Using Nx Affected in Azure Pipelines

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When trying to combine the concepts of an Affected Nx projects and building and deploying them in Azure Pipelines, there is no plugin or anything readily available to do so. Since it wasn’t trivial to find and compose all the bits and pieces together, I decided to write this down. Maybe it’ll help you, or maybe you can help me improve it.

Tree made of azure pipelines in expressionism style (AI-generated by OpenAI)
Tree made of azure pipelines in expressionism style (AI-generated by OpenAI)

One Step Further

By default, many solutions use the diff between HEAD and HEAD~1 to calculate the affected projects. Such as Nrwl’s own Example of setting up distributed Azure build for Nx workspace.

Although this may work well, I think this isn’t always optimal. Mostly because the latest run(s) may have failed, which Nx isn’t aware of. This may require to manually re-run a pipeline, or it may take an unknown amount of time before the container will re-build.

However, Azure has an API to set and list pipeline run tags. We can use the Azure CLI to add a tag for each pipeline run having a successful Nx project build.

The main steps in this guide include:

  1. Find the latest successful build and the corresponding SHA-1.
  2. Use this SHA-1 as the --base for the nx affected command.
  3. Store the affected Nx project names in output variables.
  4. Use these output variables to conditionally execute the corresponding jobs or stages to build and deploy Nx projects.
  5. After a successful build, tag the current pipeline run (for step #1 in the next run).

Find The Latest Successful Build

When the list of pipeline runs is filtered by the Nx project’s tag and sorted by time, we need only the latest result and we can further simplify the output by returning only the SHA-1 (sourceVersion) in the most concise TSV format:

Terminal window
az pipelines runs list
--branch main
--pipeline-ids $(System.DefinitionId)
--tags "my-app"
--query-order FinishTimeDesc
--query '[].[sourceVersion]'
--top 1
--out tsv

This will return the SHA-1 associated to the latest pipeline run tagged with my-app. This is the run we are looking for, as we have tagged it only after a successful build. Now, nx affected can determine whether this Nx project is currently affected or not compared with the latest SHA-1 a successful build for this Nx project was made from.

Later we will see how to set this tag for a successful build.

Write It Down For Later

To set an output variable for use in a later stage in Azure pipelines, we need use the task.setvariable logging command (Azure docs: Set variables in scripts). This writes the value AFFECTED to the output variable BUILD_MY_APP:

Terminal window
echo "##vso[task.setvariable variable=BUILD_MY_APP;isOutput=true]AFFECTED"

Putting It Together

With the above ingredients, we can write a script to write the output variables. Initially I wrote a Bash script as that made sense at the time. Here’s the gist:

Terminal window
# Usage: is-affected [lib|app] [nx-project-name] [BUILD_NX_PROJECT_NAME]
is-affected() {
local SHA=$(az pipelines runs list --branch main --pipeline-ids $(System.DefinitionId) --tags "$2" --query-order FinishTimeDesc --query '[].[sourceVersion]' --top 1 --out tsv)
local WRITE_VARIABLE="##vso[task.setvariable variable=$3;isOutput=true]";
local AFFECTED=$(npx nx print-affected --type=${1} --select=projects --plain --base=$SHA --head=HEAD)
if [[ "$AFFECTED" == *"$2"* ]]; then
echo "##[warning]$2 is affected (base: $SHA)"

As I think Bash scripts are not very robust and not easy to maintain, I ported this to a Node.js script is-affected.js with JSDoc/TypeScript annotations. The idea stays the same, and with both scripts the output looks like this:

##[warning]my-app is NOT affected (base: 62ed6e5d1dd73564a088be879a47634456a07676)
##[warning]container5 is affected (base: 62ed6e5d1dd73564a088be879a47634456a07676)
##[warning]some-lib was not previously tagged

When system diagnostics are enabled, also the other echo commands that actually set the variables are printed.

To see this script in perspective, here’s an example “Prepare” stage:

- stage: Prepare
vmImage: ubuntu-latest
- job: Determine_Affected
displayName: Determine Affected Nx Projects
- task: NodeTool@0
displayName: Use Node.js v16.17.1
versionSpec: 16.17.1
- script: npm install nx
displayName: Install Nx
# Required for `az pipelines runs`
- bash: |
az config set extension.use_dynamic_install=yes_without_prompt
az devops configure --defaults organization=$(System.TeamFoundationCollectionUri) project="$(System.TeamProject)"
displayName: Set default Azure DevOps organization and project
- bash: |
node is-affected.js --pipelineId $(System.DefinitionId) --app my-app --app container5 --lib some-lib
name: AffectedNxProjects
displayName: Determine affected Nx projects
AZURE_DEVOPS_EXT_PAT: $(System.AccessToken)

Conditional Builds

The condition for the job in another (build) stage is based on the variable that was written with the Bash script in an earlier stage. The pattern to read it:


Also see Azure docs to Set a variable for future stages.

When this variable has a value of AFFECTED or TAG_NOT_FOUND the condition will evaluate to true and the job to build the Nx project will run. For brevity, here is only the relevant part:

displayName: Build my-app
condition: |
in(stageDependencies.[[STAGE]].[[JOB]].outputs['[[STEP]].BUILD_MY-APP'], 'AFFECTED', 'TAG_NOT_FOUND')
- task: container...

We can move the build job(s) to a template and reuse it with nxProjectName as a parameter. Here’s an example how to do that:

- stage: Build
dependsOn: Prepare
- template: build-container.yaml
nxProjectName: my-app
- template: build-container.yaml
nxProjectName: container5
- template: build-container.yaml
nxProjectName: some-lib

And then in the build-container.yaml template:

- name: nxProjectName
type: string
- job: BUILD_${{ upper(replace(parameters.nxProjectName, '-', '_')) }}
displayName: Build ${{ parameters.nxProjectName }}
condition: |
in(stageDependencies.Prepare.Determine_Affected.outputs['AffectedNxProjects.BUILD_${{ upper(replace(parameters.nxProjectName, '-', '_')) }}'], 'AFFECTED', 'TAG_NOT_FOUND')
- task: container...

Note that stages referred to in stageDependencies must be part of the dependsOn option (Prepare in this example). Otherwise, the value will silently resolve to Null without warning.

Tag Successful Builds

This task should follow the build step(s) from the job above. We can tag successful build runs with the name of the Nx project ([nx-project-name]):

az pipelines runs tag add --run-id $(Build.BuildId) --tags [nx-project-name]

Now this command from the Bash script should find the latest tag for this Nx project in the next pipeline run:

az pipelines runs list --tags "[nx-project-name]" [...]

Again, you may need to set the organization and project first. Here’s a complete step:

- script: |
az config set extension.use_dynamic_install=yes_without_prompt
az devops configure --defaults organization=$(System.TeamFoundationCollectionUri) project="$(System.TeamProject)"
az pipelines runs tag add --run-id $(Build.BuildId) --tags ${{ parameters.nxProjectName }}
echo "##vso[task.setvariable variable=DEPLOY_${{ upper(replace(parameters.nxProjectName, '-', '_')) }};isOutput=true]true"
echo "##[warning]Tagged build for ${{ parameters.nxProjectName }} (BUILD_${{ upper(replace(parameters.nxProjectName, '-', '_')) }})"
condition: succeeded()
displayName: Tag successful build
name: TagBuild
AZURE_DEVOPS_EXT_PAT: $(System.AccessToken)

This writes the DEPLOY_MY_APP variable. In a later (deployment) stage, the same idea can be applied to read this variable and conditionally deploy the build to any environment. An example chunk of the “production” stage:

- stage: Production
dependsOn: Build
condition: succeeded('Build')
- template: deploy-container.yaml
nxProjectName: my-app
environment: production

And then in deploy-container.yaml:

- name: nxProjectName
displayName: The Nx project key
type: string
- name: environment
displayName: Environment
type: string
- test
- staging
- production
- deployment: |
Deploy_${{ replace(parameters.nxProjectName, '-', '_') }}_${{ parameters.environment }}
Deploy ${{ parameters.nxProjectName }} to ${{ parameters.environment }}
environment: ${{ parameters.environment }}
condition: |
eq(stageDependencies.Build.BUILD_${{ upper(replace(parameters.nxProjectName, '-', '_'))}}.outputs['TagBuild.DEPLOY_${{ upper(replace(parameters.nxProjectName, '-', '_')) }}'], 'true')
- ...deploy container?...

Again, stages referred to in stageDependencies must be part of the dependsOn option (Build in this case).

I’ll update this article as I find improvements. Hopefully this guide has been of some help or inspiration.