Automatically retain a VSTS release

In some environments it can be convenient to retain production releases automatically. Richard Zaat and I worked on this together. Our objective was to retain a release automatically after it has been succesfully enrolled to an environment. To achieve this we wanted to utilize the PowerShell task to minimize the effort.

First we created a demo release pipeline containing one environment. The Release does not do anything and does not have any artifacts. To the environment we only added the PowerShell task.

We have configured to have it use the Preview 2.* version but this works for version 1.* too. The script we have is the following;

$baseurl += $env:SYSTEM_TEAMPROJECT + "/_apis"
$uri = "$baseurl/release/releases/$($env:Release_ReleaseID)?api-version=3.0-preview.2"

$accesstoken = "Bearer $env:System_AccessToken"

Invoke-RestMethod -Uri $uri -Method Patch -ContentType "application/json" -Headers @{Authorization = $accesstoken} -Body "{keepforever:true}"

In the script we construct the URL for VSTS Release Management, together with a ‘template’ to call the Release REST API service, passing the current Release ID. It also constructs the Bearer token to be able to call the REST API authenticated. The last line invokes the contructed REST API call. The call sets the ‘KeepForever‘ attribute of the release. This will exempt it from the release retention policies.

In the release definition the “Agent Phase” needs to be configured to “Allow scripts to access OAuth token”. Listed under ‘Additional Options’ section. This will allow the script to use the $env:System_AccessToken.

The last thing to do is to make sure that the agent account has the “Manage Releases” permissions. This can be done very specifically or for all release definitions.

A few links to usefull resources

VSTS Release API overview

VSTS Release Retention polocies

Interacting with VSTS and the Rest API’s


Adding a DMZ server to the TrustedHosts list

Today I was working with Release Management in an On-Premise TFS 2015 situation where I had to release into server located in the DMZ.

After getting all kinds of things in place, like installing an agent, having shadow accounts setup and having validated i could reach and use the agent to install the required software I came across another issue.

The issue issue was that to be able to run a PowerShell script on the machine, WinRM is used. When running that PowerShell script from the release pipeline it blew up the pipeline with the following error:

“The WinRM client cannot process the request. If the authentication scheme is different from Kerberos, or if the client computer is not joined to a domain, then HTTPS transport must be used or the destination machine must be added to the TrustedHosts configuration setting. Use winrm.cmd to configure TrustedHosts. Note that computers in the TrustedHosts list might not be authenticated. You can get more information about that by running the following command: winrm help config.”

As the error suggests you need to add the server to the local TrustedHosts list. I first checked the current list with the following command:

get-item wsman:\localhost\Client\TrustedHosts

That returned an empty list. And thus I decided to add the current server to the list, which can be done with the following command:

set-item wsman:\localhost\Client\TrustedHosts -value 192.168.XX.XX

The following screen shows the commands in action, actual IP’s are blurred.


When re-running the deployment all was good in the “safe zone”

Just published: VSTS Extension Token Comparer

Today I published a new Visual Studio Marketplace extension named “Token Comparer”. In this post I will quickly highlight its features and its usage. In a future post will do and end-to-end scenario so in which you will learn about the creation process as well as the delivery process. But first let’s see the extension.

What does the Token Comparer do?

The Token Comparer can parse specified source files for usage of Tokens and it can compare these against available variables defined in your Release Definition. It will detect and compare the results. Based on the settings you can choose to fail, warn or continue your release.

The tasks will provide you with a summary that will show the findings. The list states the findings.

VSTS Token Comparer Summary

Configuring the Token Comparer?

In this version I choose to let you define a generic service endpoint to allow safely storing your credentials. Now VSTS has the ability to access an oAuth token this will be changed in a future version.

How to find the Token Comparer Extension

Navigate to your VSTS Team Project. Click the Marketplace icon. Search for “Token Comparer”. Choose to install it to your VSTS account.

Token Comparer

Happy Releasing!