Businesses are facing increasing pressure to build, develop, and deploy ICT solutions faster than ever. As a result, many softwares have emerged to assist project managers- one of which is Microsoft Azure DevOps. Consider this article your guide to Microsoft Azure DevOps. We’ll outline what it is, and why is it one of the most powerful tools for software development.
Guide to Microsoft Azure DevOps: What is it?
The first step in the guide to Microsoft Azure DevOps is understanding what DevOps itself is.
Azure is Microsoft’s cloud computing platform that hosts a collection of services, including Microsoft Power Platform and Azure DevOps. Azure DevOps is a Software as a Service (SaaS) product, which Microsoft has targeted at developers. This is because Azure DevOps is designed to support the entirety of a product delivery lifecycle on a single platform.
As previously mentioned, Azure DevOps is a cloud-based platform. This means your organisation can effectively integrate and manage DevOps approaches with your products and/or software development process.
Azure DevOps is a collection of services that seamlessly coexist and interact with one another to create seamless workflows and continuous product or software development. It aims to impact five core domains of product and/or software development:
Additionally, Azure DevOps is intentionally built for integration and collaboration between people, tools, and processes. Azure DevOps includes hundreds of connectors and extensions, so it integrates with your pre-existing practices and processes. This means that no matter which platforms or processes you use, Azure DevOps can fully facilitate your product development needs
Principles and Pillars of Azure DevOps
The abbreviation of development and operations to form the word ‘DevOps’ is reflective of its goal. DevOps is the process of integrating Developer and Operation teams to improve collaboration and productivity. This is done predominantly through the automation of workflows and continuous development of the product or softwares.
In the traditional software development process, developers and operations teams are often competitors, each with conflicting measures of success. These conflicts can shake up the deployment process, costing the organisation valuable resources and time. 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. As a result, it places importance on people over process. From this nature, DevOps stands 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 so teams collaborate effectively. It does this 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.
Guide to Microsoft Azure DevOps: 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 through these different phases along 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 capacity. This allows the stakeholders to easily distribute and prioritise tasks accordingly. Simultaneously, project managers are constantly identifying and monitoring activities through visual mediums, such as Kanban boards. This allows the project managers to break down the development process. Then, the project managers divide the proposed solution or software into multiple ‘sprints’, or short development cycles. After these steps, they can share the code through a version control system like Git.
Stage Two: Continuous Integration (Build and Test)
During this stage, quality assurance teams test the new code for bugs. Then, they ensure the code satisfies the product requirements in different test environments. This testing should be 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)
After the software is tested and validated, you can transfer the validated version to the production environment. From here, the new code can be implemented on the servers, resulting in the eventual deployment of the product. Once you reach this stage, end users can start using the actual production, and can access its new functions.
Stage four: Continuous Monitoring (Operate and Monitor)
Once your new software has gone live, operations teams should continuously monitor the performance and usage patterns of the product, as well as any feedback you receive. Then, the operations team will collect, evaluate, and prioritise the data. You can then use this data to inform the planning process of the next iteration of the DevOps cycle.
Guide to Microsoft Azure DevOps Services
There are five core Azure DevOps services which users can use in tandem or individually, depending on your organisation’s requirements.
Azure Boards enable users to easily plan, track, and discuss work with teams. This is primarily done through Kanban boards, backlogs, team dashboard boards, and any other custom reporting features. Azure Boards have a user-friendly interface and extensive integrative capacities. Both of these capabilities ensure that teams can seamlessly collaborate, maintain productivity, and gain insights. Teams no longer have to use various collaboration apps to keep up to date with their development progress.
Repos are a set of version control tools that allow you to manage your code, the most popular repos being Git repos. Azure Repos, on the other hand, takes Git repos a step further by offering unlimited cloud-hosted private Git repos. It’s like a virtual space where developers can collaborate smoothly on their code. Azure Repos has multiple benefits, including making it easy for you to review and merge code changes using pull requests. It also allows you organise your files more efficiently, and quickly search for specific code snippets.
The main goal of Azure Repos is to ensure that your code is consistent, reliable, and easy to handle. It provides features like automated testing and deployment through continuous integration and continuous delivery (CI/CD). You can also enforce code quality by setting up rules and policies for branches. Additionally, Azure Repos integrates seamlessly with external tools and services that developers commonly use, such as project management tools and bug tracking systems.
In a nutshell, Azure Repos is a powerful platform that helps developers work together effectively, maintain high code quality, and streamline their software development process.
The Azure Pipeline service automatically builds and tests code projects to make accessible to end users. It does this through a CI/CD framework that works with any platform, language, and cloud. The Azure Pipeline has extensive connectors and integrations with GitHub or any Git provider. Therefore, Pipeline enables flexible deployments, giving users the ability to tap into advanced workflows.
Azure Test Plans
The Azure Test Plans service is a browser-based test management solution and exploratory testing tool kit. This experimental space gives users the confidence to develop and deploy solutions. The helps developers capture rich data, test applications across different mediums, and use end-to-end traceability to enrich product stories and features.
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, Azure Artifacts can integrate these sources, no matter the source and no matter the size. Azure Artifacts enables developers to share code efficiently, manage packages of all types, and add packages seamlessly to any CI/CD pipeline.
Though not a distinct service, Azure DevOps has an extensions marketplace with hundreds of extensions and connectors. These extensions and connectors allow you to customise and integrate your workflows. Whether its Jira or Slack or Kubernetes, Azure DevOps is can accommodate your product development needs from start to end.
Benefits of Microsoft Azure DevOps
When you see it’s all round capabilities, you’ll recognise 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 that Azure DevOps can bring 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 customisable
- Enhance organisational culture
Make sure to read all the details on each benefit here.
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