DevOps Fast Track training for Partners: learning how Microsoft tools scale to allow lightning fast DevOps

A couple of weeks ago I finally attended the long waited DevOps FastTrack Airlift 2017.

clip_image002These four days were packed on advanced information of how Microsoft’s VSTS team does DevOps. The team is comprised of about 800 people, and they work on both TFS and VSTS (I learned that only about 8% of the code is different between them, pretty much the same product to me).

A brief look at the agenda of the first three days (the fourth was NDA) show how the VSTS team uses its own product to its maximum capabilities:

DAY 1.1:  [KEYNOTE] Microsoft DevOps Transformation

DAY 1.2:  Agile Transformation and Planning

DAY 1.3:  A Day in the Life of an Engineer

DAY 1.4:  Running the Business on Metrics

DAY 2.1:  Architecture and Microservices

DAY 2.2:  Security

DAY 2.3:  Quality and Testing

DAY 2.4:  Deployment Practices

DAY 3.1:  Production Telemetry and Live Site Culture

DAY 3.2:  How We Do DevOps at Microsoft: Wrap-Up Session

DAY 3.3:  Visual Studio Partner Lightning Talks

a.   Modern Requirements

b.   Redgate

c.   WhiteSource

d.   Aqua


What is great about this internal usage (known at Microsoft as “eating your own dog food”) when added to the ten thousand people that use it for Windows development, and other several thousands for Exchange, Office, etc, is that is allows for testing it at a scale that cannot be matched by any other development tool provider.

For instance, even if Atlassian has (last I heard) about 600 developers, which is in the same order of magnitude of the VSTS team, they can’t beat having 40 thousand developers using the “beta” versions and having to do their daily work on the most recent bits.

Microsoft VSTS is primed for scalability from the very core of its engineering process, and it shows. If you are looking at similar tools for your enterprise, I recommend looking closely not only at their scalability numbers, but also their track record for support escalation.

Some tool vendors will have issues, clearly visible to the public, that had been opened more than 6 years ago and have made no progress to resolution. This is not necessarily wrong but it does indicate whether the tool provider actually has enterprise customers as their priority. With Microsoft VSTS you are also engaging with a clear incident escalation path that leads no doubts to resolution time: it is days, not months, and definitely not years, and if something can’t be resolved it will be marked as such, not be left open.

Several customers have been migrating to TFS from competing tools and are amazed at how their support load just decreases, from having to be working on every weekend to put out fires caused by load on build or issue tracking systems, to just having no issue at all and getting their weekend back. With VSTS it goes even further, as now the administrators don’t have to worry about patching, upgrading etc.

These four days have been eye opening. With the follow up email I got the following invitation:

“We encourage you to leverage the content below as you present to customers, conferences, user groups and/or colleagues.  We look forward to sharing the Microsoft DevOps Transformation story across as many audiences as possible.” , which I am happy to oblige:

I am happy to oblige, given the high quality of the content.  I will be using the materials at customers starting immediately as a way to show a possible ideal implementation of a cutting edge DevOps practice. Not that we need to replicate exactly what Microsoft is doing – not many companies have the same resources, in the topic DevOps, Microsoft is at the level of Amazon, Netflix, Facebook or Google – but we can always look at their experience to extract ideas of where to direct our efforts, since Microsoft is using the same tools as we are.

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