VSTS + Octopus Deploy? Why do I see a lot of CI/CD setups with both?

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I'm a developer whose transitioning into Devops. By observation, I've noticed that a lot of dev shops have started using Octopus Deploy and VSTS, or they are starting new projects to setup devops ci/cd pipelines AND they spec to use both tools.

I've been through some quick training for both tools and though they aren't perfectly the same, VSTS seems to offer all of the same features as Octopus Deploy.

So, my question is if a company is already using VSTS for much of their version control, or anything CI/CD pipeline-related, why would you use Octopus? What benefit does it offer to use Octopus for your build and deploys to VSTS?

Note, I am very, very new to Devops. I'm just asking because at the "10,000 feet view" there doesn't seem to be any reason for Octopus if you're already using VSTS. I mention Octopus Deploy by name because I see it come up frequently. However, I assume there could be other tools that serve the same purpose of automatic build and deploying that might also integrate with VSTS. However, VSTS offers build and deploy built in one. Why split out the work?


Let me preface why I like to both build and deploy with VSTS:

  • Same permissioning end to end
  • Line of sight from end to end build and deployment

Reasons I favor Octopus Deploy over VSTS Release:

  • Ability to upload packages/artifacts
    • External ones that are maybe one off packages to get deployed for a specific release
  • Target Definition
    • When you create Targets or servers you are deploying to, you are able to add a target to one or multiple environments and assign tags/roles to a target. What does this mean? More flexible server definition rather than defining strict Agents to a pool or servers to a Deployment Group, you can allow a target to span multiple (ie: a testing server that spans your Dev and Test environments and only gets triggered on steps that are defined for that role). I realize you can accomplish similar things to this in VSTS but in my opinion it's far more cumbersome.
  • Variable Definition
    • Variables can be grouped at a global level and grouped by a specific pipeline/process (that part is similar to VSTS). Variables can also be grouped or scoped by environments or roles (above) so you are able to have different variable values per role per environment; both super granular and flexible. Places this comes in handy is if you have a backend server with a connection string and maybe 2 content delivery nodes (role - content delivery) that get slightly different values than the backend server. At the moment, I do not know (other than creating new environments) how one would accomplish the same in VSTS.
  • Process Definition
    • All of the above comes together in the process definition of Octopus Deploy. The super flexible and granular variables and target definition allows you to focus on the actual deployment process rather than getting hung up on the nuances of the UI and its limitations. One example would be defining a process where the first step would be taking something out of a load balancer from a central server, step two deploy code to delivery server one, step three put back in lb, step 4 take out node two from lb called from a central server, step 5 deploy code to node two, and last step, back into load balancer. I realize it's a very simple hypothetical, but within Octopus Deploy, it's one steady process filtered to execute on specific roles, within VSTS you would have to break that down into different agent phases and probably pipelines.

Above are really the biggest points I see to use Octopus Deploy over VSTS Release. Now why would someone use VSTS to build and OD to release/deploy? There are a lot of different factors that go into it, some are corporate drivers like having an enterprise git client that has permissions handled thru MSDN. Sometimes it's a project management driver of having work items tied tightly to commit and builds, but with the added flexibility that OD brings to the table for free/minimal cost.

Hoping this help shine a little light into maybe why some people are crossing streams and using both VSTS and OD.


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