Private VSTS build agent – more speed and less costs

Using Hosted Agents in Visual Studio Team Services (VSTS) is quite comfortable as you don’t have to worry about configuration or maintenance.

But as soon as your development team grows, the queue and the related build times become problematic. And once your projects consume more than 240 minutes build time per month, you need to buy a hosted agent.

In fact, we had exactly these three problems and that is why we started using private build and release agents. In the following article we would like to explain these points in more detail and give examples from our pool of experience.

What are the advantages of using private build agents for VSTS?

Accelerate your build times by a multiple

We have found that our build time with private build agents have been improved enormously.  More specifically, projects that previously took more than five minutes of build time have been completed with private build agents in less than one minute. This is an improvement of over 500%! Of course, we don’t claim that this is the same with every project, but that’s an example from our everyday project life.

Save money by using private build and release agents

Taking hosted build agents for building and publishing projects has the big advantage that you get the first 240 minutes for free. But once you exceed these 240 minutes, each hosted agent costs $40 per month and that with the above disadvantages.

Using private build agents costs only $15 plus the cost of the Azure resources for the agent itself. And owners of a Visual Studio Enterprise license get one private pipeline per „Enterprise license“ for free.

Screenshot of the azure portal form to build the VSTS private build agent.
Fill out the form in the Azure portal

We are currently experiencing the best build times with burstable VMs, more precisely the „Standard B2S“. This VM size have enough performance to finish builds rapidly and has a great price, 49.34$ per month. If the concept of burstable VMs is new to you, we recommend this article: https://buildazure.com/2017/09/11/more-affordable-azure-vms-with-burstable-b-series/

So, if we take all costs into account we end up with about 55$ per month without Enterprise license and 40$ per month with Enterprise license. Now you’re probably wondering why we claim that private build agents are cheaper, although in the best case they cost at least as much as hosted agents.

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To configure your agent is very easy

But the deciding factor where we save the most money is the time the developer doesn’t have to wait for the build. And remember, private build and release agents in Visual Studio Team Services are up to 500% faster than hosted agents.

If you’re still not convinced of the benefits of private agents, read the article by Microsoft Principal DevOps Manager Donovan Brown.

Configuring private build agents is no magic

build-agent-architectureDeploying Private Build and Release Agents including all dependencies and SDKs for VSTS is not complicated but it is very time-consuming. That’s why we automated the entire process using an Azure Resource Manager template. The VSTS Agent installed during this process logs in directly to the specified Agent Pool. We use Chocolatey to install all the dependencies and SDKs. To learn more about Chocolatey visit their page. Here is a list of the programs that are installed with our offer „Build Agent for VSTS – Windows based“:

You want to use private build and release agents for your DevOps pipeline?

Check out our free Azure marketplace offer and deploy your personal build agent via a click by click experience. And if you want to customize our solution to your needs, take a look at our public GitHub repository.

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Certified VSTS Build Agent available in Azure Marketplace now.

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