous Monitoring (Operate and Monitor)

Once the new software has gone live, operations teams will continuously monitor the performance, usage patterns and feedback of the product. The data is then collected, evaluated and prioritized to then inform the planning process of the next iteration of the DevOps cycle.

What is Azure DevOps

Azure is Microsoft’s cloud computing platform that hosts a collection of services such as Microsoft Power Platform and Azure DevOps.

Azure DevOps is a Software as a Service (SaaS) geared towards developers as it aims to support the entirety of the product delivery lifecycle on a single platform. Its cloud-based platform provides the means of effectively integrating and managing DevOps approaches into your organisation’s product and/or software development process.  

Azure DevOps itself is a collection of different services that seamlessly coexist and interact with one another to provide the seamless workflow and continuous development approaches DevOps seeks to achieve. It aims to impact five core domains of product and/or software development:

  • Computing
  • Storage
  • Networking
  • Databases
  • Monitoring

Additionally, Azure DevOps is intentionally built for integration and collaboration not only between people, but tools and processes as well. With hundreds of connectors and extensions, Azure DevOps enables users to integrate their tools and practices of choice into their process rather than the other way around. This means that no matter the platform and no matter the process, Azure DevOps is capable of fully facilitating your end to end product development needs.

Azure DevOps Services

There are five core Azure DevOps services that can all be used in tandem or individually depending on your organisation’s requirements.

Azure Boards

Azure Boards enables users to easily plan, track and discuss work with teams through Kanban boards, backlogs, team dashboard boards and custom reporting features. Its user-friendly interface and extensive integrative capacity ensures that teams can seamlessly collaborate, maintain productivity and gain new insights with little to no barriers. Teams no longer have to jumble through multiple collaboration apps to keep up to date with their development progress.

Azure Repos

Repos are a set of version control tools that allow you to manage your code. Git repos being the most predominant, Azure Repos is an unlimited cloud-hosted private Git repos that enables smooth code collaboration through pull requests, advanced file management, code search, and more. Its main goal is to ensure codes are consistent, validated and easy to manage. It allows users to collaborate to build better code, automate through built in CI/CD, ensure code quality with branch policies and integrate seamlessly with external tools.

Azure Pipeline

The Azure Pipeline service automatically builds and tests code projects to make them as accessible as possible to end users through a CI/CD framework that works with any platform, language, and cloud. Through its extensive connectors and integrations with GitHub or any Git provider, it enables flexible deployments whilst also giving users the ability to tap into advanced workflows.

Azure Test Plans

The Azure Test Plans service provides a browser-based test management solution and exploratory testing tool kit that give users the confidence to develop and deploy solutions. The helps capture rich data, test applications across different mediums and tap into end-to-end traceability to enrich product stories and features.

Azure Artifacts

The Azure Artifacts service enables developers to create, share and consume packages from both public and private sources. Whether it is Maven, npm, NuGet or Python packages, it can all be fully integrated no matter the source and no matter the size. Azure Artifacts aims to give developers the ability to share code efficiently, manage packages of all types and add packages seamlessly to any CI/CD pipeline. 

Extension Marketplace

Though not a distinct service, Azure DevOps has a complete extensions marketplace with hundreds of extensions and connectors that allow you to fully customize and integrate your workflows. Whether its Jira or Slack or Kubernetes, Azure DevOps is able to accommodate your product development needs from start to end. 

Benefits of Azure DevOps 

When you see it’s all round capabilities, you can begin to piece together just how powerful Azure DevOps is for your organisation. In fact, there’s so much we’ve put together a whole separate blog just to write about the benefits the top 7 Azure DevOps benefits for your business. To help you out, we’ve made a quick summary below:

The key benefits of Azure DevOps are:

  • Enables seamless collaboration
  • Facilitates continuous delivery
  • Maintains platform agnostic
  • Ensures reliability and security
  • Reduces maintenance risks
  • Highly customizable
  • Enhance organizational culture

Make sure to read all the details on each benefit here.

Tap into the power of Azure DevOps with pmo365

Want to tap into the power of Azure DevOps for your organisation? Lucky for you, our team is filled with Azure DevOps experts who are ready to help build fuss-free and effective solutions for your organisation. Make sure to book a free trial to see how our solutions can take your PPM activities to the next level.

Still curious about just how amazing Azure DevOps can be? Why not read our post on why pmo365 uses Azure DevOps for our operations. 

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