Azure DevOps Projects

I will be speaking at Global Azure Bootcamp Toronto (well, Mississauga to be exact) on April 21st, 2018. The topic will be DevOps Projects. Azure DevOps Projects. That thing that makes it a lot easier to deploy to Azure through VSTS. Should be fun. Go ahead and register at See you there.

I thought I'd share the description:

IT world changes fast. Very fast. But Azure, and cloud in general, moves even faster. A lot faster. This requires learning latest technologies, using them in your product and deploying at a faster pace. With digital transformation efforts in full swing across enterprises in nearly every industry, developers are driven harder than ever to speed up application releases. In the process, they also want to ensure quality and security and to manage these apps more efficiently. This is where DevOps becomes critical and where a simplified way to get started with DevOps could be useful. Microsoft's new Azure DevOps Projects tool lets developers configure a DevOps pipeline and connect it to the cloud with no prior knowledge of how to do so.

The Azure DevOps Project presents a simplified experience which creates Azure resources and sets up a continuous integration (CI) and continuous delivery (CD) pipeline for when you are developing a .NET, Java, Node, PHP, or a Python app, or whether you are targeting app services, virtual machines, or containers in Azure using Visual Studio Team Services (VSTS) behind the scenes. DevOps Projects help you get up and running with a new app and a full DevOps pipeline in just a few minutes. Azure DevOps Project helps you launch an app on an Azure App Service of your choice in a few quick steps and set you up with everything you need for developing, deploying, and monitoring your app. Creating a DevOps Project provisions Azure resources and comes with a Git code repository, Application Insights integration and a continuous delivery pipeline setup to deploy to Azure. The DevOps Project dashboard lets you monitor code commits, builds and, deployments, from a single view in the Azure portal.

Create your application and release pipeline on any Azure service in just three steps—simply select an application language, a runtime, and an Azure service. Start small and scale up as needed using Azure DevOps Projects.

Deploy SSIS packages in VSTS/TFS

If you need to deploy SSIS packages using VSTS/TFS, try using the following build task:

The task allows you to deploy ISPAC file to SSIS instance. When deploying you need to specify:

  • path to .ispac file to be deployed
  • name of the catalog folder where the package will be deployed
  • name of SSIS server where the package will be deployed
  • name of the SSIS project
  • name of the SSIS environment
  • project and package parameters to ignore during the deployment

Also, the task allows you to deploy SSIS package using a remote machine. To deploy SSIS package using remote machine, make sure Authentication required checkbox checked and specify:

  • name of the remote server to use to deploy SSIS package
  • remote user account
  • and remote user password
  • Oh yes, and you have an option to connect to remote machine using SSL, if you want


Have fun.

How to get rid of /tfs in TFS URL

There are two ways to get rid of /tfs in TFS URL. First is to unconfigure TFS application tier and pick a URL without /tfs when re-run TFS application tier configuration wizard, and second is configure IIS TFS site without /tfs.

In the first option, to unconfigure TFS application tier open the Team Foundation Administration Console on the Application Tier machine. Click on the server name and click on "Remove Feature". You can do the same from command prompt, execute TfsConfig setup /uninstall:ApplicationTier command to unconfigure TFS Application Tier. By removing the feature, we will be removing:

  • The Application Tier configuration from the server (but we don't remove the binaries)
  • Connection with Data tier (but the databases won't be deleted)
  • TFS Website.
  • TFS Application Pools
  • TFS Services (The Visual Studio Team Foundation Server Job Agent)

Then, when re-running the configuration wizard, pick the URL you want on the website settings page.

In the second option, first add port 80 and 443 to the list of TFS IIS ports

  1. Open IIS Management Console
  2. Browse to Team Foundation Server site
  3. Click on Bindings
  4. Add port 80 to http
  5. Add port 443 to https. Make sure pick the proper SSL certificate from the list

 Then, switch to / for TFS instead of /tfs

  1. Open IIS Management Console
  2. Browse to Team Foundation Server site, then /tfs web app under it
  3. Click on Basic Settings on the left menu
  4. Copy Physical Path value
  5. Go to up to Team Foundation Server site, click on Basic Settings on the left menu
  6. Replace Physical Path value with the one copied from /tfs web app
  7. Click OK to Save the changes
  8. Click on Authentication
  9. Make sure Windows and Anonymous authentication options are enabled
  10. Remove /tfs web app
  11. Update TFS Admin Console to use new public URL

I prefer the second option, but both options are good. Also, consider putting effort into redirecting old URLs to new ones.

Encrypt remote web.config

Deploying websites using VSTS/TFS is a breeze. Whether you deploy on premises or in the cloud. Quite often though, when you deploy on premises, you had to encrypt certain sections of web.config files for security reasons. There is no built in task in TFS/VSTS to do that. And, since this activity came up more and more, I've decided to write another build task and share it with the world. Introducing Encrypt Remote Web Config task:

When use the task, specify the following:

  • Folder path to where web.config resides
  • Section(s) of the web.config file you would like to encrypt. You can specify more than one comma separated sections at a time
  • Remote server name or IP address where website resides. You can specify more than one comma separated remote server at a time
  • Remote user name
  • Remote user password. Please use variables to store password securely.

Did I mention that the task is free?

@CurrentIteration Just got smarter

@CurrentIteration was a long awaited feature in TFS/VSTS. It was very exciting when it came along and we could create queries that would work sprint after sprint without having to update at the start of each sprint.

Now they just got better, @CurrentIteration now takes parameters. Pass it a Team to get the current iteration for that team. Which also gives us the ability to reference different current iterations in the same query. And finally, you can now query for past or future iterations just by including +n or –n.

Check out Lauren Brose’s blog for all the details.

VSTS Time Zone Settings

There seems to be a bit of confusion about time zone settings in VSTS. The confusion comes from the fact that there are two places where time zone settings can be configured for VSTS users: VSTS account time zone setting and VSTS user profile time zone setting.

VSTS account time zone setting is the MAIN time zone setting. This time zone setting is used by VSTS account for storing all date/time data. In other words, when you set your VSTS account time zone to EST, all timestamps in VSTS will be stored in EST time zone. Another good example of when VSTS account time zone setting is used is when you configure iteration dates, build/release schedules, etc. Account time zone setting is configured on the Account Settings page: https://*

VSTS user profile time zone setting is used to make user experience more personal to the user and display the VSTS time stamps for when a user browsing VSTS using time zone configured for that specific user. So, if my VSTS account time zone is set to EST, but my user profile time zone setting is set to PST, then when I'm browsing the VSTS all date/time fields will be displayed in PST time zone. VSTS user profile time zone setting can be configured on user profile page (, by clicking your name on the top-right corner of your VSTS page, then clicking on My Profile | Edit profile | Preferences option. Set your user time zone setting and click Save.

@mentions in VSTS/TFS

I find a lot of people don’t know about @mentions. @mentions allows you to bring someone into the conversation around a work item.  All you have to do is type an at symbol “@” into the discussion field.

Once you start typing the user search will appear similar to when you start typing a user name into the assigned To field.


Once you find the person that you want to bring into the conversation you just mention them in the Discussion field.


The person you mentioned will receive an email letting them know they were mentioned.


You can read all about it here.

VSTS Sync Migration Tools

If you need to bulk edit and migrate data between Team Projects on both Microsoft Team Foundation Server (TFS) and Visual Studio Team Services (VSTS), try VSTS Sync Migration Tools. It's not the most user friendly tool to use, but it's VERY powerful and flexible.

What can you do with this tool?

  • Assist in Bulk Editing of Work Items
  • Migrate Work Items & Test Management from one Team Project to another
  • Merge Team Projects
  • Migrate Work Items & Test Management from one account or collection to another
  • Assist in changing process templates


You can install this tool, by simply running Chocolatey command as such: choco install vsts-sync-migrator or download the latest release from GitHub and unzip. You can also obviously contribute to the tool:

A few tips on using the tool:

  • You need to add the account that you use to Project Collection Services Accounts group using tfssecurity command
  • You also need to add ReflectWorkItemID field to your source and destination. This field is technically not required, but since it is used to make sure that work items are not migrated more than once when you re-run the tool more than once, I find it very important to add. Add this field to the destination if you're syncing work items one way, and add this field to both source and destination if you're syncing bi-directionally. More information about server configuration for the tool, see
  • This tool is based on processors where you can load a specific processor to do something you need:
    • Use WorkItemMigrationContext processor to migrate the tip revisions of the work items
    • Use WorkItemRevisionReplayMigrationContext processor to migrate the work items with history
    • Use WorkItemUpdate processor to bulk edit the work items
    • Use AttachementExportMigrationContext processor to export all work items attachments to the migration machine. This is used in partnership with the AttachmentImportMigrationContext
    • Use AttachementImportMigrationContext processor to import all work items attachments from the migration machine. This is used in partnership with the AttachementExportMigrationContext
    • Use LinkMigrationContext processor to migrate all the work item links, both between work items and external links.
    • Use WorkItemQueryMigrationContext processor to migrate all shared work item queries

This tool has a bunch of other processors dealing with test objects, Git links, teams, etc. as well as various field mapping options as I said this tool is very powerful. We'll cover those in one of the future posts.




CI\CD with SQL Server

I did a presentation back in the spring at my user group TALMUG on SQL Server Data Tools. I enjoyed it so much I am doing it at 3 other user groups.

Canadian Technology Triangle .Net User Group  ‎November‎ ‎22‎, ‎2017

North Toronto .net user Group January 10, 2018

Toronto .Net Meetup February 28, 2018

If you want to learn how to work with SSDT and create a CICD pipeline for your SQL Server Database come on out to one of these meetups.

VSTS Compare Excel Spread Sheets

I have many customers who keep spread sheets in version control for various reasons. Why they do it is not the purpose of this post. The point is about using the Compare feature in TFS/VSTS on Excel Spread sheets. I recently discovered an easy way to compare the difference between two spread sheets, and how to hook that up to Visual Studio so I could right click compare right from Team Explorer.

This is for Office 2016. You can do it for older versions however the location of SpreadSheetCompare.exe may be different.

Here is the trick:

Write a batch file that writes the file names of the two files you want to compare to another file. Then call SpreadSheetCompare.exe passing in the file containing the two file names.

dir %1 /B /S > c:\temp\temp.txt 
dir %2 /B /S >> c:\temp\temp.txt 
"C:\Program Files (x86)\Microsoft Office\Root\Office16\DCF\SPREADSHEETCOMPARE.EXE" "c:\temp\temp.txt"

You can store the batch file in version control that way as long as the users get latest on this file they will have it locally. Or just give it to the people who want to do this and they can put it anywhere on their machine.

Hook this up to the Compare menu item in Team Explorer and VS: In Visual Studio open Tools –> Options, navigate to the “Source Control” section specifically “Visual Studio Team Foundation Server”. Open the “Configure User Tools…” dialog.

Add the .xlsx file extension calling your new batch file and passing in the two files to compare (default behaviour).


Now when you right click compare an Excel spread sheet in version control you will launch the SpreadSheetCompareTool that comes with office.

The link is to a video showing that. Which I tried to imbed in my blog but there are issues apparently that I don’t have time to research right now.