Tracking and classifying Azure DevOps work items in SRE toil budgets

In Google’s Site Reliability Engineering book, the chapter on toil (tedious, manual operational work) asserts that we should keep toil work amounts to only a small fraction of our total engineering hours. The reason for this is that too much toil work negatively impacts the engineering team.

In this post we will review some toil basics, talk about why toil tracking matters, and see how we can leverage Azure DevOps to track and classify our sprint work for enhanced toil budget tracking.

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How to visually highlight blocked work items on an Azure DevOps sprint board

A little over a year ago I wrote up a tutorial on how to visually highlight blocked work items on a sprint board for Visual Studio Team Services. VSTS re-branded as Azure DevOps soon after I published that post and so some of the UI instructions have changed slightly now. I decided to make a follow up that runs through the exact same procedure but under the newer Azure DevOps re-branded UI.

Visually highlighting blocked work items is great way for developers, PMs, and the product owner to glance at the board to see blockers without having to deep dive into work items or run extra queries. Read on to find out how it’s done.

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How to setup the Azure AD implicit grant flow with React, ASP.NET Core, and RBAC roles

The OAuth 2.0 implicit grant flow is great way to handle authentication between a client JavaScript single page web app (SPA) and a web API. For example: a React or Angular web app that needs to authenticate users and then have those users call an authorized ASP.NET Core Web API.

Azure AD and the Microsoft identity platform have well established patterns and support for this workflow. In this blog post I will break down an end-to-end example that includes enabling this flow for AAD users with the following technologies: an Azure AD App configured with role-based access control (RBAC) claims, client side code leveraging React and ADAL.js, and server side code leveraging ASP.NET Core.

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Logging Azure Application Insights telemetry data from PowerShell

Application Insights (AI) is the application performance management (APM) and logging platform for Microsoft Azure. They provide a client instrumentation library for several popular platforms/languages– but there isn’t any official module for PowerShell. In this post I share some new functions that demonstrate how to log telemetry data to AI from PowerShell.

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How to troubleshoot Azure Resource Manager (ARM) template validation errors

Deploying Azure Resource Manager (ARM) templates with the Azure PowerShell command New-AzureRmResourceGroupDeployment can fail for a variety of reasons. One of the more confusing situations can occur when handling template validation errors (Code=InvalidTemplateDeployment). This is because sometimes additional context is missing from the Exception and you have to lookup more information into order to troubleshoot the issue. In this post we will take a closer look at this particular error and how to resolve it.

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Book Review: Docker on Windows: From 101 to Production

Docker is a powerful container platform originally designed for Linux, but quickly became popular enough to receive native support on Windows. I first read Docker training material that took more of a Linux-first approach and loved what I saw. However my day-to-day work is still typically Microsoft/Azure stack so I was looking for a good book that takes on the nuances of working with Docker in a Windows or Azure environment.

I found Docker on Windows: From 101 to Production with Docker on Windows by Elton Stoneman to be really helpful for that purpose. This post is my quick review of the 1st edition.

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Tips for writing your first compiled binary PowerShell modules

I recently completed work on a my first compiled binary PowerShell module– these are modules built with C#/.Net code instead of PowerShell code. A few module development basics like project setup, handling help files, and writing unit tests did take some work to figure out. In this article I provide some tips for how to handle these common scenarios to help you get started on new projects.

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