Monday, 22 December 2014

Troubleshoot a Team Project deletion

A colleague of mines once said “it’s never a stupid question if you don’t know the answer.” So that post might sound stupid, but I had people asking for it hence…there it goes!

You might need to delete a Team Project, and it is a matter of seconds, isn’t it?


It is not always the case, unfortunately. But you can do a lot to understand what goes south. Just using the TFS Admin Console.

Firstly, when you have a DeleteProject job running, you can actually check what it is doing. It is not very intuitive, but if you double-click it, you can access this:


Ok, the job fails. You know what? If you double-click the failed job you can get a very detailed log:


and digging down there you will surely find the reason why the job fails:


That specific case, well…just size your testing environment accordingly, ok? :)

Tuesday, 9 December 2014

Reducing Technical Debt with Smart Unit Tests

One of the reasons behind Technical Debt is the lack of appropriate test suites around a certain feature. Especially when implementing something new, tests are critical in shaping a robust and quality solution. Often, if you have something in the works and you are not strictly operating TDD, tests are behind where they should be.

Visual Studio 2015 introduced Smart Unit Tests, which are nothing but the former MSR Pex project, rebranded and productised. What Pex/a Smart Unit Test does is to analyse your code and create a basic suite of unit tests to test the basic, border scenarios. Here is an example:


Right click on the method, Smart Unit Tests


and here is the result:


Of course – this is a really, really basic scenario. What is interesting IMHO is how it is doing it behind the scenes:


as mentioned, it is a full-fledged Unit Test. Very basic, but still a good starting point, saving time while in the works. And if you save it, the Smart Unit Test engine is automatically going to create a new Test Project with the aforementioned tests contained in there. Again, it is not meant to remain as-is (“Sum748” is not a great test name for instance…) but it is still better IMHO than doing everything on my own.

Let’s make things a bit harder now:


That is very crappy code in small scale. No exception management at all, just the plain and down-to-the-bone feature, potentially in development. I can ear people screaming, but it happens extremely often in every organisation. This is the output of Smart Unit Test in this scenario:


It seems I need to spend some time on handling DivideByZeroExceptions and OverflowExceptions, to begin with…

Monday, 1 December 2014

Lab Management and Environments – what to remember

Lab Management’s SCVMM environments are nothing more than a bunch of Virtual Machines running somewhere in a datacentre. Really. I do not understand the reluctancy (almost fear!) when I mention it.

Let’s start with Network Isolation. Network Isolation is an extremely handy feature, allowing a side-by-side deployment of multiple instances of an environment with the same properties (machine name, IP addresses, basically everything which should not be duplicated in a network). It is very cool.

And guess what, there is a clear, step-by-step guide on how to create a Domain Controller VM to be used as a template for a Network Isolated Environment. Basically once you installed the ADDS you need to clean the DNS.

Once you have the VMs ready, I would suggest to compose some environments to be reused without searching for the VM every time. To then enable the Network Isolation, you need to check this checkbox in the Advanced tab of the Wizard:


That is all you need to do. SCVMM will then add a secondary Network Card to the VM to enable this feature, but it is nothing you should worry about.

Also remember that unless you set auto-provisioning, your VMs won’t be automatically shared among the Team Projects in a Collection. You can import them from the library you used to store the template anyway.


One last thing to remember on the VM Templates – always remember to enable the File and Printers Sharing firewall exception, otherwise the deployment would fail, and you won’t be able to connect to the VMs via the MTM Environment Viewer for instance.

If you want an all-in-one reference, have a look at this appendix from Testing for Continuous Delivery with Visual Studio 2012 – even if it is on the older version everything is still relevant. The whole book is actually on the matter, so I suggest to have a look at it. 

Another misunderstood topic seems to be Test Settings. We all have seen the fantastic demos with screen and audio recording, but then all of a sudden you cannot set it up in your lab.

To enable that feature, you need to install the Desktop Experience Feature on your Windows Server VMs:


and then select the Screen and Voice Recorder diagnostic data adapter from the Test Setting you want to use:


Each DDA can be configured to better suit the usage you want, in this case just bear in mind that you are storing big binary files inside the Team Project Collection database, so its size might increase very quickly if you use it a lot. Moreover, there is a number of useful settings you might use:


You can copy specific files (not tied to the Version Control or the build output) to the VMs, run pre and post-test execution scripts, or even force 32 or 64-bit execution in case you need it:


Unfortunately the number of resources here is not immense – MSDN is extremely useful as usual, together with the aforementioned eBook, the Visual Studio ALM Rangers Lab Management Guide and the Pro Team Foundation Server 2013 book.

But again, this is not rocket science so you should be good with them.

Monday, 17 November 2014

How to configure Visual Studio Team Lab Management 2013, once and for all

Every time I go at a conference/user group and Lab Management is mentioned I hear someone saying “Lab Management? I never understood how it sticks together…” “Wow, it must be an adventure to set it up!” and so on…

Well, after all Visual Studio Team Lab Management (yes, fancy name) is not rocket science at all! It is just a clever mix of many different components, each doing a different thing, to enable the “Virtual Test Fabric” scenario. Nothing more, nothing less.

To begin with, you would need System Center Virtual Machine Manager (2012 R2), at least one Hyper-V host, Team Foundation Server (2013.4 in this case), a Build Controller and a Test Controller.

Assuming SCVMM installed  and configured (how: install SQL Server Database Engine, install SCVMM pointing at it, add an Hyper-V host), you need to install the SCVMM Console on the Team Foundation Server Application Tier. Now you can configure Lab Management!


You just need to enter your SCVMM FQDN:


and – if you wish to use it – an IP Block and a DNS Suffix for your Network Isolated machines:


This is the core, infrastructure configuration. You are going to see that something is missing though…


You just configured the infrastructure for the whole Lab Management deployment, what’s missing is the configuration for each Team Project Collection you want to enable.

The two settings you need are:

  • A Library Share (a normal SMB share) containing the SCVMM templates used by VSTLM to create your VMsimage
  • A Host Group (it’s actually optional, as SCVMM creates a default “All Hosts” Host Group, which in your case is enough as we are assuming you are starting with one Hyper-V host server)

As mentioned, the Auto Provision flag enables all the Team Projects contained into your Collection.

Now the only missing piece is a Test Controller to bind to Lab Management. In fact, if you launch Test Manager and try to create a new Environment, it would complain:


So, let’s install the Test Controller and configure it:


If you need it, configure a Lab Service Account as well. This is helpful in cases where you need to resort to Shadow Accounts (or you can’t add the Service Account to the Local Administrators group), but let’s keep it simple and skip it for now. Just keep that in mind:


That’s all! This is the whole Lab Management configuration! Is it still rocket science? In another post we are going to look at the environments’ configurations and at some useful tips from the real world.

Sunday, 16 November 2014

Why can’t I delete a Test Plan with MTM and TFS 2013 Update 3?

Do you want to delete a Test Plan from MTM? Fair enough.

Unfortunately the documentation is a bit outdated here – a quick Google to find this, and it is about Visual Studio 2010. It would work – but only if you are connected to a Team Foundation Server without Update 3.

If instead you are running 2013.3+, you would be greeted with a message saying … “Deleting a test plan is not supported for current version of Team Foundation Server. Use witadmin tool 'destroywi' command to destroy test plan work item.”

It is not a bug, but it is by design instead - it is the only downside of the conversion to Work Item Types of the Test Suites and Test Plans.

Basically prior to Team Foundation Server 2013.3 they were ‘special artifacts’, meaning you wouldn’t be able to treat them like Work Items – including advanced querying, charting, etc.

The Update 3 converted the whole thing to plain Work Item Types, but this means you no longer get the special feature of deleting it via MTM, instead you should run witadmin destroywi from the Developer Command Line – which is the only way of doing so. That is because deleting a Work Item is not really something that happens every day, and if done in the wrong way (for example, truncating relationships in linked Work Items) it could lead to issues with the Work Item Store.

Wednesday, 5 November 2014

Visual Studio Lab Management and Auto Provisioning

Despite it is very handy, the Auto Provisioning feature of Lab Management can become a trouble pretty quickly. If enabled, every Team Project will be authorised to deploy VMs in the VSTLM hosts, a situation which – 99% of the times – becomes unmanageable.


It’s not a TFS problem, and it depends on how the users are used to work. But if your deployment is used (as it should be, to be fair) and considered ‘as a service’, then IMHO you need to limit the scope a little bit, otherwise your Hyper-V servers are going be clogged like Beijing at the rush hour…or the M25.

There is a pretty quick fix for this though – after you grant the permissions to the specific Team Project to use Lab Management, you need to use two TFSLabConfig (and not TFSConfig Lab) commands: tfslabconfig TPHostGroup and tfslabconfig TPLibraryShare.

After that, you are ready to go!

Tuesday, 28 October 2014

Impact of the new Visual Studio Online European Region

With the latest update Microsoft addressed one of the most repeated requests about Visual Studio Online. It isn’t a specific feature or capability, but it is a EU-hosted region for it!

Up to yesterday, you did not have any choice on where your VSO data is hosted - the VSO tenants were only in Chicago, San Antonio and West Virginia.

It wasn’t a matter of performance or latency – I personally never had heavy problems unless a service-wide problem arised – but it was all about governance. If you are a EU-based company or anyway you have operations in the EU, you know data protection it is a pretty important matter.

We are not talking about Microsoft snooping into your source code and looking at your intellectual property, not at all, but depending on what you work on you might have strict regulatory policies to apply. In detail, if you have EU operations (which means even a single server running in the EU), the EU Data Protection Directive applies, and it is stricter than the US counterside, especially on when data leaves the EU.

Visual Studio Online is covered by the Safe Harbor since I recall its existence, a bilateral agreement between the US Federal Trade Commission and the European Commission providing reciprocal protection to personal and sensible data, but for certain businesses or countries it was just not enough. Germany is a good example, where its privacy laws are way stricter than the general EU umbrella.

Eventually, if you store your data – whatever it is – on a US hosted service, your data could be inspected by the US Law Enforcement agencies under the PATRIOT Act.

So, introducing a EU-hosted region (in Amsterdam, for completeness) means a lot in terms of governance, as all of your intellectual property hosted there is subject to the EU DPD as such, and that’s all.

What you will be lacking today is Application Insights – but it would reach the EU VSO in time for its General Availability.