The upside of increased access to more efficient technology is prevalent throughout all industries, perhaps none more apparent than application development. As the margins between competing companies grows increasingly narrow, the ability to push products to market quicker than your peers is often the deciding factor.
Enter DevOps, a set of ideas adopted by application developers who adhere to practices that increase development efficiency. In this article, we explore DevOps with Azure, to clarify how companies might leverage the ingenuity of Microsoft’s entry into the field.
What is Azure DevOps?To illuminate the uninitiated, the term ‘DevOps’ is a combination of software development (the ‘Dev’) and IT Operations (the ‘Ops’), which came about to expedite the SDLC, and to give willing organizations a tool they could use to gain an advantage. Its principles are based on collaboration, automation, and continuous feedback, which for agile development using continuous integration/continuous deployment (CI/CD). Azure DevOps is Microsoft’s entry into the field of software development and operational tools, based on their cloud-based platform, Azure. It uses Azure’s infrastructure to facilitate communication between the development team, project managers, and other stakeholders such as designers and testers to allow seamless collaboration for faster deliverables. Azure DevOps consists of two main offerings, which can be used together or separately:
- Azure DevOps Services – This is Microsoft’s cloud hosting service, the SaaS option between the two, which provides Azure DevOps across the Internet using secure channels. These services allow for necessary project management principles such as version control and infrastructure-as-code (IaC).
- Azure DevOps Server – This is the on-site variant of Azure DevOps, with local backend software for companies who want to keep their data close. For example, a development team who is responsible for top-secret experimentation and testing of high-clearance assets will have their access limited.
- Azure Artifacts – This service is used to add package sharing between developers with Azure Artifact feeds using Azure Pipelines (below). It is ideal for continuous integration/continuous development (CI/CD) pipelines, as it can pull from all the popular public sources like Maven and npm to provide these assets from a centralized location.
- Azure Boards – These are scalable, digital Kanban dashboards for visual management of your development project. Azure Boards are used for straightforward presentation of project-related operations like bug fixes, issues, feature assignments, test cases, scrum epics, and user stories. User stories keep the various operations under specified users or groups, and these can all be queried and filtered to display certain types.
- Azure Pipelines – Pipelines are an extensible automation mechanism of Azure DevOps, used to deploy containers and run them in parallel across various cloud platforms on any operating system (Windows, Mac OSx, Linux), using any programming language. It is an active CI/CD measure that works with popular container orchestration systems like Kubernetes for even more effective deployment.
- Azure Repos – This is used to provide development teams with access to GitHub repositories, essentially providing a built-in Git client within Azure DevOps. You can also perform extensive semantic code searches to locate specific blocks within all your collected materials, and instill branch policies that help maintain a certain level of all quality.
- Azure Test Plans – This toolkit is used for planning in-depth testing, providing such tools as result analytics, screenshots, videos, load data, and bug reports. Test Plans allows developers to centralize their testing apparatus within Azure DevOps and avoid using external testing platforms whenever applicable.
What is Azure DevOps Used For?The use described above for each component of Azure DevOps defines the various ways it can be used. Below, we express the platform’s usage in an overall sense, relative to how it impacts a team or organization:
- The work-from-anywhere nature of cloud-based development also means good scalability for projects, since adding more people doesn’t equal more physical overhead. It also means more efficient and transparent collaboration between different locations, which positively affects productivity across the board.
- Assuming Microsoft lives up to its 99.9% availability–both their name and infrastructure capability lend credence to that claim–DevOps with Azure is as good as it gets when it comes to reliability. And as we know, none of the bells and whistles matter if the services aren’t available during development crunch times or consumer interaction.
- Azure DevOps is an ideal entry point for companies looking for their initial foray into the practices before larger demands take hold. Hybrid solutions ease this transition even more, allowing companies to maintain legacy setups while exploring DevOps’ benefits.