As Technossus continues to move forward with process improvement we actively try to identify pain points in our day-to-day process. One of these major pain points was getting an application deployed. At Technossus we practice Agile Software Development which meant every 2-3 weeks depending on project, we would have a deploy. These deploys would at minimum involve one website and some database changes. If there were bug fixes, this process could happen multiple times during a sprint which meant downtime for a developer to handle this process.

We decided that it is much more important for our developers to focus on software and set down the path of automating the Ops portion. We made the shift from Team Foundation Server to VSTS (Visual Studio Team Services). In doing this, we were also able to adopt the usage of Release Manager. This new task based release system gave us the ability to convert from our antiquated XAML build & release templates to a newer more agile system where we can now run a build, qualify it, and promote it saving a significant amount of time and also increasing reliability.

What We Did

When we starting using the new build and release system in VSTS, we found out that most of the release process was either geared toward Azure or required a lot of tedious work. We built a bunch of PowerShell scripts to handle all of the different tasks we needed to accomplish. These tasks included:

  1. 1.Deploying an IIS Application
  2. 2.Deploying an IIS Virtual Directory
  3. 3.Deploying a Sql Database from a Database Project
  4. 4.Updating App Settings
  5. 5.Updating Connection Strings
  6. 6.Enable Automatic SSL Redirect for IIS applications

It is very easy to use PowerShell scripts in Release Manager but configuration can become tedious because you must plug in all of your parameters into a single string line that I usually found myself copying into another text editor. Because of this and the fact we had the opportunity to be trial users, we decided that we would share these tasks with the world so that we could help simplify adoption. That is why we created the On-Premises Release Toolkit.

Day-To-Day Impact

Thanks to the toolkit, we were able to bring the deploy time of our simplest application down from 5 minutes to under 1 minute. That is one minute of compute release buttontime, not developer. Some of our larger applications required 5 IIS Applications to be deployed as well as a large number of Database changes. Generally the deploys on these applications would take around 20 minutes of the developers time. Thanks to our automation, we were able to drop that down to under 3 minutes. Once again, that is compute time, not developer time. For the developer, a release is a single click away, leaving them the ability to do valuable work. This not only translates to less hassle for the developer but also lower cost for the customer and greater deployment reliability.

For the developer, a release is a single click away, leaving them the ability to do valuable work.

On-Premise Releases Made Easy

We currently use this for all of our internal deployments and will continue adding functionality as needed.

You can find it on the Visual Studio Marketplace here. Just click Install to add it to your VSTS instance. For any documentation or for enhancement requests/issues, check out our GitHub page here for more info.

Please let us know any feedback you have! We would love to continue enhancing this product. If you are interested in having Technossus Automate your Release Management Process, email me at christopher.woolum@technossus.com.

While it wasn’t quite conventional wisdom to question Microsoft’s decision to acquire Nokia two years ago, there was certainly no shortage of skeptics. Those naysayers are now gleefully searching for the Finnish translation of “I told you so.”

But I wouldn’t count Microsoft out just yet. As a wise man once said: “This is not the end. It is not even the beginning of the end. But it is, perhaps, the end of the beginning.”

The Nokia write-down — and the associated and heartbreaking layoffs — puts a huge exclamation point at the end of one era for Microsoft (heckofa job, Stevie). But a new era has clearly begun. Microsoft’s mobile strategy is dead: long live Microsoft’s mobile strategy.

Microsoft’s current share of the mobile OS market isn’t small, per se. More like it’s barely detectable by the most precise instruments known to science (2.7% at last count). But Redmond’s strategery seems to involve more subtlety than simply striving for OS dominance.

Picture this vision of the future for Microsoft:

– Microsoft maintains its strong position as the development ecosystem of choice for enterprise-class development

– Azure continues its technical evolution and market share growth. Azure is Microsoft’s not-so-secret weapon in the mobile war: while Amazon’s AWS is still the dominant player, when thinking of the mobile world, Microsoft isn’t fighting Amazon, it’s fighting Google and Apple — neither of which has as strong an offering as Azure. Microsoft’s ability to provide a robust cloud infrastructure to serve as back-end to mobile applications across all platforms is a differentiator Apple and Google can’t currently match.

– Cross-platform mobile development matures and becomes the norm via .NET and tools like Xamarin (or the next generation similar tool); enterprises leverage the same skill-sets and tools (TFS, Visual Studio) that they do for non-mobile development. Meanwhile, Microsoft continues steps to ‘open source’ .NET and the surrounding ecosystem, further broadening the platform’s appeal to developers.

– Much to everyone’s surprise, Microsoft has quietly become quite a competent app developer on the iOS and Android platforms independent of its traditional Windows applications. We can expect this trend to continue and expand as Microsoft continues its push to drive its existing core applications – and new ones – onto all platforms. With the recent Cyanogen agreement, we now have a world where top-tier Android handsets will ship with Microsoft Office and other Microsoft apps instead of Google’s; truly through-the-looking-glass stuff.

– Microsoft continues to push the Windows 10 / universal app vision; as the line between PC, “PC”, “laptop” and “tablet” blurs — a process Microsoft is consciously accelerating with Continuum — Surface and its future descendants are a strong player for enterprise mobility.

If Microsoft can achieve all of the above — all of which seem plausible and a few of which seem inevitable — does it actually really matter that much if Windows Phone still doesn’t achieve significant market share? And remember: the mobile market is fickle and turns on a dime. In Q1 2009 Android’s market share was basically zero: just two years later in Q1 2011 it was 35%. It is entirely imaginable that while Windows Phone has – thus far – lost the war for this generation of phones badly, the next generation, or the one after that, could easily flip in their favor.

So take a moment to mourn for the old Microsoft, where the CEO could blithely declare “there’s no chance that the iPhone is going to get any significant market share” and dismiss Google as “not a real company.” Good times, Steve, good times. But the game has changed now, and with the Nokia write-down, Satya Nadella’s New Microsoft may finally be leaving the last vestiges of the old regime behind. Redmond’s future has never been more uncertain — but it’s certain to be interesting.

Las Vegas, NV A hand-picked, five-person team of Technossus’ best and brightest developers headed to the Palms Casino Resort in Las Vegas along with over 700 other coder-types from around the world to compete for over $100,000 cash and prizes at the 2015 AT&T Developer Summit Hackathon.  This year’s challenge at one of the largest competitions of its type?  Build a completely original, technically sophisticated, fully-realized mobile app solution.  In a day.

This year’s team – consisting of Technossus developers Harrison Spain, Chris Woolum, Jay Esguerra, Aurelio Agundez and Chris Dinh –  quickly found their spot on the floor of the massive Rain Nightclub inside the resort and got down to serious hacking, give or take a few short breaks for caffeine re-fuel and Nerf Gun wars.  In addition to the $25,000 grand prize for Best Overall App, teams were able to compete in mobility-focused Accelerator Challenges with emerging technology themes like Connected Car, Home Automation, Wearables and Social Collaboration.  The teams had at their disposal a variety of gadgets and gear from sponsors, as well as support and encouragement from mentors and AT&T architects who regularly work on APIs such as M2X and WebRTC.

After speed-coding through the night, Team Technossus submitted “WeVerse,” built on the Microsoft Windows Universal App platform and featuring Couchbase, AT&T SDKs, Sponsored Data, Digital Life, WebRTC, and Advertising APIs.  The social collaboration app enables the user to create an online “watch party,” and invite people from anywhere in the world to join in and watch their favorite show or movie, while participating in live video chat at the same time.  Love watching ‘Game of Thrones’ and so does your brother in New York?  Love chatting about it even more?  WeVerse lets you to watch together as if you were in the same room.

Of the 600 entries submitted, the team made it into the final 20, earning the chance to present the app on the main stage to an audience of tech industry leaders, mentors and peers.  “We put together an entry that seamlessly combined many technologies and integrations, creating a fantastic user experience in 28 straight, intense hours of development,” said Technossus’ Director of Software Development Harrison Spain shortly after the presentation round.  “We’re excited that WeVerse was so well received by everyone we managed to get in front of, and to be able to present as one of the top teams in a competition like this was an amazing opportunity.”

The icing on the cake – Team Technossus beat out over 100 other teams to win the Windows Universal App Accelerator Challenge, taking home a check for $10,000.  Jay Esguerra, Technossus’ Product Development Practice Manager, attributes the Microsoft Challenge win to the amount of technical implementation involved in developing and presenting the app. “Microsoft appreciated the level of polish and completeness we brought to WeVerse, and we’re honored to have received their top prize at this event.”

Summing up the weekend, Chris Woolum, Technossus’ Emerging Technology Practice Manager and WeVerse main stage presenter, said, “AT&T did an amazing job in putting this hackathon together and we can’t thank them and Microsoft enough for giving us the opportunity to prove that Technossus has some of the best developers in the industry, building some pretty amazing things.”

For more photos of the Technossus team in action, check out our Facebook and Google+ pages.  For more info. on the event, see these roundups:

Sleepless nights and Red Bull: Welcome to this 36-hour Vegas hackathon

CES 2015: AT&T Wraps Biggest Hackathon with Focus on What’s Next

Sixth-annual Hackathon competition hits Las Vegas

We here at Technossus are rejoicing as Microsoft made another move towards making .NET an open source platform.  What this enables for any .NET developer is both immediate and far reaching.  We can immediately begin to consider .NET in multi-platform environments, rely on Xamarin as a long term solution for mobile application development, expand our service offerings in Azure to allow for .NET applications in Linux deployments, and many other exciting possibilities.  We are proud to be a Microsoft Gold Software Development Partner and to have the ability to leverage these new releases for our clients.

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