Build & release a Container Image from Azure DevOps to Azure Web App for Containers

I recently published a blog post on 4sysops.com about Web App for Containers on Azure here: https://4sysops.com/archives/web-app-for-containers-on-azure. That blog post is about the often-overlooked service in Azure that can be used to host a container/s on a web app in Azure App service.

This is a great service if you just need to run a single container or even a couple of containers that you have in Docker Compose. This service is PaaS and abstracts away an orchestration system like Kubernetes. If you need insight into the Azure App Service Web App for Containers service check out the blog post on 4sysops.

In this long blog post I am going to take things a step further and walk-through the build & release of a Container from Azure DevOps to Azure Web App for Containers. The overall goal of this post is to help someone else out if they want to setup a build and release pipeline for building and deploying a container to Azure App Service. We will use a very simple PHP web app I built that will run in the container.

Here are the components that are involved in this scenario:

  • Azure Container Registry (ACR): We will use this to store our container image. We will be pushing up the container image and pull it back down from the registry as a part of the build and release process.
  • Azure DevOps (ADO): This is the DevOps tooling we will use to build our container, push it up to ACR, pull it down into our release pipeline and then deploy to our Azure App Service.
  • App Service Web App for Containers: This is the web server service on Azure that will be used to host our container. Under the hood this will be a container that is running Linux and Apache to host the PHP web app.

Here is the data Flow for our containerized web app:

  1. Deploy the Azure App Service Web App for Containers instance
  2. Deploy the Azure Container Registry
  3. Deploy the Azure DevOps organization and project, create repository to host the code, clone repository in VS Code (Not shown in this blog post. Assume you know how to this up.)
  4. Update the application code (PHP code and Docker image) in Visual Studio code
  5. Commit application code from Visual Studio code to the Azure DevOps repo (Not shown in this blog post. Assume you know how to this up.)
  6. Setup build and then run container build and push the container image to ACR
  7.  Setup release pipeline and then kick off the release pipeline pulling down the container image from ACR and deploys the container to the App Service Web App for Containers instance.

Here is a diagram detailing out the build and release process we will be using:

Click to enlarge

Note that all code used in this blog post is hosted on my GitHub here: https://github.com/Buchatech/EOTD-PHP-APP-DOCKER-CONTAINER

Ok. Let’s get into the setup of core components of the solution and the various parts of the build and release pipeline.

For starters this solution will need a project in Azure DevOps with a repo. Create a project in Azure DevOps and a repo based on Git. Name the repo exerciseoftheday. Next up let’s create the core framework we need in Azure.

Deploy Azure App Service Web App for Containers

Let’s create the Azure App Service Web App for Containers that will be needed. We will need a resource group, an app service plan and then we can setup the app service. The PHP app we will be running is named Exercise Of The Day (EOTD) for short so our resources will use EOTD. Use the following steps to set all of this up.

We will do everything via Azure Cloud Shell. Go to https://shell.azure.com/ or launch Cloud Shell within VS Code.

Run the following Syntax:

# Create a resource group

az group create –name EOTDWebAppRG –location centralus

# Create an Azure App Service plan

az appservice plan create –name EOTDAppServicePlan –resource-group EOTDWebAppRG –sku S1 –is-linux

# Create an Azure App Service Web App for Containers

az webapp create –resource-group EOTDWebAppRG –plan EOTDAppServicePlan –name EOTD –deployment-container-image-name alpine

# Create a deployment slot for the Azure App Service Web App for Containers

az webapp deployment slot create –name EOTD –resource-group EOTDWebAppRG –slot dev –configuration-source EOTD

Deploy Azure Container Registry

Now let’s create the Azure Container Registry. Again, this is where we will store the container image. Run the following Syntax:

# Create Azure Container Registry

az acr create –resource-group EOTDWebAppRG –name eotdacr –sku Basic –admin-enabled false –location centralus

Note the loginServer from the output. This is the FQDN of the registry. Normally we would need this, admin enabled, and the password to log into the registry. In this scenario we won’t need admin enabled or the password because we will be adding a connection to Azure DevOps and the pipelines will handle pushing to and pulling the image from the registry.

When it’s all done you should see the following resources in the new resource group:

Next, we will need to build an application and a container image.

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Master Azure with VS Code

At Experts Live Europe 2019 I presented a session titled “Master Azure with VS Code”. This was a fun session with an engaging audience that took to twitter after the session. There was some chatter asking this session was recorded. It was not. I did note that I planned to write a blog post on this topic.

Here is that blog post and it is the first one of 2020 for me! In this post, we are going to dive into how VS code is helpful when working with Azure and many extensions I find useful when working with Azure. This post is not set to be an end-all to using VS Code with Azure but from my experience. Use this post as a starting point or a reference for expanding your use of VS Code with Azure. Also, check out the many other community experts and Microsoft MVPs for their additional knowledge plus tips and tricks on this topic.

VS Code Overview

First off if you are not using VS Code stop reading this right now, go download it and install it then come back to finish reading. 🙂 VS Code is a must-have in your toolbox and it is free! For those that are new to VS Code, it is an open-source – code editor developed by Microsoft that runs on Windows, Linux, and macOS. Here is a shortlist of the many benefits of VS Code:

  • Has support for hundreds of languages.
  • Has Integrated Terminal.
  • Also powerful developer tool with functionality, like IntelliSense code completion and debugging.
  • Includes syntax highlighting, bracket-matching, auto-indentation, box-selection, snippets, and more.
  • Integrates with build and scripting tools to perform common tasks making everyday workflows faster.
  • Has support for Git to work with source control.
  • Large Extension Marketplace of third-party extensions.

Note that yes, VS Code is for the “IT Pro”. Not just developers.

Azure Extensions in VS Code

VS Code has a ton of extensions in general. There are a number of Azure specific extensions and you can work with Azure directly from VS Code.

If you go to the VS Code Marketplace here: https://marketplace.visualstudio.com/vscode and search on Azure you will see results for many published by Microsoft and many community based extensions for Azure. As of the time of writing this blog post, there are 93. Here is a screenshot showing some of the results:

You can also go directly to the Azure Tools extension from Microsoft here: 

https://marketplace.visualstudio.com/itemdetails?itemName=ms-vscode.vscode-node-azure-pack

Or the

Azure Extensions from Microsoft here:

https://code.visualstudio.com/docs/azure/extensions

In the rest of this post, I am going to share some key extensions I use with Azure. I will post the marketplace links at the end of each extension I talk about and if it is maintained by community or Microsoft.

Deploy to Azure using VS Code

It is important to note that not all of the Azure extensions available in VS Code can be used to deploy to Azure. Some can but most can’t here is a list of the services that you can deploy to from extensions in VS Code.

Azure Service Description
Azure Functions Build and manage Azure Functions serverless apps directly in VS Code with the Azure Functions extension.
App Service Manage Azure resources directly in VS Code with the Azure App Service extension.
Docker Deploy your website using a Docker container.
Azure CLI Create, deploy, and update a website using a terminal and the Azure CLI.
Static website Create, deploy, and update a static website on Azure Storage.

NOTE: This list is current at the time of writing this blog post. This will change over time.

Azure Cloud Shell in VS Code

Cloud Shell is something you should be using with Azure to make your life easier. It is an interactive command-line shell. You are authenticated to your Azure account when you launch it, It typically runs in the browser and is used for managing Azure resources. When you launch it you can choose the shell experience that best for you, either Bash or PowerShell. With VS Code you can launch Cloud Shell directly in VS Code!

Cloud Shell is a part of the Azure Account extension. Here are some key points on using Cloud Shell with VS Code:

  • Free (storage consumed has costs.)
  • Launch Azure Cloud Shell directly in VS Code.
  • Launch Bash, PowerShell, or Upload.
  • Works in the Integrated Terminal.

Azure and open-source Tooling in Cloud Shell:

Azure Tools:
blobxfer Azure CLI and Azure classic CLI Azure Functions CLI AzCopy Service Fabric CLI Batch Shipyard  
Open-Source:
Bash Terraform Packer Ansible Chef InSpec Puppet Bolt Docker Kubectl Helm DC/OS CLI iPython Client Cloud Foundry CLI

PowerShell Modules in Cloud Shell

You get the following PowerShell modules in Cloud Shell:
Azure Modules (Az.Accounts, Az.Compute, Az.Network, Az.Resources, Az.Storage)
Azure AD Management (Preview)
Exchange Online (In development)
MicrosoftPowerBIMgmt
SqlServer

Marketplace Link:

Azure Account: https://marketplace

Maintained By Microsoft

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Where to host Docker Containers on Azure (AKS, ASE, or ASF)?

Azure Kubernetes Service (AKS) service Azure App Service Environment (ASE) Azure Service Fabric (ASF) Comparison

Scenario:

So, your team recently has been tasked with developing a new application and running it. The team made the decision to take a microservices based approach to the application. Your team also has decided to utilize Docker containers and Azure as a cloud platform. Great, now it’s time to move forward right? Not so fast. There is no question that Docker containers will be used, but what is in question is where you will run the containers. In Azure containers can run on Azure’s managed Kubernetes (AKS) service, an App Service Plan on Azure App Service Environment (ASE), or Azure Service Fabric (ASF). Let’s look at each one of these Azure services including an overview, pro’s, cons, and pricing.

This Azure Kubernetes Service (AKS) Pros and Cons chart is clickable.
This Azure App Service Environment (ASE) Pros and Cons chart is clickable.
This Azure Service Fabric (ASF) Pros and Cons chart is clickable.

Conclusion:

Choose Azure Kubernetes Service if you need more control, want to avoid vendor lock-in (can run on Azure, AWS, GCP, on-prem), need features of a full orchestration system, flexibility of auto scale configurations, need deeper monitoring, flexibility with networking, public IP’s, DNS, SSL, need a rich ecosystem of addons, will have many multi-container deployments, and plan to run a large number of containers. Also, this is a low cost.

Choose Azure App Service Environment if don’t need as much control, want a dedicated SLA, don’t need deep monitoring or control of the underlying server infrastructure, want to leverage features such as deployment slots, green/blue deployments, will have simple and a low number of multi-container deployments via Docker compose, and plan to run a smaller number of containers. Regarding cost, running a containerized application in an App Service Plan in ASE tends to be more expensive compared to running in AKS or Service Fabric. The higher cost of running containers on ASE is because with an App Service Plan on ASE, you are paying costs for a combination of resources and the managed service. With AKS and ASF you are only paying for the resources used.

Choose Service Fabric if you want a full micros services platform, need flexibility now or in the future to run in cloud and or on-premises, will run native code in addition to containers, want automatic load balancing, low cost.

A huge thanks to my colleague Sunny Singh (@sunnys101) for giving his input and reviewing this post. Thanks for reading and check back for more Azure and container contents soon.

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Microsoft Professional Program for DevOps Finished!

I am a firm believer that no matter how old you are, how far along you are in your career, and regardless of the industry you are in it is important to continue educating yourself. This helps you expand your skillset, stay relevant, and sets you up for new opportunities as they come along. My field of information technology has been changing at a rapid pace and so for a while, I wanted a good way to ramp up on DevOps as a whole. A while back I found out that Microsoft added a new track to their Professional Program for DevOps. When I checked it out I found it to be very thorough and it was not just focused on Microsoft’s DevOps tooling but included non-Microsoft as well. I jumped in without hesitation and started learning.

I finally completed the program last week. Here is my certificate https://academy.microsoft.com/en-us/certificates/67284e84-8afe-4f13-b477-d7620949fb18. I am planning to dive into the program they have for cloud next. If you have not heard of Microsoft’s Professional Program DevOps before here more information about it:

“DevOps is the union of people, process, and products to enable continuous delivery of value to end users. This program helps the student learn about continuous integration and deployment, infrastructure as code, testing, databases, containers, and application monitoring: skills necessary for a DevOps culture in today’s workplace. This program focuses on Microsoft DevOps technologies as well as some OSS (Open Source Software) DevOps tools. Some of the Microsoft DevOps technologies covered in this course consist of Azure, Azure Resource Manager, IaaS, PaaS, IIS, Azure App Service, DevTest labs, Desired State Configuration (DSC), Azure Automation, OMS, Application Insights, SQL, Nuget, TFS, VSTS, and Visual Studio. Some of the OSS DevOps tools covered in this course consist of Jenkins, Git, Github, New Relic, Nagios, Chef, Docker, DC/OS, swarm, and Kubernetes.”

Here is a link to it:  https://academy.microsoft.com/en-us/tracks/devops

This program consists of 8 required courses. Each course runs for three months and starts at the beginning of a quarter. In the end, there is a capstone that has to be completed. This capstone course is the 8th one. You have four weeks to complete the capstone. The capstone is a bunch of hands-on stuff you have to do. Courses average 16-32 hours per course to complete and are taken via the edX.org platform https://www.edx.org/microsoft-professional-program-devops.

Here is a list of all of the DevOps program courses:

      • Introduction to Dev Ops Practices
      • Infrastructure as Code
      • Continuous Integration and Continuous Deployment
      • Configuration Management for Containerized Delivery
      • DevOps Testing
      • DevOps for Databases
      • Application Monitoring and Feedback Loops
      • Microsoft Professional DevOps Capstone Project
      • The DevOps Capstone Project contains:
        • Automation
          • Use ARM templates to deploy and configure Infrastructure in Azure
        • Continuous Integration
          • Implement Continuous Integration solution using Visual Studio Team services (VSTS)
        • Continuous deployment
          • Implement Continuous Deployment solution using Visual Studio Team Services (VSTS)
        • Testing
          • Implement Unit tests
          • Implement Testing in Production
        • Application Monitoring
          • Implement application monitoring solution using Application Insights

As you can see from that list this program is not just all about VSTS. There is a lot of Azure baked in as well as other non-Microsoft DevOps tooling. I highly recommend this course for anyone jumping into DevOps, or CloudOps and especially for folks with an IT pro background. If CloudOps is foreign to you here are a couple of blogs related to this topic: Sys Admin to Cloud Admin…ITSM to CloudOps…On-Prem to Azure Stack/Azure and Native Cloud Management in Azure.

My personal opinion is that Microsoft should move away from the certifications as they are and to this format. This format combines training and testing. When Microsoft first started the Professional Program for they only had a track for data scientists. They have added more and more tracks over time. Today there are tracks also for Big Data, Web Development, Software Development, AI, IT Support, and Cloud Administration.

Here is a link for all the tracks so you can check them out: https://academy.microsoft.com/en-us/professional-program/tracks. These programs are a great way to expand your learning. Check them out!

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