Fostering development productivity without losing quality is what every software engineer seems to look for. At least, such a goal is widely declared by the developer community in these days of severe competition. The DevOps collaborative culture has already occupied a leading position among various productivity-boosting approaches.
Many teams are mentally ready to shift from traditional development workflows to DevOps practices. However, choosing an appropriate DevOps toolchain is challenging for many newcomers. Two opposite approaches are available: selecting separate tools to combine them into a unified working environment or selecting a ready-to-use environment with a corresponding toolchain.
Despite the professional ambitions that may push many skilled engineers toward the first approach, pragmatic considerations promote the second one. Azure DevOps services represent a solution created by professionals for professionals. No complicated tambourine dances are required to set up a productive workflow with the Azure DevOps Pipeline. Only a couple of things are needed to know: what the solution is and how it works. Hence, our brief but consistent explanation of the Azure DevOps Pipeline goes below.
What is the Azure DevOps Pipeline?
The solution is built upon the three pillars of DevOps:
1. Continuous Integration (CI)
CI provides detecting bugs in code at the earliest possible stage of development. The transparent code repositories, acting as hubs for every code written within the project, allow every team member to find flaws and bugs missed by those who create a particular line of code. CI implies a working environment that covers not just programmers but also testers and sysadmins capable of contributing to errorless code creation. Continuous testing and code compilation are integral parts of CI. Thus, every development stage and every staff member is engaged in the continuous process of iterative improvements that provide faster, error-free releases.
2. Continuous Delivery (CD)
CD implies a set of procedures that allows code creation, tests, and deployments to run as a unified process within a shared infrastructure. It means that every module (a feature, a piece of code, etc.) should pass through all necessary stages before meeting end-users. In other words, CD helps follow high-quality standards when a ready-to-deploy piece of code arrives in an appropriate environment after being successfully tested. Developers become capable of addressing quality issues while making code updates and introducing new functionalities. The CD practice distinguishes DevOps-oriented teams from the ones who still follow less
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3. Continuous Testing (CT)
CT implies a set of tools that helps automate a build-test-deploy pipeline when the earliest possible feedback from QA engineers arrives in a production environment. In contrast to traditional SDLCs, quality assurance is a matter of everyone’s responsibility in DevOps. CT in such a context is spread across the entire workflow when testing scenarios appear at pre-production stages to go through development and QA and arrive at operations. CT leaves neither blind spots in a codebase nor dead zones for code changes.
The three essential functions are available in the Azure DevOps Pipeline to prove that the system is a fully-fledged solution for scalable automated workflows. The decision of whether training your staff with the system from scratch is more feasible than hiring Azure DevOps engineers remains pretty individual. However, both variants never prevent anyone from grasping the benefits and features of the solution.
Benefits of the Azure DevOps Pipeline
Any interested developer can easily deal with the system since Microsoft provides multiple tips and tricks in the Azure DevOps Pipeline tutorial. The official website is full of interlinked resources that reveal various nuances of the service. However, it is hardly worth sifting through dozens of webpages to realize the practical advantages of the system. We have collected the key benefits of the Azure DevOps Pipeline according to our vast hands-on experience.
It would be weird to find any DevOps-oriented system made as proprietary software. Even though the Pipeline belongs to Microsoft, it follows the open-source SaaS paradigm inherent in many modern cloud-based services. Moreover, being open-source is the only condition for engaging various organizations to integrate the service into their workflows.
A universal DevOps solution should be designed with a great variety of users in mind. The Azure DevOps Pipeline meets the requirement with its multilingual support. In addition to various programming languages (Python, Java, Ruby, Go, C, PHP, etc.), the system is compatible with apps created for Windows, Linux, and macOS.
Advanced capabilities for rapid deployments allow users of the Azure DevOps Pipeline to set up multiple stages of development and testing. Therefore, numerous improvements can be made in code before moving to a subsequent stage.
Microsoft cares about users of the Azure DevOps Pipeline with regular system updates. It means you always have the latest version with all the inherent features.
Since the service follows the key principle of DevOps, intra-team communication is strongly emphasized across the entire pipeline. The workflow’s transparency goes in line with shared responsibility for the final result when all team members are involved in continuous communication.
Any development company can benefit a lot from using the Azure DevOps Pipeline, whichever pricing plan is chosen. The cost-revenue ratio is always in favor of the service. Besides, many organizations can find the free version sufficient for their endeavors.
Efficient in bug-fixing
Few other services can contribute more to errorless development than the Azure DevOps Pipeline. Fast and simple bag detection helps the entire team to solve issues along the way. Errorless workflows have become a typical routine with the service.
As with any other open-source software, the platform is easier to customize than any proprietary product. Besides, Microsoft provides simple integration of the platform with all other products of the software giant.
Novice users face no difficulties in exploring features and functions of the Azure DevOps pipeline amid the variety of learning materials available on the official website. Numerous volunteers have created a ton of practical and theoretical tips on the system, along with Azure pipeline examples and samples.
Basic Azure DevOps Pipeline’s vocabulary
It is worth observing a chain of specific actions inherent in a typical pipeline to grasp how the Azure DevOps Pipeline works. It can facilitate understanding basic notions and terms determining the platform’s functionality. In general, the following sequence of steps leads to running a particular pipeline:
- Any pipeline starts running with a trigger. In this context, a trigger means a special event that initiates a particular pipeline. It can be either a “build trigger” or a “release trigger” when something tells a pipeline when and how to run.
- A pipeline typically consists of several stages. A stage implies a set of jobs to be done to fulfill a specific development task. A job, in turn, comprises specific steps to be made according to one or another task. It can be a container job (to run a container), a deployment/deployment group job (to release a deployment/group of deployments), etc. A step in such a context is the smallest element in the form of a task or a script. In other words, a stage is a means of organizing jobs.
- A pipeline results in deploying an app (module, piece of code, you name it) within various environments. An environment implies a specific resource, such as a service, virtual machine, container, or application that should host the app you depl
- Although a job can be agentless, there is usually an agent that runs the job. An agent implies a particular agent software installed on a hardware infrastructure through which a job runs.
- All Azure Pipeline tasks (scripts) invoke particular actions that result in publishing an artifact. An artifact is a set of files (modules) that constitute a part of a more comprehensive collection of data to be deployed or distributed.
In addition to the basics above, some other specific terms are available in the vocabulary of the Azure DevOps Pipeline. However, they are worth learning during the practical work with the platform.
Why use the Azure DevOps Pipeline?
The Azure DevOps Pipeline is the only available DevOps platform under no circumstances. There are many other toolchains and DevOps platforms on the market. The choice is always up to every particular organization. At the same time, few other systems can offer a more well-balanced combination of capabilities and features for smooth DevOps workflows than the platform from Microsoft. The system’s creators have applied their deep professional expertise to the system’s functionality. Besides, the Azure DevOps Pipeline never stays static: its open-source nature implies continuous improvements and upgrades based on the best DevOps practices.
The primary reason for using the Azure build pipeline is the combination of Continuous Delivery and Continuous Integration that provides the automated creation of projects in an error-free manner. Building your code becomes safe, fast, and easy while deployments occur with full control disregarding the environments and targets. You can deliver your code to multiple targets, be they containers, virtual machines, or on-premise servers.
Integrations with GitHub expand your working scenarios to a greater extent. There is no fundamental difference between whether you build an open-source project or appropriate software. The system limits you to neither programming languages nor operating systems. The other Microsoft products and platforms integrable with the Azure DevOps Pipeline allow developers to scale up their activities easily, no matter how complex they can be. To sum up, the Azure DevOps Pipeline is a perfect choice for those whose goal is boosting productivity under the progressive DevOps paradigm. We suggest further reading our guide on the benefits of Azure for small business.
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