After waiting for it for a long time it’s here! If any of your customers has self-service sandbox environments you’ve been doing this by hand. We’ve been on self-service for over a year and a half with a customer, since the private preview, and we’ve REALLY missed this feature in Azure DevOps.
A Key Vault is a service that allows us to safely store certificates or secrets and later use them in our applications and services. And like many other Azure services it has a cost but it’s really low and, for a normal use, you will be billed like a cent or none a month. Don’t be stingy with security!
Basically, automation. Right now the API only allows the refresh from one Microsoft Dynamics 365 for Finance and Operations environment to another, so the idea is having fresh data from production in our UAT environments daily. I don’t know which new operations the API will support in the future but another idea could be adding the DB export operation (creating a bacpac) to the pipeline and having a copy of prod ready to be restored in a Dev environment.
The possibility of doing real CI/CD is one of my favorite MSDyn365FO things, going from “What’s source control?” to “Mandatory source control or die” has been a blessing. I’ll never get tired of saying this.
One of the major changes we got with Dynamics 365 has been the mandatory use of a source control system. In older versions we had MorphX VCS for AX 2009 and the option to use TFS in AX 2009 and AX 2012 (and there’s training available about this on El rincón Dynamics, in Spanish), but it wasn’t mandatory. Actually, always from my experience, I think most of projects used no source control other than comments in the code.
Azure DevOps in MsDyn365FO
In Microsoft Dynamics 365 for Finance and Operations the source control tool Azure DevOps offers, is not just a source control tool but aTHE tool that will be our One Ring for our projects (I hope that not for binding us in darkness). From project management to the functional team, everybody can be involved in using Azure DevOps to manage the project and team.
BPM synchronization and task creation, team planning, source control, automated builds and releases, are some of the tools it offers. All these changes will need some learning from the team, but in the short-term all of this will help the team to better manage the project.
As I said it looks like the technical team is the most affected for the addition on source control to Visual Studio, but it’s the most benefited too…
The first thing we need to do when starting a new implementation project, is linking LCS to the DevOps project we’ll be using. Everything is really well documented.
Once done we’ll have to deploy the build server. This is usually done in the dev box on Microsoft’s subscription. When this VM gets deployed the basic source tree will be created in the DevOps project:
With the source tree now available, we can map the development machines and start working. The Main folder you see in the image is a regular folder, but we can convert it into a branch if we need it.
In the image above, you can see the icon for Main changes when it’s converted in a branch. Branches allow us to perform some actions that aren’t available to folders. Some differences can be seen in the context menu:
For instance, branches can display the hierarchy of all the project branches (in this case it’s only Main and Dev so it’s quite simple :P).
Properties dialogs are different too. The folder one:
And the branch one, where we can see the different relationships between the other branches created from Main:
This might be not that interesting or useful, but one of the things converting a folder into a branch is seeing where has a changeset been merge into. We’ll see this in part 2.
I strongly recommend moving the Projects folder out of the Main branch into the root of the project, at the same level as BuildProcessTemplates and Trunk. If you don’t, and end up working in Main and Dev branches, Visual Studio’s solutions and projects will still be checked-in in the Main branch. It will spare you of small heart attacks when you receive the build email with the changeset summary, thinking something went into production 🙂
Some weeks ago, the release pipeline extension for #MSDyn365FO was published in Azure DevOps Marketplace, taking us closer to the continuous integration scenario. While we wait for the official documentation we can check the notes on the announcement, and I’ve written a step by step guide to set it up on our projects.
To configure the release pipeline, we need:
AAD app registration
An Azure DevOps project linked to the LCS project above
A service account
I recommend the user to be a service account with a non-expiring password and enough privileges on LCS, Azure and Azure DevOps (well, this is not a recommendation, without rights this cannot be done). This is not mandatory and can be done even with your user (if it has enough rights) for testing purposes.
AAD app creation
The first step to take is creating an app registration on Azure Active Directory to upload the generated deployable package to LCS. Head to Azure portal and once logged in go to Azure ActiveDirectory, then App Registrations and create a new Native app:
Next go to “Settings” and “Required permissions” to add the Dynamics Lifecycle Services API:
Select the only available permission in step 2 and accept until it appears on the “Required permissions” screen. Finally push the “Grant permissions” button to apply the changes:
This last step can be easily forgotten and the package upload to LCS cannot be done if not granted. Once done take note of the Application ID, we’ll use it later.
Create the release pipeline in DevOps
Before setting up anything on Azure DevOps we need to make sure the project we’re going to use is linked to LCS. This can be done in the “Visual Studio Team Services” tab in LCS’ project settings.
After setting it up, we’ll go to Pipelines -> Releases to create the new release. Select “New release pipeline” and choose “Empty job” from the list.
On the artifact box select the build which we will link to this release definition:
Pick the build definition you want to use for the release in “Source”, “Latest” in “Default version” and push “Add”.
The next step we’ll take is adding a Task with the release pipeline for Dynamics. Go to the Tasks tab and press the plus button. A list with extension will appear, look for “Dynamics 365 Unified Operations Tools”:
If the extension hasn’t been added previously it can be done in this screen. In order to add it, the user used to create the release must have admin rights on the Azure DevOps account, not only in the project in which we’re creating the pipeline.
When the task is created we need to fill some parameters:
Creating the LCS connection
The first step in the task is setting up the link to LCS using the AAD app we created before. Press New and let’s fill the fields in the following screen:
It’s only necessary to fill in the connection name, username, password (from the user and Application (Client) ID fields. Use the App ID we got in the first step for the App ID field. The endpoint fields should be automatically filled in. Finally, press OK and the LCS connection is ready.
In the LCS Project Id field, use the ID from the LCS project URL, for example in https://lcs.dynamics.com/V2/ProjectOverview/1234567 the project is is 1234567.
Press the button next to “File to upload” and select the deployable package file generated by the build:
If the build definition hasn’t been modified, the output DP will have a name like AXDeployableRuntime_VERSION_BUILDNUMBER.zip. Change the fixed Build Number for the DevOps variable $(Build.BuildNumber) like in the image below:
The package name and description in LCS are defined in “LCS Asset Name” and “LCS Asset Description”. For these fields, Azure DevOps’ build variables and release variables can be used. Use whatever fits your project, for example a prefix to distinguish between prod and pre-prod packages followed by $(Build.BuildNumber), will upload the DP to LCS with a name like Prod 2019.1.29.1, using the date as a DP name.
Save the task and release definition and let’s test it. In the Releases select the one we have just created and press the “Create a release” button, in the dialog just press OK. The release will start and, if everything is OK we’ll see the DP in LCS when it finishes:
The release part can be automated, just press the lightning button on the artifact and enable the trigger:
And that’s all! Now the build and the releases are both configured. Once the deployment package is published the CI scenario will be complete.