Becoming a DevOps engineer or joining a DevOps team is an excellent opportunity to expand your IT skills because the DevOps job description essentially includes the overseeing of both operations.

By: Sam Guckenheimer

DevOps is the union of people, process, and products to enable continuous delivery of value to our end users. The contraction of “Dev” and “Ops” refers to replacing siloed Development and Operations to create multidisciplinary teams that now work together with shared and efficient practices and tools. Essential DevOps practices include agile planning, continuous integration, continuous delivery, and monitoring of applications.

Getting to DevOps

Be not afraid of DevOps. Some teams are born to DevOps; some achieve DevOps; others have DevOps thrust upon them.3 What is DevOps? Why does DevOps matter? Why now? How do you achieve DevOps successfully? Those are the topics we’d like to look at.

Understand your Cycle Time

Let’s start with a basic assumption about software development. We’ll describe it with the OODA loop.4 Originally designed to keep fighter pilots from being shot out of the sky, the OODA loop is a good way to think about staying ahead of your competitors. You start with observation of business, market, needs, current user behavior, and available telemetry data. Then you orient with the enumeration of options for what you can deliver, perhaps with experiments. Next you decide what to pursue, and you act by delivering working software to real users. All of this occurs in some cycle time.

Become Data-Informed

Hopefully, you use data to inform what to do in your next cycle. Many experience reports tell us that roughly one-third of the deployments will have negative business results, roughly one third will have positive results, and one third will make no difference. Ideally, you would like to fail fast on those that don’t advance the business and double down on those that support the business. Sometimes this is called pivot or persevere.

Strive for Validated Learning

How quickly you can fail fast or double down is determined by how long that loop takes, or in lean terms, by your cycle time. Your cycle time determines how quickly you can gather feedback to determine what happens in the next loop. The feedback that you gather with each cycle should be real, actionable data. This is called validated learning.

Shorten Your Cycle Time

When you adopt DevOps practices, you shorten your cycle time by working in smaller batches, using more automation, hardening your release pipeline, improving your telemetry, and deploying more frequently.6

Optimize Validated Learning

The more frequently you deploy, the more you can experiment, the more opportunity you have to pivot or persevere, and to gain validated learning each cycle. This acceleration in validated learning is the value of improvement. Think of it as the sum of improvements that you achieve and the failures that you avoid.

How to Achieve DevOps

Remember, the goal is to shorten cycle time. Start with the release pipeline. How long does it take you to deploy a change of one line of code or configuration? Ultimately, that’s the brake on your velocity.

  1. Continuous Integration drives the ongoing merging and testing of code, which leads to finding defects early. Other benefits include less time wasted on fighting merge issues and rapid feedback for development teams.

  2. Continuous Delivery of software solutions to production and testing environments helps organizations quickly fix bugs and respond to ever-changing business requirements.

  3. Version Control, Usually With Git, enables teams located anywhere in the world to communicate effectively during daily development activities as well as to integrate with software development tools for monitoring activities such as deployments.

  4. Agile planning and lean project management techniques are used to plan and isolate work into sprints, manage team capacity, and help teams quickly adapt to changing business needs. A DevOps Definition of Done is working software collecting telemetry against the intended business objectives.

  5. Monitoring and Logging of running applications including production environments for application health as well as customer usage, helps organizations form a hypothesis and quickly validate or disprove strategies. Rich data is captured and stored in various logging formats.

  6. Public and Hybrid Clouds have made the impossible easy. The cloud has removed traditional bottlenecks and helped commoditize infrastructure. Whether you use Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) to lift and shift your existing apps, or Platform as a Service (PaaS) to gain unprecedented productivity, the cloud gives you a datacenter without limits.

  7. Infrastructure as Code (IaC) is a practice which enables the automation and validation of creation and teardown of environments to help with delivering secure and stable application hosting platforms.

  8. Microservices architecture is leveraged to isolate business use cases into small reusable services that communicate via interface contracts. This architecture enables scalability and efficiency.

  9. Containers are the next evolution in virtualization. They are much more lightweight than virtual machines, allow much faster hydration, and can be easily configured from files.

DevOps May Hurt at First

If it hurts, do it more often. Just like going to the gym, adopting new practices is likely to hurt at first. The more often you exercise the new practices, the easier they will become. And just like training at the gym, where you exercise large muscles before small muscles, adopt practices that have the greatest impact first and cross-train to develop synergy.



1 (Gartner) “Gartner Says By 2016, DevOps Will Evolve From a Niche to a Mainstream Strategy Employed by 25 Percent of Global 2000 Organizations”, http://www.gartner.com/newsroom/id/2999017

2 Gene Kim, Jez Humble, Patrick Debois, & John Willis, The DevOps Handbook, 2016, p. xxi

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3 Apologies to William Shakespeare, Twelfth Night

4 Boyd, John, R., The Essence of Winning and Losing, 28 June 1995 a five slide set by Boyd. See also Adrian Cockcroft, http://www.slideshare.net/adriancockcroft/speeding-up-31799721

5 Kohavi et al. http://ai.stanford.edu/~ronnyk/ExPThinkWeek2009Public.pdf

6 Eric Ries, Lean Startup

Read more about the DevOps capabilities of Azure Pipelines.

Sam Guckenheimer works on Microsoft Azure DevOps team. He acts as the chief customer advocate, responsible for strategy of the next releases of these products, focusing on DevOps. He has written four books on DevOps and Agile Software practices.

Azure Pipelines Azure DevOps Server 2019 TFS 2018 TFS 2017 TFS 2015


In Microsoft Team Foundation Server (TFS) 2018 and previous versions,build and release pipelines are called definitions,runs are called builds,service connections are called service endpoints,stages are called environments,and jobs are called phases.


This topic covers classic release pipelines. If you want to use YAML to author CI/CD pipelines, then see Create your first pipeline.

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Release pipelines in Azure Pipelinesand Team Foundation Server (TFS 2015.2 and later) help your team continuously deliver softwareto your customers at a faster pace and with lower risk.You can fully automate the testing and delivery of your softwarein multiple stages all the way to production, or set upsemi-automated processes with approvals and on-demand deployments.

  • Watch this video - see Azure Pipelines releases in action.

How do release pipelines work?

Release pipelines store the data about your pipelines,stages, tasks, releases, and deployments in Azure Pipelines or TFS.

Azure Pipelines runs the following steps as part of every deployment:

  1. Pre-deployment approval: When a new deployment request is triggered,Azure Pipelines checks whether a pre-deployment approval is requiredbefore deploying a release to a stage. If it is required, it sendsout email notifications to the appropriate approvers.

  2. Queue deployment job: Azure Pipelines schedules the deployment job onan available automation agent. An agent is a pieceof software that is capable of running tasks in the deployment.

  3. Agent selection: An automation agent picks up the job.The agents for release pipelines are exactly the same as those that run yourbuilds in Azure Pipelines and TFS. A release pipeline cancontain settings to select an appropriate agent at runtime.

  4. Download artifacts: The agent downloads all the artifacts specifiedin that release (provided you have not opted to skip the download). Theagent currently understands two types of artifacts: Azure Pipelines artifactsand Jenkins artifacts.

  5. Run the deployment tasks: The agent then runs all the tasks in thedeployment job to deploy the app to the target servers for a stage.

  6. Generate progress logs: The agent creates detailed logs for eachstep while running the deployment, and pushes these logs back to Azure Pipelinesor TFS.

  7. Post-deployment approval: When deployment to a stage is complete,Azure Pipelines checks if there is a post-deployment approval requiredfor that stage. If no approval is required, or upon completion ofa required approval, it proceeds to trigger deployment tothe next stage.

Release pipelines and build pipelines have separate UIs.The main differences in the pipelines are the support in releasepipelines for different types of triggers, and the support for approvals and gates.

How do I use a release pipeline?

You start using Azure Pipelines releases by authoring a release pipeline for your application. To author a release pipeline, you must specify the artifacts that make up the application and the release pipeline.

An artifact is a deployable component of your application. It is typically produced through a Continuous Integration or a build pipeline. Azure Pipelines releases can deploy artifacts that are produced by a wide range of artifact sources such as Azure Pipelines build, Jenkins, or Team City.

You define the release pipeline using stages, and restrict deployments into or out of a stage using approvals. You define the automation in each stage using jobs and tasks. You use variables to generalize your automation and triggers to control when the deployments should be kicked off automatically.

An example of a release pipeline that can be modeled through a release pipeline in shown below:

In this example, a release of a website is created by collecting specific versions of two builds (artifacts), each from a different build pipeline. The release is first deployed to a Dev stageand then forked to two QA stages in parallel. If the deployment succeeds in both the QA stages, the release is deployed to Prod ring 1 and then to Prod ring 2. Each production ring represents multiple instances of the same website deployed at various locations around the globe.

An example of how deployment automation can be modeled within a stage is shown below:

In this example, a job is used to deploy the app to websites across the globe in parallel within production ring 1.After all those deployments are successful, a second job is used to switch traffic from the previous version to the newer version.

TFS 2015: Jobs, and fork and join deployments, are not available in TFS 2015.


What is a draft release?

Draft releases are deprecated in Azure Pipelines because you can change variables while you are creating the release.

Creating a draft release allows you to edit some of the settings for the release and the tasks,depending on your role permissions, before starting the deployment.The changes apply only to that release, and do not affect the settings of the original pipeline.

Create a draft release using the '..' ellipses link in the list of releases:

.. or the Release drop-down in the pipeline definition page:

After you finish editing the draft release, choose Start from the draft release toolbar.

How do I specify variables I want to edit when a release is created?

In the Variables tab of a release pipeline, when you add new variables, set the Settable at release time option for thoseyou want to be able to edit when a release is created and queued.

Then, when you create a new release, you can edit the values for these variables.

How do I integrate and report release status?

The current status for a release can be reported back in the source repository.In the Options tab of a release pipeline, open the Integrations page.

Report deployment status to the repository host

If your sources are in an Azure Repos Git repository in your project,this option displays a badge on the Azure Repos pages to indicate where thespecific commit was deployed and whether the deployment is passing or failing.This improves the traceability from code commit to deployment.

The deployment status is displayed in the following sections of Azure Repos:

  • Files: Indicates the status of the latest deployment for the selected branch.
  • Commits: Indicates the deployment status for each commit (this requires the continuous integration (CD) trigger to be enabled for your release).
  • Branches: Indicates the status of the latest deployment for each branch.

If a commit is deployed to multiple release pipelines (with multiple stages), each has an entry in the badgewith the status shown for each stage. By default, when you create a release pipeline, deployment status isposted for all stages. However, you can selectively choose the stages for which deployment status should bedisplayed in the status badge (for example, show only the production stage). Your team members can click thestatus badge to view the latest deployment status for each of the selected stages of the release pipelines.


If your source is not an Azure Repos Git repository, you cannot use Azure Pipelines or TFS toautomatically publish the deployment status to your repository. However, you can still use the'Enable the Deployment status badge' option described below to show deployment status within your version control system.


Report deployment status to Work

Select this option if you want to create links to all work items that represent associated changesto the source when a release is complete.

C A Meaning In Devops Science

Enable the deployment status badge

Select this option if you want to display the latest outcome of a stage deployment on an external website.

  1. Select 'Enable the deployment status badge'.

  2. Select the stages for which you want to display the outcome. By default, all the stages are selected.

  3. Save your pipeline.

  4. Copy the badge URL for the required stage to the clipboard.

  5. Use this badge URL as a source of an image in an external website.
    For example: <img src='{URL you copied from the link}'/>

C A Meaning In Dev Ops 4

When should I edit a release instead of the pipeline that defines it?

You can edit the approvals, tasks, and variables of a previously deployed release, instead of editing thesevalues in the pipeline from which the release was created. However, these edits apply to only the releasegenerated when you redeploy the artifacts. If you want your edits apply to all future releases and deployments,choose the option to edit the release pipeline instead.

When and why would I abandon a release?

After you create a release, you can use it to redeploy the artifactsto any of the stages defined in that release.This is useful if you want to perform regular manual releases, or set up acontinuous integration stage triggerthat redeploys the artifacts using this release.

If you do not intend to reuse the release, or want to prevent it being used to redeploy the artifacts,you can abandon the release using the shortcut menu that opens from the ellipses (..) icon in thePipeline view of the pipeline.

You cannot abandon a release when a deployment is in progress, you must cancel the deployment first.

How do I send release summaries by email?

After a release is triggered and completed, you may want to email the summary to stakeholders.Use the Send Email option on the menu that opens from the ellipses (..) icon in the Pipeline view of the pipeline.

In the Send release summary mail window, you can further customize the information to be sent in the emailby selecting only certain sections of the release summary.

How do I manage the names for new releases?

C A Meaning In Dev Ops 2

The names of releases for a release pipeline are, by default, sequentially numbered.The first release is named Release-1, the next release isRelease-2, and so on. You can change this naming scheme by editing therelease name format mask. In the Options tab of a release pipeline,edit the Release name format property in the General page.

C A Meaning In Dev Ops 1

When specifying the format mask, you can use the following pre-defined variables.

Rev:rrAn auto-incremented number with at least the specified number of digits.
Date / Date:MMddyyThe current date, with the default format MMddyy. Any combinations of M/MM/MMM/MMMM, d/dd/ddd/dddd, y/yy/yyyy/yyyy, h/hh/H/HH, m/mm, s/ss are supported.
System.TeamProjectThe name of the project to which this build belongs.
Release.ReleaseIdThe ID of the release, which is unique across all releases in the project.
Release.DefinitionNameThe name of the release pipeline to which the current release belongs.
Build.BuildNumberThe number of the build contained in the release. If a release has multiple builds, this is the number of the primary build.
Build.DefinitionNameThe pipeline name of the build contained in the release. If a release has multiple builds, this is the pipeline name of the primary build.
Artifact.ArtifactTypeThe type of the artifact source linked with the release. For example, this can be Azure Pipelines or Jenkins.
Build.SourceBranchThe branch of the primary artifact source. For Git, this is of the form master if the branch is refs/heads/master. For Team Foundation Version Control, this is of the form branch if the root server path for the workspace is $/teamproject/branch. This variable is not set for Jenkins or other artifact sources.
Custom variableThe value of a global configuration property defined in the release pipeline.

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For example, the release name format Release $(Rev:rrr) for build $(Build.BuildNumber) $(Build.DefinitionName) will create releases with names such as Release 002 for build 20170213.2 MySampleAppBuild.

How do I specify the retention period for releases?

You can customize how long releases of this pipeline must be retained. For more information, see release retention.

How do I use and manage release history?

Every time you save a release pipeline, Azure Pipelines keeps a copy of the changes. This allows you to compare the changes at a later point, especially when you are debugging a deployment failure.

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