Azure DevOps as workflow automation for service management

Azure DevOps makes a good use case for situations where you need workflow management service for common tasks required by service management process. Example below showcases process of setting up workflow for Rename VM hypothetical task requested by service management tool.

Scenario which is being automated is request to rename VM in Azure which is currently unsupported by native control pane and require set of manual/semi-automated execution by personnel.

Entire process is documented in detailed below. Basic steps are

  • Run powershell to export current VM to a file
  • Delete original VM
  • Verify validity of generated template
  • Deploy template


Traditionally rename VM tasks are accomplished by removing original VM while preserving original disks and NIC and then recreating new VM as close as possible to original one. This approach is suboptimal since a lot of original metadata about original VM is lost (for example host caching for disks, tags, extensions etc). Approach being taken below instead relies on pulling current resource schema for VM (ARM template) and redeploy it with new name. Highlighted lines below are required to account for situations when VM was created from market place image. Output of powershell will be template file with sanitized inputs to be recreated with custom name

param (
      [Parameter(Mandatory = $true)] [string] $vmName,
      [Parameter(Mandatory = $true)] [string] $resourceGroupName,
      [Parameter(Mandatory = $true)] [string] $newVMName
$ErrorActionPreference = "Stop"
$resource = Get-AzVM -ResourceGroupName $resourceGroupName -VMName $vmName 
Export-AzResourceGroup -ResourceGroupName $resource.ResourceGroupName -Resource $resource.Id -IncludeParameterDefaultValue -IncludeComments -Path .\template.json -Force
$resource | Stop-AzVM -Force
$resource | Remove-AzVM -Force
$templateTextFile = [System.IO.File]::ReadAllText(".\template.json")
$TemplateObject = ConvertFrom-Json $templateTextFile -AsHashtable
$ = "Attach"
$TemplateObject | ConvertTo-Json -Depth 50 | Out-File (".\template.json")

Azure DevOps

Create classic build pipeline (until Yaml build pipeline allow UI editing I would personally stay away from them).

  • Add following variables (vmName, newVMName, resourceGroupName) to build pipeline which will identify VM name, new VMName, resource group name for VM being worked on. Allow setting of those variable at queue time.
  • Add Azure powershell task to execute powershell file script mentioned above and pass parameters set above to it and make sure it’s set as Powershell core

Add Azure Resource Group Deployment task to verify validity of generated template. Please note highlighted parameters below.

  • Add another Azure Resource Group Deployment task to perform actual rename. Settings are the same as previous step, just deployment mode shall be set to Incremental

This shall complete Build pipeline. You can test it manually by providing values for 3 parameters directly from Azure DevOps UI.

Integration with service management

Azure DevOps provides REST API to perform actions against service. Documentation available here.

To call API you need to generate PAT token first for your or service account by going to Azure DevOps and choosing PAT. The only permission need is Build - Read & Execute

To invoke build via API one have to call URI similar to following ( Below is POST contents of the body of request identifying build by number and parameters which will be passed to build at queue time.

"parameters": "{\"vmName\": \"VM1\",	\"newVMName\": \"VM2\",	\"resourceGroupName\": \"temp\"}"

Response of build request would contain link to get status of the build as well which front-end service can call to get status of the build