Wednesday, September 4, 2019

Azure DevOps – Build and Release pipeline to Azure File Storage


Azure File Storage is an ubiquitous service. It is so useful that I have hardly seen an enterprise not making use of it. Recently Premium tier of File storage is introduced with IOPS as 1,00,000 as opposed to standard File storage which used to offer 1000 IOPS only. This premium tier now even makes Azure File Storage natural choice for high performance demanding applications.

I have been architecting many scenarios and implementations where I used Azure File Storage for running web applications. In such a scenario your application binaries, DLLs, application files [or jar, war files in case Java] are present on Azure File Storage and this Azure File Storage is mapped as a drive to Azure VMs. This Azure VM then runs web servers likes Tomcat, IIS and maps their website path to the drive mapped using Azure File Storage. And this works awesome!

In today’s enterprise world DevOps has become a regular practice. Naturally when you plan to deploy web applications you use pipelines in Azure DevOps. In above scenario you would need to create Build and Release pipeline that will deploy your application to Azure File storage. Unfortunately, there is no default task exist in Azure DevOps that can publish the build output to Azure File Storage. This is what I am going to build in this post.

Let’s go!

Setting up pre-requisites

For this blog post I am going to use .NET Core language web application as my sample. It doesn’t matter if you use any other language-based example. So I already have a DevOps Organization created and in the same I have created one Project named as “MyNETCoreApp” as shown below –

It doesn’t matter which option you select for Agile process while creating project in Azure DevOps. Selection of Agile process while creation of project in Azure DevOps will matter in other important cases of setting up your business process. Not in Build and Release pipeline. But that is another blog on another day. Not today!

Next part is about creating the project n Visual studio [or in your favorite IDE] and pushing the same project in this current Azure DevOps Project Repo. I have it done already because I think this is straight forward and no step by step guide is required. So My project Repo looks as follows –

So we are all set for now to create Build and Release pipelines to release to Azure File Share.

Don’t believe on your eyes - Clearing up the confusion

When I asked my regular blog followers for the current topic most of them responded saying “Azure DevOps already offers a way/task to release the code to Azure Files.”. I said where? How and when did this happen? Then my dearest followers [most of them - not all] sent below screenshot to me [without Red and Green highlights]–

They were not wrong because they had just a given a quick look to the heading. Red highlighted Heading is perfectly fine and it will make you believe that Azure DevOps do offer a task to publish and release pipeline to Azure File Share. However if you focus on description of the task Green highlighted; you will see that Azure DevOps File Copy tasks do not publish to Azure Files but to Azure Blob and Virtual Machine only. Confusion because of names!

I am sure you know the difference between Azure Blob [https] storage and Azure File Share [SMB] storage. So moral of the story – we don’t have any tasks default provided in Azure DevOps to release the code to Azure Files share.

High Level Solution

Fortunately Azure Files can be accessed using Azure PowerShell. So we can write our own custom PowerShell to copy the Build Pipeline output to Azure Files in the release pipeline task of Azure DevOps. So here are the high level steps –

1. Create a Build pipeline to Restore, Build, Test and Publish .NET core code base. In publish task
2. Then add the task “Publish Artifact” with “Path to publish” as “Artifact Staging Directory” and “artifact publish location” as “Azure Pipelines”.
3. Create a Release pipeline.
4. Add PowerShell task to “remove existing Azure file storage content”. So basically we are cleaning up entire 
       5. Azure File Share if there are already any files residual because of previous releases.
6. Add PowerShell task to “copy the latest application binaries to Azure Files share”.

Build the “Build” Pipeline

Create Pipelines -> Builds -> New Pipeline.

I wanted to keep things simple therefore not following YAML part. Therefore, click on “Use the classic editor” option as follow –

Then Select the options as follows –

WarningAs you see in above screenshot I am selecting the “Master branch” for creating Build and Release as shown by “Red” highlight. In real life you don’t produce Build and Releases from Master branch. Using Master branch for Release is madness. Never do that. My focus is to showcase how can you build Release pipeline for Azure File Share. So not focusing on other no related best practices here. Watch out!!

Select the option for task as “ASP.Net Core” as shown below and click on Apply –

Select the option as “Azure Pipelines” on Agent Pool and then “Agent Specification” as vs2017-win2016” as shown below. You can select any other Agent specification based on your choice. –

Keep Restore, Build and Test settings as it is. Do not change anything on that. Select Publish task and uncheck the option “Zip Published Projects”. If we check this option then the output of build and release  that gets copied to Azure File Share will be zipped. So unnecessarily you will also need a task to Unzip it. I think that is just making more complex. Therefore I am unchecking this option as shown below –

Then expand “Save & queue” option and select “Save” option. On the save pop up simply click Save without any changes. Post this separate Queue option will enable. Click on it to create a new build; keep the options default on “Run Pipeline” screen. Then click on Run and post successful build you should receive an email similar to shown below –

Build the “Release” Pipeline

Click on “Releases -> New Pipeline -> Empty Job” as shown below.

Then rename the Release Pipeline name and stage 1 to meaningful names as shown –

Do not “Save” yet. We have not mapped incoming Build output as input to release pipeline yet. Let us do that first. Click on “Add an Artifact” option and select the source type as Build. Automatically it will list the latest build, select the options as shown below –

Under the stages you should see text like “1 job, 0 task.” Click on it. Then click on “+” sign against Agent Job tile. Select Azure PowerShell from the task and click on Add. Provide below values inside the PowerShell task –

As you can see in above I have named this task as “Remove Existing File Storage content” and this is what we will do first before we publish and release the new application code base.

Removal of Azure File Storage is not straight forward. Azure Filed will not allow you to delete the directories unless they are empty. Recently I had written a post and PowerShell on how can you delete Azure File directories using Azure PowerShell. Refer it here -

The inline PowerShell code I have built uses the same above referenced PowerShell. The version that I used inside the PowerShell task under Release pipeline can also be downloaded from here -

Make sure that Blue highlighted values you replace in your inline PowerShell code. Also make sure that you select “Latest” version for PowerShell to run. This completes the first part of the release. Now click on Save at the top to save the current changes.

Now we need another PowerShell task to publish the latest application to Azure Files. Therefore follow the same step as earlier and create a new PowerShell task. Now for this inline PowerShell we need to record artifact name from Build output and refer it in the PowerShell. To get your artifact name click on “Agent Job” tile and record the name of your artifact and folder name as highlighted below –

Add the recorded Artifact name and folder name in the inline PowerShell at line number 9 present in this link -

Also make sure that you replace other values in the inline PowerShell code when you add inside Azure DevOps Release pipeline Azure PowerShell task. At last save the task and release pipeline. New PowerShell tasks looks as below -  

At the end your complete Release pipeline will look with 1 job and 2 tasks as shown below –

Click on “Create Release” and witness the magic of releasing an application to Azure Files share.

Bonus Tip

If your application is also have deployed in another region for Disaster recovery, then you can also add another Stage in the same Release Pipeline as shown below –


And that’s it! Hope this article has given you how can you release the application to Azure Files even using Azure PowerShell Release Tasks even if there is no default task available.

Download the complete PowerShell code for removing the content from Azure Files and publish the latest application to Azure Files here –
Happy Pipelining!!

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  1. Very well explained kunal, Thanks for sharing

  2. Amazing write-up
    what a fantastic post, this is so useful information cant wait to utilize, thank you for sharing this post, looking more form your side.

  3. Interesting phrase: "In real life you don’t produce Build and Releases from Master branch. Using Master branch for Release is madness."
    Then what do you use the master branch for and which branch do you release?

  4. Thanks for this Kunal, this is great, did you have any issues with authorization when connecting from the pipeline into the Azure File Share? My storage context seems to get created ok, but can't access azure file shares - looks like I need to enable Azure AD domain services on the file share - did you have to do this?

    1. Got it working - did need Azure AD domain services enabled, service connection added to Storage File Data SMB Share Contributor role on the storage account, IP range of build server allowed on the storage account network settings and port 445 outbound on NSG for build server - thanks again