Microsoft squeezes a 2019 server out of the Azure DevOps pipeline

RC1 is here for devs without their heads in the cloud

Microsoft has emitted the first release candidate for the on-premises version of Azure DevOps in the form of Azure DevOps Server 2019.

The release is more than the rebranding exercise promised back in September when Microsoft told the army of developers using its tools that Visual Studio Team Services would be battered with the marketing stick until it answered to Azure DevOps.

For those devs unwilling to fling themselves into the cloudy world where Microsoft would prefer them to be, the software giant has rolled out the first on-premises version of the new brand, replete with a host of new features.

Team Foundation Server users, meet Azure DevOps Server 2019.

A Fluent facelift

The first thing migrating Team Foundation Server users will notice is that the interface has been dunked in the Fluent Design vat to, er, "modernize the user experience". As far as the rest, well – Microsoft really wants you to remember that it does have this whole cloud thing going on even if you will insist on self-hosting.

As well as shoving the name "Azure" on something that will live in a customer's own data centre, the existing SQL Server support of DevOps Server 2019 has been augmented by Azure SQL. Thus rather than simply self-host with an on-premises SQL Server, you could self-host in the cloud and "take advantage of all the fantastic Azure SQL capabilities and performance" as Microsoft puts it.

Or perhaps you might like to purchase an Azure DevOps subscription instead? It has, after all, only been a tiny bit wobbly of late.

The hybrid cloud approach continues in the tweaks made to the release management interface, with Microsoft allowing users to mix and match self-hosted agents with those in the cloud for Windows, macOS or Linux and, of course, deployment can be to IaaS or PaaS in Azure as well as on-premises.

Other tweaks to the interface include a welcome return for an expanded search box on the product header and the "My Work" fly-out, which will give devs information about other parts of a project without having to navigate their way there.

Repo Man

There has also been work done around Repos, with notifications added when users decide to override branch policies to, for example, deploy a hotfix to a production issue in the middle of the night. Like wrapping electronic duct-tape around a borked Multi-Factor Authentication service, perhaps?

Other repo improvements include the forcing of titles onto pull requests with multiple commits, adding templates for pull request descriptions and the ability to create a pull request without a default reviewer. Anything to persuade devs to add useful commit messages is always to be welcomed.

Arm is in the Pipeline

Hidden away among improvements to the visualisation of build and test pipelines, deployment progress and chained builds via completion triggers is news that the open source, cross platform build agent, Azure Pipelines, is now supported on Linux Arm and 32 bit Windows as well the existing x64 Windows, macOS and Linux implementations.

The arrival of Linux on Arm raises the intriguing possibility of a cluster of inexpensive Raspberry Pi devices being pressed into service.

In Memoriam

While the Release Candidate (which Microsoft reckons is ready for production) is chock full of other new toys, the gang at Redmond is at pains to point out that the end of the road is rapidly approaching for SOAP APIs to interact with Work Items and Tests.

Already announced back in May, the APIs arrived with the first version of Team Foundation Server in 2005 are for the chop in the next major release of Azure DevOps Server (likely 2020).

Any tools that depend on these APIs are therefore on notice.

Microsoft has not given a date for the final release of Azure DevOps Server 2019, but has stated the Release Candidate includes go-live licensing "making it suitable for production use today". The company reckons an upgrade from Team Foundation Server 2012 or later should go smoothly, but 2010 or earlier will need some wrangling. ®

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