Azure DevOps agent cannot checkout GitHub repository

Recently I faced an issue with my Azure DevOps self hosted container agents. They could not checkout the git repositories and the build stopped due to the default timeout of 60 minutes per run.

This happened for multiple builds, as a result I had to investigate the reason behind this error.

By checking the logs inside the container on the C:\agent\_diag folder I could recognize an error message like the below:

A session for this agent already exists.
Agent connect error: The task agent xxx already has an active session for owner xxx.. Retrying until reconnected.

By searching online, I figured out that this is a reported bug on previous agents versions. In order to resolve, I updated and reconfigured the agent. You can update the agent, either from the GUI or by creating a new container and installing the latest version of azure devops agent.

In order to reconfigure the agent I first took an interactive shell on it.

docker exec -it agent-name powershell.exe

Then inside C:\agent run the below commands.

Reconfigure the agent

This is a temporary fix for your agent. If the problem persists you should open a support ticket on Microsoft to troubleshoot the issue.

Maintenance Jobs for build agents explained – Azure DevOps

When you need to scale up your infrastructure, you should enable as much automated options for maintenance as possible. One of the available options for devops agents are included under Organization Settings -> Agent pools -> Settings.

There you can define automated procedures for cleanup on your agent pools.

In my setup, I changed the days to keep unused working directories to 20.

The working directories of the agent are some folders with specific numbers inside C:\agent\work.

Every time a new build is initiated a new folder for this specific run is created. If the same pipeline runs more than one time, then the same working directory will be kept and the files will get overridden. For example lets say my pipeline A is bind to the folder 5. Then every time the pipeline A runs, then the folder 5 will be used for the sources (git repositories) builds, artifacts etc. All previous data hosted there will be deleted and written again.

The maintenance jobs will remove any directories than are not used for x period of days. In my example I had set up 20 days for that task.

You can configure agent pools to periodically clean up stale working directories and repositories. This should reduce the potential for the agents to run out of disk space. Maintenance jobs are configured at the project collection or organization level in agent pool settings.

You can check your history under Organization Settings -> Agent pools -> Maintenance History.

You can also download the log and figure out how much data have been deleted.

Maintenance jobs:

Create and manage agent pools – Azure Pipelines | Microsoft Docs

Video tutorial on YouTube:

Update variable group using Azure DevOps rest API – pipeline example

Following my previous article about how to update a variable group using POSTMAN, I will now document how to implement the same behavior through a pipeline.

First things first you will need a PAT. I have included this PAT in a different variable group than the one that I will update. this is because when you update the variable group, all the variables that are inside will get lost. If you need to retain them, you should have to get them first and then add them again on the variable group.

For this reason I have created a variable group named token-group which holds my PAT. I also made this variable a secret.

The variable group that I will update has the name of var-group and the id of 5.

The pipeline includes two tasks. The first task will loop through the variables on the group and print them out. The second task will update the variable group based on the JSON that you provided. You should change your ORG and project URLs.

trigger:
– none
pr: none
pool:
vmImage: ubuntu-latest
variables:
– group: token-group
steps:
– task: PowerShell@2
displayName: Get variables from variable-group
inputs:
targetType: 'inline'
script: |
$connectionToken="$(PAT)"
$base64AuthInfo= [System.Convert]::ToBase64String([System.Text.Encoding]::ASCII.GetBytes(":$($connectionToken)"))
$URL = "https://dev.azure.com/geralexgr/test-project/_apis/distributedtask/variablegroups?groupIds=5&api-version=7.1-preview.1"
$Result = Invoke-RestMethod -Uri $URL -Headers @{authorization = "Basic $base64AuthInfo"} -Method Get
$Variable = $Result.value.variables | ConvertTo-Json -Depth 100
Write-Host $Variable
– task: PowerShell@2
displayName: add variables on variable-group
inputs:
targetType: 'inline'
script: |
$connectionToken="$(PAT)"
$base64AuthInfo= [System.Convert]::ToBase64String([System.Text.Encoding]::ASCII.GetBytes(":$($connectionToken)"))
$URL = "https://dev.azure.com/GeralexGR/test-project/_apis/distributedtask/variablegroups/5?api-version=5.1-preview.1"
$body = '{"id":5,"type":"Vsts","name":"var-group","variables":{"rest-var1":{"isSecret":false,"value":"rest-var-value-1"},"rest-var2":{"isSecret":false,"value":"rest-var-value-2"},"rest-var3":{"isSecret":false,"value":"rest-var-value-3"}}}'
$Result = Invoke-RestMethod -Uri $URL -Headers @{authorization = "Basic $base64AuthInfo"} -Method Put -Body $body -ContentType "application/json"
$Variable = $Result.value.variables | ConvertTo-Json -Depth 100
Write-Host $Variable

After running the pipeline you will notice a null output on the update of the variable group. This is the requested result and as task has not failed your var group will get updated.

Variables inside json

Update variable group using Azure DevOps rest API – POSTMAN

I was struggling to update a variable group using the Azure DevOps Rest API. In this article I will document the procedure using POSTMAN.

First things first you should create a PAT in order to interact with the API. If you do not know how to create such a thing you should read my previous article about running a build through a REST api on which I documented also the creation of a PAT.

Then you will need to add the access token under authorization tab of POSTMAN using Type Basic Auth. The PAT should be added as plain text.

Then you will need to add Content-Type as application/json under Headers.

Then you will have to create your URL. This should be of the format:

https://dev.azure.com/Organization/project/_apis/distributedtask/variablegroups/groupVariableID?api-version=5.1-preview.1

Important: You should use the version=5.1-preview.1. If you use the latest version you will notice an error on the call. This is a bug that has not been fixed as I found online.

In my example I wanted to update the variable group with the ID 5 and add a variable named new-var. The body of your request should be like below. Keep in mind that we use the PUT HTTP verb to update the variable group. This means everything that is inside the variable group will be discarded. If you followed all the steps correctly you will notice the below output JSON. This should indicate success on the procedure.

Lastly you can locate your new variable inside the variable group.

Variablegroups – Update – REST API (Azure DevOps Task Agent) | Microsoft Docs

Video tutorial on YouTube: