Building it in the Cloud with Visual Studio Online


So we recently started a new project at work, hosted on Azure. As part of the initial investigation, I stared poking around in the Azure Portal to see what new toys we might be able to play with.

One of the items under review is our source control, build and deployment tool-chain, which, frankly, is a bit outdated. Since Microsoft recently released an updated Build module for Visual Studio Online, I took the time for some further investigation.

With that in mind, let’s have a look at some of the new features, and how it can be leveraged to improve the build and deployment process.

This week, I’m looking at the Hosted Pool Build Controller

Hosted Build Controller

In the past, we have deployed and maintained our own VM’s for builds and deployment. The advantage of this is that all our source code lives on the internal network, and we are in full control of the entire build process.

Visual Studio Online can provide all that for you in a user friendly portal, where you can define your build process, set up continuous integration or a build schedule, and then receive alerts, or just review logs as needed.

The combination of Hosted Builds, Unit Testing, Web App Deployment Slots and Continuous Integration presents a powerful argument to move your builds into the cloud, but it does come with some risks and downsides.

When would you choose to use Visual Studio Online Hosted Builds?

  • You are already using VSO for source control (TFS or GIT)
  • Your application is fully hosted on Azure
  • Maintaining a separate build server is difficult or too time consuming

Downsides to Hosted  Builds:

  • You are storing your source code in the cloud, which poses a security risk
  • Limited amount of customised build steps are available
  • Support for languages, compilers and source control systems is limited
  • No administrator access to the build controller

In summary, VSO Hosted Builds are a great way to get going quickly, provided you are willing to stay ‘in the box’ with regard to compilers, build and deployment tools. There are also limitations on the size of the application (10Gb as of writing), and the list of installed applications.

The list of features is really great, and growing, so it’s well worth checking it out.

For detailed information about VSO, visit Microsoft’s Visual Studio Online page.

Part 2 of this blog post is a walkthrough on setting up a new web app and using Visual Studio Online for source control.

Part 3 describes how to implement continuous integration in the Visual Studio Online environment.



  1. […] Last week, I wrote about some of the reasons why you might want to use Visual Studio Online’s hosted build controller to build and deploy your Azure web apps. For small teams, or individuals, you can get all the benefits of a robust build server and continuous integration for your project, without the hassle of maintenance and administration. This week, I’ll build a simple MVC app, and configure it for source control and continuous integration using Visual Studio Online. […]



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