Azure Websites with automatic deployment

Automatic deployment when you commit and push changes to your Github/Bitbucket repo is truly awesome and like running water or electricity that it is so convenient that you incorporate it into the fabric of your life and eventually only really notice it when it’s broken.The amount of reduced headache and increased productivity is amazing.

Overview

However, bringing continuous deployment to legacy web projects and solutions can be a bit challenging until it all works. The moving parts involved favor convention over configuration so in the most cases you don’t need to really do anything, but then there are cases when you all of a sudden notice that you need to do something to make things roll smoothly again.

Windows Azure Websites use a few tricks for the Deploy from Source Repository-feature to work. They put a git repository in your allotted folder on the IIS where your website resides which you can easily see via FTP.  You can access this repo directly if you do a straight git deployment where an “azure” remote is added to your local git repo, otherwise it is used by WAWS to pull your changes from TFS, Codeplex, GitHub or Bitbucket and it is from there the deployment happens. Allegedly, even when you deploy from Dropbox, your changes are first applied to the git repo in your directory in Azure and then the deployment begins from there.

The deployment system is open sourced at https://github.com/projectkudu/and you find further documentation there.

Gotchas

Multiple deployable projects in one repo

Let’s say you have a solution to deploy that has multiple projects that are potentially deployable. Kudu will not be able to guess which one to deploy and the deployment will fail with an error. What to do?

The solution is a deployment configuration file, a .deployments file. Yes, Windows won’t let you right click and create a file called “.deployment”, nor rename an existing file to that name, so you need to save it directly to that name from Visual Studio or just type the following in cmd.exe: (yes, the command means to copy from the Console, as in what you type, so just type the config file and finish with Ctrl+Z which means End of File and press enter again).

C:\Users\H4xx0rD00d\teh_c0dez\awesomerepo>copy con: .deployment
[config]
project = theActualFolderWhereTheProjectThatShouldBeDeployedResides
^Z
        1 file(s) copied.
C:\Users\H4xx0rD00d\teh_c0dez\awesomerepo>

After you add, commit and push that file, Azure will know which project to deploy. Further documentation on the .deployment file is available here.

Compilation fails with missing references

If you are using Nuget to manage your dependencies, you can choose either of two routes, Nuget Package Restore where Kudu will download the relevant libraries for you, or just committing your entire .nuget folder to your Git repository so that all your reference libraries are available for compilation on Azure.

The first option makes your repository more light-weight, but on the other hand you would be hoping that whomever manages the nuget packages on which you depend aren’t cheeky, like Microsoft have been in the past and withdraw the packages from under you, or that the maintainer misses a breaking change thus violating SemVer versioning causing Kudu to supply your app with an incompatible library.

With the second option you get a bulkier Repo, but you are in control of new versions of dependent libraries so that you can find out that they truly work with your system before you deploy. It works almost the same if you manually maintain your dependencies in the form of a Lib folder containing the DLLs that you need. Just ensure your Libs folder has been comitted to your Git repo and Kudu will be able to find them.

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