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Break down the main features of Azure DevOps Services

DevOps continues to influence how vendors shape their cloud offerings, and this was the case behind Microsoft's recent rebranding of Visual Studio Team Services.

Microsoft has renamed Visual Studio Team Services to Azure DevOps Services. The change, in large part, was in response...

to the momentum around CI/CD, infrastructure as code and immutable infrastructure.

In addition, after its acquisition of GitHub, Microsoft is in a prime position to attract customers who want to embrace DevOps practices. The branding change from VSTS to Azure DevOps Services is a strategic move to capitalize on this opportunity, but there are some changes between the two versions, particularly around terminology, that users should know.

An intro to Azure DevOps Services

Azure DevOps Services is a cloud-based suite of integrated services that manages the lifecycle of software development projects. It enables teams to plan, develop, test and deploy applications to a range of platforms.

Azure DevOps Services includes the following features:

  • Azure Repos: This is where teams can store their application source code. Microsoft provides cloud-hosted private Git repos for software development projects. Repos is a dedicated service that replaces the code feature in VSTS.
  • Azure Pipelines: Developers can use this service to orchestrate a CI/CD workflow for their applications. Teams can connect any Git or GitHub repository to their pipeline and deploy their code continuously to different platforms, including to AWS and Google Cloud Platform. This service provides the same functionality as the "build and release" feature in VSTS.
  • Azure Boards: This service enables teams to track their progress with Kanban boards, backlogs, dashboards and custom reports. Previously, VSTS provided this functionality via the "work" feature.
  • Azure Artifacts: With this service, teams can more easily integrate packages into an Azure Pipeline. Artifacts provides support for Apache Maven, npm and NuGet package feeds from public and private sources, just as the "packages" feature did in VSTS.
  • Azure Test Plans: This service is for planned and exploratory application testing. It integrates with Azure Pipelines to enable automated testing for CI/CD workflows. Developers and operations engineers who worked with the "test" feature in VSTS will recognize the functionality offered in Test Plans.

What Azure DevOps Services means for existing customers

As shown above, the set of services offered under the Azure DevOps umbrella map to previous VSTS features. The move should require little end-user intervention, as current VSTS subscribers will be upgraded to Azure DevOps projects automatically.

It wouldn't be surprising to see the name of the service change again, when the industry shifts and adopts new terminology.

Fortunately, there are no breaking changes or loss of functionality involved with the upgrade process. Customers can expect to see additional capabilities and access to broader controls than they did before with VSTS.

Previously, VSTS users interfaced with the service under the visualstudio.com domain. Now, customers will be redirected to a new namespace under dev.azure.com. As expected with a big update like this, the UI for these new services will be upgraded to provide a better experience.

The pricing model for Azure DevOps is also similar to that of VSTS. There are a few differences, however; for example, open source projects receive free CI/CD functionality with Azure Pipelines, which includes unlimited minutes and 10 parallel jobs. This didn't exist for VSTS.

Potential challenges

Businesses of all sizes continue to evolve their software release processes. They aim to eliminate time-consuming tasks, error-prone procedures and manual human intervention involved in the deployment and operation of modern applications.

However, the term DevOps has been the topic of heated debate for the past several years. It's a buzzword that means different things to different people. The biggest challenge with this service will be confusion with terminology. For example, an organization can implement DevOps practices alongside the Azure platform without using the Azure DevOps Services suite. This will likely cause confusion during conversations among vendors, consultants and customers who work with Azure and DevOps-focused projects.

Over the long term, it wouldn't be surprising to see the name of the service change again, when the industry shifts and adopts new terminology.

This was last published in November 2018

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