Volume 31 Number 8
By Michael Desmond | August 2016
Writing good software is hard. Managing the process of writing, maintaining and delivering good software is even harder—particularly when you add cross-platform mobile app development to the mix. Which is why Microsoft has been so busy improving and extending its DevOps solutions, addressing the software development lifecycle from planning and development, to testing and build, to deployment and monitoring.
Donovan Brown is a senior DevOps program manager at Microsoft. He defines DevOps as “the union of people, process and products to enable continuous delivery of value to our end users.” That focus on value is important, as it goes beyond simple code metrics to emphasize the tangible impact that delivered software has on the business, its workers and customers.
“To continuously deliver value implies that you are able to monitor and validate that value is actually delivered,” he says. “Just copying files to a server and hoping that people use them—there is no way to quantify or even qualify if I delivered value.”
How serious is Microsoft about DevOps? Based on the company’s $400 million-plus purchase of Xamarin in March and the acquisition of tools-maker HockeyApp at the close of 2014—very. At the Build conference in March, Brown demoed the extended DevOps capabilities in the cloud-based Visual Studio Team Services tool. As he told the audience before showing how the DevOps tool chain can improve a mobile app development scenario: “I’m just going to rub a little DevOps on it and make it better.”
Al Hilwa, program director for software development research at IDC, was impressed. “Microsoft wants its tools for developers to be what Office is for knowledge workers. That is, they want to be the No. 1 toolchain for cross-platform development, mobile, cloud, everything,” he says. “This is a tall order, but they are in fact executing on it and building a multi-platform ecosystem. Given their history with developers, you have to give them good odds on this.”
This is exciting stuff. Features like Xamarin Test Cloud let developers test app code against ranks of cloud-hosted smartphones and devices, while HockeyApp provides a way to distribute pre-release code to select groups of testers and receive both user feedback and app telemetry.
To help get ahead of it all, this month we’re launching the first in a series of articles focused on mobile DevOps, starting with Kraig Brockschmidt’s feature, “From Code to Customer: Exploring Mobile DevOps.” Also this month, the ALM Rangers team at Microsoft shows how to leverage DevOps to build Visual Studio Team Services Extensions, while Jonathan Waldman explores the integration of Git source code management with Visual Studio 2015.
The Microsoft effort on DevOps is intriguing in that it promises to lift all boats. Every code writing effort, from traditional client-server applications to Android- and iPhone-based mobile apps, stands to improve within a robust DevOps environment.
What are your thoughts on Microsoft’s DevOps push?
Michael Desmond is the Editor-in-Chief of MSDN Magazine.