A simple explanation of private pipeline billing in VSTS

Update: Unlimited private pipelines are now free for Build!!

Microsoft caused a lot of confusion when they announced that you will need to pay to run private build agents, since this was free in TFS. Why should we have to pay to use our own server resources to run a build agent?!? You can see the outcry in the reviews on the Marketplace: 1.7/5 stars: https://marketplace.visualstudio.com/items?itemName=ms.build-release-private-pipelines#review-details

Once I fully understood how and why the billing is setup this way, I wasn’t as frustrated.

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VSTS Marketplace Extension: Queue Build(s) Task

Currently the TFS/VSTS build system has a pretty big bottleneck: tasks run in serial. For build steps that run PowerShell, I’ve implemented runspaces to run processes in parallel (Invoke-Parallel is amazing). However, that only works for one build step. The rest have to wait until it’s finished.

Enter Queue Build(s) Task. This extension sounds pretty simple, right? Queue a build as part of a build…. But it has potential to do much more.  It has the ability to use configurations (JSON) to pass variables from the build that’s queuing other builds, including system variables (source branch name, build id, build name, etc.).

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Using Task Groups in TFS/VSTS

When Microsoft announced Task Groups in TFS and VSTS, I couldn’t think of a practical use for them. When creating build definitions I always try to reduce the number of overall definitions by using prompted variables when possible, this way the user can modify the variable when queuing a build rather than duplicating a definition that has the same steps. Of course this doesn’t work well for things like working directory which warrant a separate build definition. This is where I found Task Groups shine.

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