It's so easy - backup build and release definitions from VSTS using Azure Functions

When working with build and release definitions in VSTS we're blessed with the possibility to check audit logs, what was changed, when and by who. This - together with proper permissions setup - allow proper access management and easy rollback if something was misused. Unfortunately VSTS lacks an easy way to export those definitions so we can backup them or version in our repository. In this post I'll show you a quick way to schedule daily backups using Azure Functions.

Prerequisities

To perform actions from this post you'll need Visual Studio 2017 15.3 with Azure Functions SDK installed. Since those tools are no longer in preview, I no longer use CSX to create examples and proofs of concepts. I strongly advise you to update to the latest VS version so you can take the most from the new SDK.

What is more you'll need also a personal access token(PAT) from VSTS. Please read this article if you haven't for an idea how to get it.

Creating functions

To be able to schedule our backup, we'll need two functions. Both we'll be triggered by a timer and both will upload a blob to a Blob Storage container. Here's our infrastructure needed:

ARM template visualization created by ARMata

As you can see this is the basic infrastructure needed to be able to use Functions, which can be easily set up in Azure Portal. Once we have required components provisioned, we can prepare code, which will create backups.

In VS when you go to Create project wizard, you'll see a window with available templates. When you go to the Cloud tab you should see Azure Functions template ready to be created:

Once a project is created right-click on it, to to Add menu and select New item:

From the available positions select Azure Function and click Add. You'll see plenty of different function templates, from which we have to choose Timer trigger. Change the schedule to 0 0 0 */1 * * so it will be triggered once a day and click Ok.

Creating a backup

To create a backup we'll use once more VSTS REST API. Here are endpoint, which we'll use here:

They return JSON definitions, which can be easily stored and versioned. The actual code for creating a build definition backup looks like this:

/
public static class BuildBackup
{
	private const string Personalaccesstoken = "PAT";

	[FunctionName("BackupBuild")]
	public static async Task Run([TimerTrigger("0 */1 * * * *")]TimerInfo myTimer, [Blob("devops/build.json", FileAccess.Write)] Stream output, TraceWriter log)
	{
		try
		{
			using (var client = new HttpClient())
			{
				client.DefaultRequestHeaders.Accept.Add(
					new MediaTypeWithQualityHeaderValue("application/json"));

				client.DefaultRequestHeaders.Authorization = new AuthenticationHeaderValue("Basic",
					Convert.ToBase64String(
						System.Text.Encoding.ASCII.GetBytes(
							string.Format("{0}:{1}", "", Personalaccesstoken))));

				using (var response = await client.GetAsync(
					$"https://{instance}.visualstudio.com/DefaultCollection/{project}/_apis/build/definitions?api-version=2.0")
				)
				{
					var data = await response.Content.ReadAsAsync<JObject>();
					foreach (var pr in data.SelectToken("$.value"))
					{
						var id = pr.First.SelectToken("$.id");
						using (var release = await client.GetAsync(
							$"https://{instance}.visualstudio.com/DefaultCollection/{project}/_apis/build/definitions/{id}?api-version=2.0")
						)
						{
							release.EnsureSuccessStatusCode();
							var releaseData = await release.Content.ReadAsStringAsync();
							var bytes = Encoding.UTF8.GetBytes(releaseData);
							await output.WriteAsync(bytes, 0, bytes.Length);
						}
					}
				}
			}
		}
		catch (Exception ex)
		{
			log.Info(ex.ToString());
		}
	}
}

To create a backup of a release definition you can use following function:

/
public static class ReleaseBackup
{
	private const string Personalaccesstoken = "PAT";

	[FunctionName("BackupRelease")]
	public static async Task Run([TimerTrigger("0 0 0 */1 * *")]TimerInfo myTimer, [Blob("devops/release.json", FileAccess.Write)] Stream output, TraceWriter log)
	{
		try
		{
			using (var client = new HttpClient())
			{ 
				client.DefaultRequestHeaders.Accept.Add(
					new MediaTypeWithQualityHeaderValue("application/json"));

				client.DefaultRequestHeaders.Authorization = new AuthenticationHeaderValue("Basic",
					Convert.ToBase64String(
						Encoding.ASCII.GetBytes(
							string.Format("{0}:{1}", "", Personalaccesstoken))));

				using (var response = await client.GetAsync(
					"https://{instance}.vsrm.visualstudio.com/{project}/_apis/Release/definitions")
				)
				{
					var data = await response.Content.ReadAsAsync<JObject>();
					foreach (var pr in data.SelectToken("$.value"))
					{
						var id = pr.First.SelectToken("$.id");
						using (var release = await client.GetAsync(
							$"https://{instance}.vsrm.visualstudio.com/{project}/_apis/Release/definitions/{id}")
						)
						{
							release.EnsureSuccessStatusCode();
							var releaseData = await release.Content.ReadAsStringAsync();
							var bytes = Encoding.UTF8.GetBytes(releaseData);
							await output.WriteAsync(bytes, 0, bytes.Length);
						}
					}
				}
			}
		}
		catch (Exception ex)
		{
			log.Info(ex.ToString());
		}
	}
}

Some details:

  • I used a blob container named devops  - of course you can use any name you like
  • Unfortunately there's no way to combine those two functions(as long as you'd like to use different blob for holding build and release definitions)
  • You can easily version those JSON definitions by - instead of storing them in Blob Storage - calling a VSTS REST API for a repository and uploading a blob there

Visualizing ARM templates with ARMata

Some time ago I wrote a short post about a tool for visualizing ARM templates called ARMVIZ - while it's perfect for simple scenarios, it lacks more advanced features like toolbox, generating an image of architecture or quick recap of a resource. It also has problems with larger templates, which are barely readable and unfortunately is no longer maintained - at least at this moment. After discussing this problem with a group of Polish developers, we decided, that it'd great to create a new tool with extended functionality, which would take place of ARMVIZ in the future. This is how ARMata project was born.

Technology

ARMata differs greatly since it is no longer a web application - it is built with Electron so basically you can run it whenever Electron works(and since it is cross-platform, it works literally everywhere). Since you're installing it on your computer, it can perform much more advanced actions like editing files on your disk, using hardware acceleration for visualizing a template or interacting with other programs. It comes with automatic updates so you can be always up-to-date with all fresh features.

Open source

Yes - it is open source and completely free - you can take it, use it and modify it without limits. The goal is to create a tool, which is accessible for as many people as possible, eases working with ARM templates(which can be really cumbersome) and speeds up development. What is more - you can help in achieving this goals at any time by reporting bugs, introducing UI changes or coding new features. 

Current status

Currently ARMata is at the beta stage with main functionalities like parsing a template, visualizing it or quick recap of a resource already implemented. There're even more ideas, which will be introduced sooner or later like:

  • live editing of a template
  • toolbox with a possibility to create a template from scratch
  • generating an image from a visualized template so it can be used in documentation

If you'd like to help, we'll be more than happy to welcome you - there's still many thing to do :)