Committing The Code To VSTS

So we have a new project in IntelliJ with the starter layout provided by the Spring Initializer and we have an empty git repository in VSTS. We now have to link the two of these together so that all your future code changes have a place to live.

First we need to tell IntelliJ that this is a git repository. The easy way to do this is use the VCS menu.

Yes there is an option to ‘Import into Team Services Git’ and you would probably think that this would be the best option to select but it will only work if there is no repository on the VSTS side but as this is a new project on VSTS there is already a repository there (It would be nice if the VSTS Tool could detect that it is a blank repository and allow it to be linked).

Once you have told IntelliJ that this is a git repository you will need to add the existing files to the repository and then commit them.

Right click on the top level of the project, find the ‘Git’ menu and then select ‘Add’ to add all the existing files in the project to the repository.

Then click on the ‘VCS’ menu and select ‘Commit Changes’.

The commit changes dialog box will appear, just go ahead and commit everything.

At this stage we still have not linked the local Git repository and VSTS. To do this we need to use the terminal but before we do that lets have a quick look at the main project screen in VSTS as that will give us the commands we need to use…

You can see the exact commands that we will need. Also you may need to generate Git credentials if this is the first time you have tried to have git and VSTS talk from your machine.

To make things even easier you don;t need to open a separate terminal application. IntelliJ gives you a terminal window by clicking on the terminal option in the bottom toolbar. It opens the terminal in the correct directory so you just have to copy and paste those two commands from VSTS to the terminal tab

and now if you return back to VSTS and click on the Code tab you will see your source controlled git repository.

One thing to note is that a single VSTS project supports having multiple repositories. If you want to add a second repository to a project you can get IntelliJ to do the work by selecting the ‘Import into Team Services GIT’ option on the menu in the first screenshot above, selecting the project and giving the repository a name.

We are now ready to start writing code…

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Posted in Domino To Spring

Getting started with IntelliJ

Now that the project is ready over in VSTS it is time to start the project in your IDE. The choice of IDE is really a personal preference, I am going to be using IntelliJ IDEA Ultimate (the community version does not have the Spring Initializer). If you are using Eclipse I will recommend that you look at the Spring Tools Suite.

Start up IntelliJ and click the option to create a new Project.

Select the Spring Initializer from the list of project types and then click Next.

Give your project some details, the Group and Package are normally your reverses domain name and then the artifact and name are normally your project name.

On the next screen you can select what Spring Boot Starters you want to initially include in the project. A Spring Boot Starter added additional functionality to the project and configures that functionality with basic defaults for you. Over on the right you can see a list of the starters I have selected and what category you will find them under. I’ll discuss the selected options in later blog posts.

After you click next you will be prompted to save the project somewhere on disk and then IntelliJ will open a workspace window with your new project in it.

You may see a warning message about a non-managed pom file. If you do then you should click the ‘Add as Maven Project’ option.

Once completed you will see the basic outline of your new project. A src folder has been setup for you with the main java source for your application and a resources folder for the html and css files. There is also a test folder where you can store all your java testing files.

In the next post I will show you how to get this moved up to VSTS.

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Getting started with VisualStudio Team Services

Before I even start writing any code I am going to set up a new project in Microsoft Visual Studio Team Services.

If you do not have a source control repository and issue tracking system yet then I would highly recommend looking at VSTS. It really can give you a full end to end pipeline so that you can take that idea you have had for the next big application all the way from being written on the back of beer mat to an automatically deployed application with VSTS helping in all the steps in-between. VSTS also has a vibrant marketplace of add-ons that can extend VSTS. But best of all VSTS is cloud based so you don’t have to worry about deploying hardware and making sure you always keep it up to date.

VSTS is free up to 5 users and provides you with up to 240 free minutes of build time a month when you use a hosted build pipeline or you can use a private pipeline if you want to create your own build agent on your own hardware. You get one private pipeline for free and you can use that as much as you need to, no limit on minutes. Additional users cost $6 a month and additional pipelines cost $15 a month ( hosted or private ) but you should/will be able to do everything you need for the free subscription if you have a small team.

Once you have set up VSTS just log in and select the option to create a new project.

Make sure you select GIT for your version control and Agile for the Work Item Process.

Now that the project has been created we can switch over to our IDE to kick things off.

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Posted in Domino To Spring

And So We Find Ourselves Back At The Start Again…

A very long time ago I wrote a fifty something long blog series about learning XPages where I wrote a simple phonebook type application. It was pretty well received and probably helped a few people get on the road to writing XPage style applications. It was basic, it didn’t involve any Java backend stuff and I know if I was doing it again in XPages I would do it completely different.

Now we have a brand new development stack and I find myself back at the starting blocks again but this time I am armed with the java knowledge I learnt during my time writing XPage apps, I have my development, build and release environment mapped out and it is time to start writing code again.

I’m not going to try and duplicate the old Learning XPages series but I am going to try and work though an entire application from start to finish where the finish line is having the application automatically deployed on our production environment. I won’t be going in to the code at the level I did for Learning XPages but I will point out how similar concepts in XPages translate over to my Java application but this is not a Learning Java series or a Learning Spring series.

This is going to be part Code, part Spring, part Thymeleaf, part DevOps, part VSTS, part Docker, part Rancher. Pretty much everything I have described in the last few blog about what it takes to replace Domino. I’m going to show you how I’m using it so that if you decide on similar parts for your Domino replacement stack you will have a basic understanding of how to get things going.

And I’m not numbering the parts this time 🙂

Posted in Domino To Spring, Uncategorized

Putting It All Together

Replacing Domino as your application environment is not an easy swap of one product for another. There is no one product that can do everything that Domino can do. Some can get close but nothing can give you every part of the puzzle. To that end here are pieces that we have decided to move forward with.

Backend Code
Java with the Spring Boot framework with an aim towards writing microservice style applications.

Frontend
Thymeleaf Java Templating Engine running inside a Spring Boot based jar file.

Authentication and Authorization
Microsoft Azure AD as the directory store fronted by Auth0 as the Authorization manager integrated with Spring Security on both the backend and frontend.

Source Control
Microsoft Visual Studio Team Services GIT repositories

Issue Tracking / Agile Workflow
Microsoft Visual Studio Team Services

Data Storage
Microsoft Azure SQL Server for relational data.
Microsoft Azure Document DB for noSQL data

Deployment
Microsoft Azure based Virtual Machines running Docker with Rancher as the orchestration and management layer.

Build and Release Management
Microsoft Visual Studio Team Services

I have not talked about Build And Release management yet, I plan to talk quite a bit about how we have that setup to integrate with our deployment system. I have also not recommended any particular IDE because that is a personal choice and does not affect any of the other choices. Personally I prefer IntelliJ, it took a little getting used to after using Eclipse but overall I personally think it is a better product. If you do look at IntelliJ and you are also looking at Spring Boot then you should get the Ultimate edition for full support.

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Deploying Your Applications

So you have decided what you will write your application in, both backend and frontend, you have decided where you will store the source code and how you will track issues, you have figured out your authentication and authorization solution, all that is missing now is somewhere to actually run the application so people can use it. In the Domino world this was a simple solution, just put the NSF on the server, but when you leave the Domino world it because probably one of the hardest decisions.

First you need to know ‘HOW’ the application runs. If you have decided on Java for the backend then how does that run, do you deploy fat jar files that contain Tomcat web servers? Do you use skinny jar files that need to be deployed to an application server like WildFly or IBM Websphere Liberty. Using .NET then maybe you need to look at an IIS Server. What about the frontend? Where does that run do you need a server just for that or will it run on the servers the backend code is running on?

Then you need to ask if you will be running this all in-house or using a cloud provider like Azure, or Amazon Web Services. Do you use a container system like Docker or CloudFoundry?

At this stage you probably wish you could keep Domino around….

Because we decided to use Spring Boot we started looking at Pivotal CloudFoundry as our deployment solution but ultimately found that to deploy a Cloud Foundry solution on our Azure infrastructure might be very costly, it involved about 50+ VMs, additional cores and the Pivotal consultants we contacted really didn’t seem too interested in our business unless we were going to spend upwards of quarter of a million…

Next we looked at Docker. The best way to ‘think’ about docker is that you have a server which is the Docker host and then on that you have Docker containers which could be described as mini virtual machines, technically they aren’t but it is easier to think of them that way starting out. Docker on it’s own is just a technology stack just like HTTP is just a web stack. To make it useful you also need to look at Container Orchestration. This is the layer that manages all your Docker hosts and Docker Containers.

Orchestration layers include Docker Swarm (built in to Docker), Kubernetes, Apache MESOS and Cattle to name just a few. Cattle is one you may not hear of by that name but you may hear of Rancher. Rancher is the UI to Cattle but Rancher can also manage Docker Swarm and Kubernetes and it was this capability that draw me to looking at it. Rancher can also manage multiple environments so if you have a set of Docker hosts dedicated to your QA environment and a set of Docker hosts for your production environment then Rancher can keep them all separate for you.

So as you probably guessed we decided to deploy our applications using Docker containers running on Docker hosts which are running in Azure VMs using Rancher/Cattle as the orchestration layer. This turned out to be a great choice as we could then tie it all back in to our Microsoft Visual Studio Team Services build and release system which I’ll discuss in later posts.

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Managing your source code and issue tracking

If you are part of a team of developers and you are not using source control then you really need to start, if you are a sole developer and you are not using source control then you also really need to start. Source control is your friend, it will record all your code changes, it will merge in changes from different team members and allow you to manage new features and hot fixes with ease.

Alongside source control you also need to look at a system to manage your issue tracking and it is always a good idea to try to pick a combination that can talk to each other so that you can easily link your source control commits to particular issues. Doing this gives you a more accurate history of the application and allows you to quickly see why a particular change was made.

In the past I have recommended Redmine and Mercurial. Redmine is a free and open source issue tracking system and Mercurial is easy to set up and integrate with it. Both are excellent solutions and could be used with any development stack going forward.

For our new stack, however, we decided to look at other options. I looked at Pivotal Tracker which could integrate easily with GitHub. I looked at Jira which could integrate with Bitbucket or Github but ultimately ended up looking at a Microsoft product…

Yes, you heard me correctly we ended up looking at a Microsoft product even though we had decided on using Java as our backend code. Even 5 years ago the very idea that Microsoft and Java would be in the same sentence together was pretty laughable but times change and they now have some excellent java tools and sample code and even Eclipse and IntelliJ IDEA developer toolkits.

We looked at Microsoft Visual Studio Team Services (VSTS) because another team within the company was also starting to use it to manage issue tracking and build management for our new Microsoft Dynamics AX deployment. It made sense to investigate it and after testing all the features and capabilities we discovered that it did everything we needed and the logical conclusion was that we should standardize on the tool instead of having different systems for the different teams.

VSTS is free for 5 users, it is cloud based so you don’t have to set up any servers to get up and running and there are plenty of integrations in the VSTS Marketplace. It has its own GIT repository system or you can integrate it to external source repositories and has full Agile and Scrum based issue tracking systems that are very easy to customize.

I highly recommend looking at VSTS if you are ever in the situation of looking for a new issue tracking and source control system and in later blog posts I’ll also be talking about how it is also a build and release management system.

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