Using Azure DevOps Build Pipeline Templates with Terraform to build an AKS cluster

In the last few posts I have moved from building an Azure SQL DB with Terraform using VS Code to automating the build process for the Azure SQL DB using Azure DevOps Build Pipelines to using Task Groups in Azure DevOps to reuse the same Build Process and build an Azure Linux SQL VM and Network Security Group. This evolution is fantastic but Task Groups can only be used in the same Azure DevOps repository. It would be brilliant if I could use Configuration as Code for the Azure Build Pipeline and store that in a separate source control repository which can be used from any Azure DevOps Project.

Luckily, you can 😉 You can use Azure DevOps Job Templates to achieve this. There is a limitation at present, you can only use them for Build Pipelines and not Release Pipelines.

The aim of this little blog series was to have a single Build Pipeline stored as code which I can use to build any infrastructure that I want with Terraform in Azure and be able to use it anywhere

Creating a Build Pipeline Template

I created a GitHub repository to hold my Build Templates, feel free to use them as a base for your own but please don’t try and use the repo for your own builds.

The easiest way to create a Build Template is to already have a Build Pipeline. This cannot be done from a Task Group but I still have the Build Pipeline from my automating the build process for the Azure SQL DB using Azure DevOps Build Pipelines blog post.

There is a View YAML button. I can click this to view the YAML definition of the Build Pipeline

I copy that and paste it into a new file in my BuildTemplates repository. (I have replaced my Azure Subscription information in the public repository)

Now I can use this yaml as configuration as code for my Build Pipeline 🙂 It can be used from any Azure DevOps project. Once you start looking at the code and the documentation for the yaml schema you can begin to write your pipelines as YAML, but sometimes it is easier to just create build pipeline or even just a job step in the browser and click the view yaml button!

Create an AKS Cluster with a SQL 2019 container using Terraform and Build templates

I have a GitHub Repository with the Terraform code to build a simple AKS cluster. This could not have been achieved without Richard Cheney’s article I am not going to explain how it all works for this blog post or some of the negatives of doing it this way. Instead lets build an Azure DevOps Build Pipeline to build it with Terraform using Configuration as Code (the yaml file)

I am going to create a new Azure DevOps Build Pipeline and as in the previous posts connect it to the GitHub Repository holding the Terraform code.

This time I am going to choose the Configuration as code template

I am going to give it a name and it will show me that it needs the path to the yaml file containing the build definition in the current repository.

Clicking the 3 ellipses will pop-up a file chooser and I pick the build.yaml file

The build.yaml file looks like this. The name is the USER/Repository Name and the endpoint is the name of the endpoint for the GitHub service connection in Azure DevOps. The template value is the name of the build yaml file @ the name given for the repository value.

You can find (and change) your GitHub service connection name by clicking on the cog bottom left in Azure DevOps and clicking service connections

I still need to create my variables for my Terraform template (perhaps I can now just leave those in my code?) For the AKS Cluster build right now I have to add presentation, location, ResourceGroupName, AgentPoolName, ServiceName, VMSize, agent_count

Then I click save and queue and the job starts running

If I want to edit the pipeline it looks a little different

The variables and triggers can be found under the 3 ellipses on the top right

It also defaults the trigger to automatic deployment.

It takes a bit longer to build

and when I get the Terraform code wrong and the build fails, I can just alter the code, commit it, push and a new build will start and the Terraform will work out what is built and what needs to be built!

but eventually the job finishes successfully

and the resources are built

and in Visual Studio Code with the Kubernetes extension installed I can connect to the cluster by clicking the 3 ellipses and Add Existing Cluster

I choose Azure Kubernetes Services and click next

Choose my subscription and then add the cluster

and then I can explore my cluster

I can also see the dashboard by right clicking on the cluster name and Open Dashboard

Right clicking on the service name and choosing describe

shows the external IP address, which I can put into Azure Data Studio and connect to my container

So I now I can source control my Build Job Steps and hold them in a central repository. I can make use of them in any project. This gives me much more control and saves me from repeating myself repeating myself. The disadvantage is that there is no handy warning when I change the underlying Build Repository that I will be affecting other Build Pipelines and there is no easy method to see which Build Pipelines are dependent on the build yaml file

Happy Automating

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Using the same Azure DevOps build steps for Terraform with different Pipelines with Task Groups to build an Azure Linux SQL VM

In my last post I showed how to build an Azure DevOps Pipeline for a Terraform build of an Azure SQLDB. This will take the terraform code and build the required infrastructure.

The plan all along has been to enable me to build different environments depending on the requirement. Obviously I can repeat the steps from the last post for a new repository containing a Terraform code for a different environment but

If you are going to do something more than once Automate It

who first said this? Anyone know?

The build steps for building the Terraform are the same each time (if I keep a standard folder and naming structure) so it would be much more beneficial if I could keep them in a single place and any alterations to the process only need to be made in the one place 🙂

Task Groups

Azure DevOps has task groups. On the Microsoft Docs web-page they are described as


task group allows you to encapsulate a sequence of tasks, already defined in a build or a release pipeline, into a single reusable task that can be added to a build or release pipeline, just like any other tas


https://docs.microsoft.com/en-us/azure/devops/pipelines/library/task-groups?view=azure-devops

If you are doing this with a more complicated existing build pipeline it is important that you read the Before You Create A Task Group on the docs page. This will save you time when trying to understand why variables are not available (Another grey hair on my beard!)

Creating A Task Group

Here’s the thing, creating a task group is so easy it should be the default way you create Azure DevOps Pipelines. Let me walk you through it

I will use the Build Pipeline from the previous post. Click edit from the build page

Then CTRL and click to select all of the steps

Right Click and theres a Create Task Group button to click !

You can see that it has helpfully added the values for the parameters it requires for the location, Storage Account and the Resource Group.

Remember the grey beard hair above? We need to change those values to use the variables that we will add to the Build Pipeline using

Once you have done that click Create

This will also alter the current Build Pipeline to use the Task Group. Now we have a Task Group that we can use in any build pipeline in this project.

Using the Task Group with a new Build Pipeline to build an Azure Linux SQL VM

Lets re-use the build steps to create an Azure SQL Linux VM. First I created a new GitHub Repository for my Terraform code. Using the docs I created the Terraform to create a resource group, a Linux SQL VM, a virtual network, a subnet, a NIC for the VM, a public IP for the VM, a netwwork security group with two rules, one for SQL and one for SSH. It will look like this

The next step is to choose the repository

again we are going to select Empty job (although the next post will be about the Configuration as Code 🙂

As before we will name the Build Pipeline and the Agent Job Step and click the + to add a new task. This time we will search for the Task Group name that we created

I need to add in the variables from the variable.tf in the code and also for the Task Group

and when I click save and queue

It runs for less than 7 minutes

and when I look in the Azure portal

and I can connect in Azure Data Studio

Altering The Task Group

You can find the Task Groups under Pipelines in your Azure DevOps project

Click on the Task Group that you have created and then you can alter, edit it if required and click save

This will warn you that any changes will affect all pipelines and task groups that are using this task group. To find out what will be affected click on references


which will show you what will be affected.

Now I can run the same build steps for any Build Pipeline and alter them all in a single place using Task Groups simplifying the administration of the Build Pipelines.

The next post will show how to use Azure DevOps templates to use the same build steps across many projects and build pipelines and will build a simple AKS cluster

The first post showed how to build an Azure SQLDB with Terraform using VS Code

The second post showed how to use Azure DevOps Task Groups to use the same build steps in multiple pipelines and build an Azure Linux SQL Server VM

Happy Automating!

Building Azure SQL Db with Terraform using Azure DevOps

In my last post I showed how to create a Resource Group and an Azure SQLDB with Terraform using Visual Studio Code to deploy.

Of course, I havent stopped there, who wants to manually run code to create things. There was a lot of install this and set up that. I would rather give the code to a build system and get it to run it. I can then even set it to automatically deploy new infrastructure when I commit some code to alter the configuration.

This scenario though is to build environments for presentations. Last time I created an Azure SQL DB and tagged it with DataInDevon (By the way you can get tickets for Data In Devon here – It is in Exeter on April 26th and 27th)

If I want to create the same environment but give it tags for a different event (This way I know when I can delete resources in Azure!) or name it differently, I can use Azure DevOps and alter the variables. I could just alter the code and commit the change and trigger a build or I could create variables and enable them to be set at the time the job is run. I use the former in “work” situations and the second for my presentations environment.

I have created a project in Azure DevOps for my Presentation Builds. I will be using GitHub to share the code that I have used. Once I clicked on pipelines, this is the page I saw

Clicking new pipeline, Azure DevOps asked me where my code was

I chose GitHub, authorised and chose the repository.

I then chose Empty Job on the next page. See the Configuration as code choice? We will come back to that later and our infrastructure as code will be deployed with a configuration as code 🙂

The next page allows us to give the build a good name and choose the Agent Pool that we want to use. Azure DevOps gives 7 different hosted agents running Linux, Mac, Windows or you can download an agent and run it on your own cpus. We will use the default agent for this process.

Clicking on Agent Job 1 enables me to change the name of the Agent Job. I could also choose a different type of Agent for different jobs within the same pipeline. This would be useful for testing different OS’s for example but for right now I shall just name it properly.

State

First we need somewhere to store the state of our build so that if we re-run it the Terraform plan step will be able to work out what it needs to do. (This is not absolutely required just for building my presentation environments and this might not be the best way to achieve this but for right now this is what I do and it works.)

I click on the + and search for Azure CLI.

and click on the Add button which gives me some boxes to fill in.

I choose my Azure subscription from the first drop down and choose Inline Script from the second

Inside the script block I put the following code

This will create a Resource Group, a storage account and a container and use some variables to provide the values, we will come back to the variables later.

Access Key

The next thing that we need to do is to to enable the job to be able to access the storage account. We don’t want to store that key anywhere but we can use our Azure DevOps variables and some PowerShell to gather the access key and write it to the variable when the job is running . To create the variables I clicked on the variables tab

and then added the variables with the following names TerraformStorageRG, TerraformStorageAccount and location from the previous task and TerraformStorageKey for the next task.

With those created, I go back to Tasks and add an Azure PowerShell task

I then add this code to get the access key and overwrite the variable.

Infrastructure as Code

In my GitHub repository I now have the following folders

The manual folders hold the code from the last blog post. In the Build folder, the main.tf file is identical and looks like this.

The variables.tf folder looks like this.

It is exactly the same except that the values have been replaced by the value name prefixed and suffixed with __. This will enable me to replace the values with the variables in my Azure DevOps Build job.

The backend-config.tf file will store the details of the state that will be created by the first step and use the access key that has been retrieved in the second step.

I need to add the following variables to my Azure DevOps Build – Presentation, ResourceGroupName, SqlServerName, SQLServerAdminUser, SQLServerAdminPassword, SqlDatabaseName, Edition, ServiceObjective . Personally I would advise setting the password or any other sensitive values to sensitive by clicking the padlock for that variable. This will stop the value being written to the log as well as hiding it behind *’s

Because I have tagged the variables with Settable at queue time , I can set the values whenever I run a build, so if I am at a different event I can change the name.

But the build job hasn’t been set up yet. First we need to replace the values in the variables file.

Replace the Tokens

I installed the Replace Tokens Task from the marketplace and added that to the build.

I am going to use a standard naming convention for my infrastructure code files so I add Build to the Root Directory. You can also click the ellipses and navigate to a folder in your repo. In the Target Files I add *”*/*.tf” and “**/*.tfvars” which will search all of the folders (**) and only work on files with a .tf or .tfvars extension (/*.tfvars) The next step is to make sure that the replacement prefix and suffix are correct. It is hidden under Advanced

Because I often forget this step and to aid in troubleshooting I add another step to read the contents of the files and place them in the logs. I do this by adding a PowerShell step which uses

Under control options there is a check box to enable or disable the steps so once I know that everything is ok with the build I will disable this step. The output in the log of a build will look like this showing the actual values in the files. This is really useful for finding spaces :-).

Running the Terraform in Azure DevOps

With everything set up we can now run the Terraform. I installed the Terraform task from the marketplace and added a task. We are going to follow the same process as the last blog post, init, plan, apply but this time we are going to automate it 🙂

First we will initialise

I put Build in the Terraform Template path. The Terraform arguments are

which will tell the Terraform to use the backend-config.tfvars file for the state. It is important to tick the Install terraform checkbox to ensure that terraform is available on the agent and to add the Azure Subscription (or Service Endpoint in a corporate environment

After the Initialise, I add the Terraform task again add Build to the target path and this time the argument is plan

Again, tick the install terraform checkbox and also the Use Azure Service Endpoint and choose the Azure Subscription.

We also need to tell the Terraform where to find the tfstate file by specifying the variables for the resource group and storage account and the container

Finally, add another Terraform task for the apply remembering to tick the install Terraform and Use Azure checkboxes

The arguments are

This will negate the requirement for the “Only “yes” will be accepted to approve” from the manual steps post!

Build a Thing

Now we can build the environment – Clicking Save and Queue

opens this dialogue

where the variables can be filled in.

The build will be queued and clicking on the build number will open the logs

6 minutes later the job has finished

and the resources have been created.

If I want to look in the logs of the job I can click on one of the steps and take a look. This is the apply step

Do it Again For Another Presentation

So that is good, I can create my environment as I want it. Once my presentation has finished I can delete the Resource Groups. When I need to do the presentation again, I can queue another build and change the variables

The job will run

and the new resource group will be created

all ready for my next presentation 🙂

This is brilliant, I can set up the same solution for different repositories for different presentations (infrastructure) and recreate the above steps.

The next post will show how to use Azure DevOps Task Groups to use the same build steps in multiple pipelines and build an Azure Linux SQL Server VM

The post after that will show how to use Azure DevOps templates to use the same build steps across many projects and build pipelines and will build a simple AKS cluster

The first post showed how to build an Azure SQLDB with Terraform using VS Code

Building Azure SQL Db with Terraform with Visual Studio Code

I have been using Terraform for the last week or so to create some infrastructure and decided to bring that knowledge back to a problem that I and others suffer from – building environments for presentations, all for the sake of doing some learning.

What is Terraform?

According to the website


HashiCorp Terraform enables you to safely and predictably create, change, and improve infrastructure. It is an open source tool that codifies APIs into declarative configuration files that can be shared amongst team members, treated as code, edited, reviewed, and versioned


https://www.terraform.io/

This means that I can define my infrastructure as code. If I can do that then I can reliably do the same thing again and again, at work to create environments that have the same configuration or outside of work to repeatedly build the environment I need.

Building an Azure SQL Database with Terraform

To understand how to build a thing the best place to start is the documentation https://www.terraform.io/docs . For an Azure SQL Db in the docs you will find a block of code that looks like this

If you read the code, you can see that there are key value pairs defining information about the resource that is being created. Anything inside a ${} is a dynamic reference. So

refers to the name property in the azure_resource_group block called test (or the name of the resource group 🙂 )

Infrastructure As Code

So I can put that code into a file (name it main.tf) and alter it with the values and “run Terraform” and what I want will be created. Lets take it a step further though because I want to be able to reuse this code. Instead of hard-coding all of the values I am going to use variables. I can do this by creating another file called variables.tf which looks like

and my main.tf then looks like this.

You can find these files in my GitHub Repository here.

Alright – deploy something

To deploy the code that I have written I need to download Terraform from https://www.terraform.io/downloads.html and then extract the exe to a folder in my PATH. (I chose C:\Windows). Then in Visual Studio Code I installed two extensions The Terraform Extension by Mikael Olenfalk which enables syntax highlighting and auto-completion for the tf files and the Azure Terraform extension. You will need also need Node.js from here.

With those in place I navigated to the directory holding my files in Visual Studio Code and pressed F1 and started typing azure terraform and chose Azure Terraform Init

I was then prompted to use Cloud Shell and a browser opened to login. Once I had logged in I waited until I saw this

I press F1 again and this time choose Azure Terraform plan. This is going to show me what Terraform is going to do if it applies this configuration.

You can see the what is going to be created. It is going to create 3 things

Once you have checked that the plan is what you want, press F1 again and choose Azure Terraform Apply

You are then asked to confirm that this is what you want. Only “yes” will be accepted. Then you will see the infrastructure being created

and a minute later

and Jeremy exists in the beardrules resource group

Then once I have finished with using the sqlinstance. I can press F1 again and choose Azure Terraform Destroy. Again there is a confirmation required.

and you will see the progress for 46 seconds

and all of the resources have gone.

Thats a good start. This enables me to create resources quickly and easily and keep the configuration for them safely in source control and easy to use.

In my next post I will create an Azure DevOps pipeline to deploy an AZure SQL Db withTerraform.

The post after will show how to use Azure DevOps Task Groups to use the same build steps in multiple pipelines and build an Azure Linux SQL Server VM

The post after that will show how to use Azure DevOps templates to use the same build steps across many projects and build pipelines and will build a simple AKS cluster