Getting started with Azure DevOps build agents

If you’re working with Azure DevOps, you may have heard about build agents. These are powerful tools that allow you to run your builds and tests on your own hardware, instead of relying on Microsoft’s hosted build servers. By using your own build agents, you have more control over the build process, and you can run builds and tests faster.

In this article, we’ll take a closer look at Azure DevOps build agents and how to use them effectively.

What are build agents?

A build agent is a piece of software that runs on a physical or virtual machine and is responsible for building and testing your code. Azure DevOps build agents can run on Windows, Linux, or macOS, so you can choose the platform that’s best for your needs.

When you create a build definition in Azure DevOps, you can choose to run the build on a Microsoft-hosted agent or on your own self-hosted agent. Microsoft-hosted agents are free, but they may not be suitable for all types of builds. Self-hosted agents are more flexible and can be customized to fit your specific needs.

Why use self-hosted build agents?

There are several reasons why you might want to use a self-hosted build agent:

  • Speed: By using your own hardware, you can often run builds and tests faster than on a Microsoft-hosted agent. This is because you have more control over the hardware and can optimize it for your specific needs.
  • Control: When you use a self-hosted agent, you have complete control over the environment in which your code is built and tested. This can be especially important if your build process has complex dependencies or requires specialized tools.
  • Security: If you need to build code that is proprietary or confidential, you may not want to use a Microsoft-hosted agent. By using a self-hosted agent, you can ensure that your code remains secure.
  • Cost: If you have a large number of builds or need to run builds frequently, using Microsoft-hosted agents can become expensive. By using a self-hosted agent, you can save money and have more control over your costs.

How to set up a self-hosted build agent

Setting up a self-hosted build agent in Azure DevOps is relatively straightforward. Here are the steps you need to follow:

  1. Install the agent software: You can download the agent software from the Azure DevOps web portal. Once you’ve downloaded the software, you’ll need to run the installation script on the machine that will be the build agent. The installation script will guide you through the setup process.
  2. Configure the agent: After you’ve installed the agent software, you’ll need to configure it to work with your Azure DevOps organization. To do this, you’ll need to run the configuration script and provide your Azure DevOps organization URL and agent credentials.
  3. Start the agent: Once you’ve installed and configured the agent, you can start it by running a command in a terminal or command prompt. The agent will then connect to your Azure DevOps organization and be ready to run builds.

Best practices for using self-hosted build agents

Here are some best practices for using self-hosted build agents in Azure DevOps:

  • Keep your agents up to date: Make sure to keep your agents up to date with the latest security patches and updates. This will help keep your builds secure and running smoothly.
  • Use agent pools: Agent pools allow you to group agents together based on their capabilities or location. This can be helpful if you have agents in different regions or with different hardware configurations.
  • Monitor your agents: Keep an eye on your agents to make sure they’re running smoothly and aren’t experiencing.

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