Microsoft Azure DevOps Review

Robust functionality, good integration, continually enhanced, and easy to scale

What is our primary use case?

We're doing a full continuous integration (CI), continuous delivery (CD), continuous testing (CT), security, delivery, and monitoring.

We're currently using TFS 2013, TFS 2017, Azure DevOps Server 2019 update one, and Azure DevOps services, which is the SaaS cloud platform. I manage all of these.

It is deployed on Azure DevOps Server and Azure Services' private cloud.

What is most valuable?

They have been lately adding features to the services on a regular basis. Every two weeks, they are adding functionality to Azure DevOps Services to match it with what Azure DevOps Server or on-prem would offer. So, we continue to get more robust functionality.

My favorite right now is that they are starting to open up the API availability within Azure DevOps Services. 

Another thing that I like about Azure DevOps is that you can use it with any of the products that are on the market. You can integrate it with Jenkins and other open-source products to complete that fully functional CI, CD, CT, CM, and CS pipeline. It continues to enhance. 

What needs improvement?

We are currently in the process of moving all of our on-prem to the cloud platform. We are trying to make that move and host the majority of our DevOps services in the cloud because the cloud is where most of the things are going nowadays. However, the process of this transfer is not straightforward, and it could be a lot easier. Microsoft hasn't provided the maturity for migration tools. It could be a lot easier in that respect.

I want to see them continue to advance the API capabilities. They could add some more robust functionality to the administrative layer within ADO services. There are a lot of configuration elements that you need to take care of at the organization level and the project configuration level from an administrative capacity. When you're dealing with process templates and things of that nature, you have to do them all manually. Being able to automate some of that using scripts or API functionality would be really nice.

For how long have I used the solution?

I have been using this solution for about nine years.

What do I think about the stability of the solution?

It has actually been pretty stable. Some of the early gen ones were not so stable. Before Microsoft started communicating with the end-users, they would make changes in the middle of the workday, which was a bit frustrating because things would change, which would impact the end customers because they weren't expecting that change. Microsoft wouldn't communicate with tenant administrators and tenant owners, but now, Microsoft has gotten a lot better about articulating their roadmap and communicating when those kinds of changes are coming down the pipeline. We are now able to communicate that out to our tenants and the end-users working within our projects. There is a lot better communication in that respect, which makes it easier for us to make customers aware of what might be coming, what is going to cause changes for them, what are the timeframes in which those things are going to hit their views, and what to expect from those things and additional functionalities.

What do I think about the scalability of the solution?

For the cloud, it has been really good. For on-prem too, it is easy enough to scale out. TFS also has always been pretty easy to scale out.

In terms of the number of users, currently, we're in a transition because we were just acquired by another company. So, we're leaving our parent company, and we're going to a new company. The numbers that I have are in flux. Our current numbers are at about 600 for just our existing or old company. I've been asked to stop onboarding my users and projects until we move our current organization into our new operational tenant in the new company, but I'm projecting that we'll have between 2,000 to 4,000 people.

How are customer service and technical support?

I use it all the time. They're very good when you get to the right queue. So, when it is working, it is great. I would rate them a nine and a half out of ten because I always think people have room for improvement, but they've been very good and supportive.

It works great for us especially now because we've kind of been divested from our old company to our new company. When we were with our old company, it was a little bit mired because of the way our enterprise architecture was. My requests didn't go to a North American team. It went to an EU team, and then I had to work within EU hours to get support, whereas I am in North America. That was a little tricky. Our old parent company was parented in the UK, Ireland, and Scotland.

Which solution did I use previously and why did I switch?

I've used other solutions in tandem, and I have been an administrator for them. For example, I've used Jira and Confluence products, which is Atlassian. I've also used Remedy, but I'm not sure if they're still in the project management. I have also managed HP Performance Center and Tricentis. I've actually been administrating these for the last two years for this company.

I also use UCD, which is another very similar product. It does a lot of the same things and is also agnostic, just like Azure DevOps. You can use both of these with any of the products that are on the market.  

How was the initial setup?

It is pretty straightforward on the administrative side, but I've been working with this technology for a long time. It really falls in line with the majority of Microsoft products. If you're familiar with the Microsoft stack, it follows their pretty standard setup. You go through a similar process. It is just about knowing the nuances that Microsoft has when you're doing a farm configuration or a farm setup and the recommended prerequisites before you get started.

If we're talking about new end-users who are going from an older version of TFS to Azure DevOps Server or Azure DevOps Services, there is going to be a bit of a delta because the technology is different. There is a slight learning curve. Of course, it has got fancier bells and whistles and a jazzier user interface. It has softer edges and things have moved from left to right. Things that you found on the left side have again moved back over to the right side for administrative or usability functions. Your security elements and the things that you used to see on the left side have again switched back to the right side. These are the kinds of nuances about which you would need to educate your end-users. You need to get them used to the boards and how to use those. If your company is transitioning from a CMI model to an Agile model, it is going to be very important for the folks who are administrating your projects and your project managers to know how to configure the projects themselves, how to use Teams, and how to use permissions. Security becomes even more important because a lot of that really influences how you see the information within your project, and how you manage your boards, your sprints, and the work items that you allocate to your scrums or sprint users.

As you're going through different stages of your project, you have your pipelines and repos where your more development-centric users are going to be. I try to allocate out two different kinds of users that we're going to have and target them when I'm educating my folks. You have a kind of power user, and you have your regular contributor user. It is important to make this distinction because there are folks who are going to be doing basic or just regular contributor work. They will just contribute to the work items that are on a board or within a sprint. You're also going to have users who need to be slightly elevated, which is going to be that basic plus test plan. You need to understand how those affect your subscription and billing towards that subscription and how to manage that when they're not actively using it. You need to monitor this and enroll them back to a stakeholder so that you're not constantly incurring costs against your pay-as-you-go subscription costs. Everything is pay-as-you-go once you get into the cloud.

What other advice do I have?

I would ask those who are looking into implementing Microsoft Azure DevOps if they are already on the Microsoft stack of products. If they are, I would highly recommend them to use Azure DevOps Services or Azure DevOps, because they're already paying for that as part of their E-agreement. So, they should take full advantage of that because it is part of their licensing agreements. They should exploit what they're paying for because they are already paying a lot of money for Microsoft products.

Both UCD and ADO are the best products in the current DevOps space right now. They're both agnostic, and you can plug and play and integrate them with the majority of the tools in the market. You can integrate them with Jenkins and other open-source products, and open-source is where everything is going when you move to the cloud. Having that flexibility and viability within your company and business, no matter whether you're a small or large company, is a huge benefit. That will allow you to be flexible and deliver to on-prem or container.

Microsoft is extremely flexible, and they are listening to feedback and hearing what customers are saying. I've worked with Microsoft for almost 20 years now, but I took kind of a two-year sabbatical. Most of that time, I was developing out their SharePoint Online O365 platform. I stepped away for two years and then I transitioned over to DevOps because they really weren't taking feedback that was being provided by customers, and they were ignoring the customer experience, but their new CEO has kind of refocused Microsoft's outlook on the customer experience and is putting the priority back where it needs to be. They're doing a much better job in terms of incorporating feedback. They're continuing to advance and advent their product, and they are keeping ahead of and staying in touch with what technology is doing from a CI/CD pipeline perspective. This is why I am looking forward to continuing to use them.

I would rate Microsoft Azure DevOps a nine out of ten.

**Disclosure: My company has a business relationship with this vendor other than being a customer: Partner
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