A scripted deployment process for websites hosted on Azure Websites and deployed using git
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This is a scripted deployment process for websites hosted on Azure web apps and deployed using git. We use it for the East Sussex County Council website.

Each application on a large website has a separate git repository, but each Azure Website has a single git repository, so we can't deploy our website simply by deploying the original git repository. Instead we create a repository containing just a deployment script. We then push the repository to Azure, where it is deployed by Kudu. By default Kudu deploys only the first project it finds, so we use a custom deployment script.

The deployment script downloads individual repositories from git, using git tags to ensure that each version of the deployment script will deploy a consistent version of each application, based on a specific tagged commit, every time it is run.

Our custom deployment script:

How to configure and use Escc.AzureDeployment for a new website

Create a new git repository in a sibling folder of Escc.AzureDeployment, and run the following command to copy bootstrap code from this project into your new repository:


Create a file called DeployOnAzure.cmd, which will be the custom Kudu deployment script for your website. (See below for more on how to write DeployOnAzure.cmd.) When you're ready to test your script:

  • Ensure you have committed your changes to your local repository.
  • In the Azure portal for your web app, click "Set up deployment from source control" and select "Local Git repository". Note that your wwwroot folder should be empty when you do this, as any files there will be included in the repository.
  • Set up the git URL for your Azure web app as a remote for your local repository using git remote add <remote-name> <git-url>
  • Push your local repository to the remote using git push <remote-name> master. Kudu will then run your deployment script, and the Azure portal will show a deployment in progress.

Each time you update DeployOnAzure.cmd, for example to add a new application, commit your changes and push your repository again to your remote on Azure.

If you ever need to update your script to use a newer version of Escc.AzureDeployment, you can just run ..\Escc.AzureDeployment\UpdateDeploymentScript.cmd again from your repository.

Writing a custom Kudu deployment script for Azure

When you push your changes to Azure, Kudu will run your DeployOnAzure.cmd script to build and deploy your website. You can use scripts from this project to perform common tasks.

Download your application from git

call "%ESCC_DEPLOYMENT_SCRIPTS%\GitDownload" <repository> <tag>
IF !ERRORLEVEL! NEQ 0 goto error

This downloads an individual repository from git, referencing a git tag so that any given version of your deployment script will use the same specific tagged commit of your application every time it is run.

The <repository> parameter is not a full git repository URL, but the part that identifies a specific repository on your git server. This is combined with the ESCC_GIT_URL_PREFIX and ESCC_GIT_URL_SUFFIX environment variables to create a full repository URL. You can set environment variables in the app settings section of the Configure page for your web app in the Azure management portal, or directly in your deployment script.

For example, to download this project from GitHub:

  • ESCC_GIT_URL_PREFIX should be https://github.com/east-sussex-county-council/
  • Your call to GitDownload would specify Escc.AzureDeployment as the repository
  • ESCC_GIT_URL_SUFFIX should be .git

These would be combined into a git URL of https://github.com/east-sussex-county-council/Escc.AzureDeployment.git.

Restore the NuGet packages for your application

You can restore NuGet packages by referencing either a packages.config file or a Visual Studio solution.

call "%ESCC_DEPLOYMENT_SCRIPTS%\NugetRestore" <path-to-packages-file> <packages-filename> <packages-folder>
IF !ERRORLEVEL! NEQ 0 goto error
  • <path-to-packages-file> is the folder containing packages.config or the .sln. file. For example, %DEPLOYMENT_SOURCE%\ExampleProject\.
  • <packages-filename> is either packages.config or the .sln. file.
  • <packages-folder> is optional, and specifies the parent folder in which a packages folder should be created.

Unfortunately NuGet package restore is not the same as a NuGet install. Package restore doesn't restore content files, and it doesn't apply the configuration transforms in a NuGet package either.

The workaround for restoring content files is to include a .targets file in a build folder inside your NuGet package. This is picked up by MSBuild when the project is built, and can be used to copy files from the packages folder into the project root just in time for the compilation process to use them.

This example .targets file copies the views from ExampleMvcPackage into the project root. Note that the version number of the NuGet package is specified here and must be kept up-to-date as the package version changes. Note also that the target name, ExampleMvcPackage_CopyFiles, must be unique to your package. If you add two NuGet packages to the same project which share the same target name, you'll get hard-to-debug errors where one target overrides another, acting on files which seem unconnected to it.

<?xml version="1.0" encoding="utf-8"?>
<Project ToolsVersion="4.0" xmlns="http://schemas.microsoft.com/developer/msbuild/2003">
    <ExampleMvcPackage_Views Include="$(MSBuildProjectDirectory)\..\packages\ExampleMvcPackage.1.0.0\Content\Views\**\*.*"/>

  <Target Name="ExampleMvcPackage_CopyFiles" BeforeTargets="PrepareForBuild">
    <Message Text="Copying ExampleMvcPackage files to Views" />

Run tests

This project makes the NUnit test runner available in your Azure environment, by using NuGet to restore a solution that contains only the NUnit.Runners.2.6.3 package. You can use the RunTests command to run your tests. If your tests fail, the build will stop at that point.

call "%ESCC_DEPLOYMENT_SCRIPTS%\RunTests" %DEPLOYMENT_SOURCE%\ExampleProject.Tests\ ExampleProject.Tests.csproj
IF !ERRORLEVEL! NEQ 0 goto error

Configuration settings

For each web.config file we include it in the Visual Studio project with a build action of Content, but exclude it from our git repository. Instead we commit a web.example.config file with a build action of None, and secrets removed. This file typically needs to be different in the live environment, so we upload a web.config transform as part of the deployment repository.

To transform the web.example.config at the root of the ExampleProject folder, put the Web.Release.config into an ExampleProject folder in the deployment repository. You then need to add the TransformConfigFromExample command to your DeployOnAzure.cmd file, leaving off the .config part of the filename.

call "%ESCC_DEPLOYMENT_SCRIPTS%\TransformConfigFromExample" %DEPLOYMENT_SOURCE%\ExampleProject\web  %DEPLOYMENT_SOURCE%\Transforms\ExampleProject\%1.Release.config
IF !ERRORLEVEL! NEQ 0 goto error

If no web.example.config file is present at the destination but there is a web.config (for example, installed by a NuGet package) then that file will be transformed by Web.Release.config instead.

You can also use a TransformConfig command to apply other transforms to an existing configuration file.

call "%ESCC_DEPLOYMENT_SCRIPTS%\TransformConfig" %DEPLOYMENT_SOURCE%\ExampleProject\web.config %DEPLOYMENT_SOURCE%\Transforms\ExampleProject\my-custom-transform.config
IF !ERRORLEVEL! NEQ 0 goto error

If your application runs in a separate IIS application scope below an Umbraco installation, you need to override or remove some of the settings inherited from Umbraco's web.config. You can do that with the TransformConfigToWorkBelowUmbraco command.

call "%ESCC_DEPLOYMENT_SCRIPTS%\TransformConfigToWorkBelowUmbraco" %DEPLOYMENT_SOURCE%\ExampleProject\web.config
IF !ERRORLEVEL! NEQ 0 goto error

Note that the paths for these commands aren't quoted, which means they can't contain spaces.

Building your application

The following command will build your application by referencing the .csproj file and the folder where it is found. It includes a call to TransformProjectFile, which handles some of the potential problems below.

call "%ESCC_DEPLOYMENT_SCRIPTS%\BuildApplication" %DEPLOYMENT_SOURCE%\ExampleProject\ ExampleProject.csproj
IF !ERRORLEVEL! NEQ 0 goto error

There are a number of reasons why your application may fail to build.

Strong named assemblies

If you give some of your assemblies a strong name, the path to the strong name key file needs to be different on Azure. Upload your key file in the deployment repository and put the path into a DEPLOYMENT_STRONG_NAME_KEY app setting on the Configure page in the management portal for the Azure Website. TransformProjectFile runs automatically on build, and will update the strong name based on that setting.

Project references

If you have project references within your solution, you need to organise your DeployOnAzure.cmd file in the order assemblies need to be built. Use GitDownload to download a dependent library and run NuGetRestore and TransformProjectFile on the library before building the application that depends upon it.

call "%ESCC_DEPLOYMENT_SCRIPTS%\GitDownload" ExampleLibrary ExampleTag
IF !ERRORLEVEL! NEQ 0 goto error

call "%ESCC_DEPLOYMENT_SCRIPTS%\NugetRestore" %DEPLOYMENT_SOURCE%\ExampleLibrary\ packages.config
IF !ERRORLEVEL! NEQ 0 goto error

call "%ESCC_DEPLOYMENT_SCRIPTS%\TransformProjectFile" %DEPLOYMENT_SOURCE%\ExampleLibrary\ ExampleLibrary.csproj
IF !ERRORLEVEL! NEQ 0 goto error

Direct references to DLLs

If you have a reference directly to a DLL that file is unlikely to be in your git repository. Make a NuGet package for the DLL and reference it that way.

Changes to project files

If you need to alter your .csproj file to get it to build, create an XSLT file with the same name as your .csproj file, eg MyApp.csproj.xslt, and include it in your git repository. Here's an example:

<?xml version="1.0" encoding="utf-8"?>
<xsl:stylesheet version="1.0" xmlns:xsl="http://www.w3.org/1999/XSL/Transform"
     xmlns:msxsl="urn:schemas-microsoft-com:xslt" exclude-result-prefixes="msxsl"
    <xsl:output method="xml" indent="yes"/>

    <!-- TransformProjectFile.xslt is from Escc.AzureDeployment and will be copied into this folder at deploy time  -->
    <xsl:include href="TransformProjectFile.xslt"/>

	<!-- This xsl:template is just an example, not a requirement -->
    <xsl:template match="msbuild:Project/msbuild:ItemGroup/msbuild:Reference/msbuild:HintPath">
        <!-- Do something with the HintPath -->

This XSLT file will be used to update the .csproj project file before it is built.

Missing files

Any file which is part of your Visual Studio project but excluded from your git repository will cause a build error when the project is built on Azure. You can prevent this by setting its Build Action to None in the Properties panel in Visual Studio, or have the build script create the file before you build.

Deploy your application to the web root

Use Kudu Sync to deploy your application.

call "%ESCC_DEPLOYMENT_SCRIPTS%\Sync" ExampleSite
IF !ERRORLEVEL! NEQ 0 goto error

The build action for each file in the Visual Studio project controls whether it will be copied to the web root. If the build action is set to Content it will be copied, whereas None means it will not. Any files which have a different build action (for example, .cs files are set to Compile) should be left alone. Check the Properties panel in Visual Studio for each file in your project to make sure it has the correct setting.

Delete an obsolete application

Follow these steps to completely remove an application from the website:

  1. Remove references to the application from DeployOnAzure.cmd and push your repository to your remote on Azure.
  2. Commit and push your changes to your master git repository.
  3. Use FTP to connect to Azure and delete the application folder.
  4. Delete any related resources such as databases and storage containers.
  5. On the Configure tab in the Azure Portal, remove any application settings, connection strings, virtual applications and directories associated with the application.
  6. Set up 301 redirects to replacement content if appropriate.