Overview of pipelines in Power Platform

Pipelines in Power Platform aim to democratize application lifecycle management (ALM) for Power Platform and Dynamics 365 customers by bringing ALM automation and continuous integration and continuous delivery (CI/CD) capabilities into the service in a manner that's more approachable for all makers, admins, and developers.

Example of the deployment Pipelines feature

Pipelines significantly reduce the effort and domain knowledge previously required to realize the ROI from adopting healthy, automated ALM processes within your team or organization.

  • Admins easily configure automated deployment pipelines in minutes rather than days or weeks.
  • Makers have an intuitive user experience for easily deploying their solutions.
  • Professional developers can (optionally) run pipelines using their preferred tools such as the Power Platform command line interface (CLI).

Admins centrally manage and govern pipelines

Pipelines enable admins to centrally govern citizen-led and pro-dev-led projects at scale with less effort. Admins set up the appropriate safeguards that govern and facilitate solution development, testing, and delivery across the organization. Other admin benefits include:

  • Lower total cost of ownership:

    • Pipelines significantly improve maker, developer, and admin productivity. Pipelines enable your business solutions to come to market faster, with higher quality, through a safe and governed process.
    • Minimal effort to implement custom-tailored change management processes across your organization or team.
  • Save time and money:

    • The system handles the heavy lifting and ongoing maintenance so you don't have to.
  • Scale ALM at your own pace:

    • Regardless of where you're at in your ALM journey, you can extend pipelines to accommodate your evolving business needs. We aim for this upward transition to be as seamless and effortless as possible. More information: Microsoft Power Platform CLI
  • Achieve compliance, safety, monitoring, and automation goals with:

    • Customizations and audit logs saved automatically and are easily accessible.
    • Out-of-the-box analytics provides better visibility within a central location.
    • The ability to create your own reports from within the pipelines app. More information: Reporting overview for model-driven apps

Makers run preconfigured pipelines

Once pipelines are in place, makers can initiate in-product deployments with a few clicks. They do so directly within their development environments. Other benefits to makers include:

  • No prior knowledge of ALM processes or systems required. Citizen developers often view pipelines as a guided change management process.
  • Solution deployments are prevalidated against the target environment to prevent mistakes and improve success rates. For example, missing dependencies and other issues are detected before deployment and makers are immediately guided to take the appropriate action.
  • Connections and environment variables are provided upfront and validated before the deployment begins.
    • This helps ensure applications and automation are deployed without needing manual post-processing steps, and are connected to the appropriate data sources within each environment.
    • Admins can even preconfigure certain connections that will be used.

Developers can use the same pipelines

Professional developers are more productive with pipelines now handling the complex background operations. Developers can tell the system what they want to accomplish instead of executing the various underlying tasks necessary to accomplish the same goal. Using the Power Platform CLI, developers can:

  • List pipelines to view pertinent details such as which stages and environments are ready to deploy their solutions to.
  • Deploy a solution with a single command:
    • With pipelines, developers simply provide the required parameters and the system orchestrates all the end-to-end deployment operations in compliance with the organizational policies.
    • No need to connect to multiple environments, export solutions, download solution files, manually create connections and populate deployment settings files, import solutions, or handle various other tasks that were required previously.

Frequently asked questions

What do pipelines deploy?

Pipelines deploy solutions as well as configuration for the target environment such as connections, connection references, and environment variables. Any Power Platform customization contained in your solution can be deployed using pipelines. Pipelines, or solutions in general, don't contain data stored within Dataverse tables.

Important

Power BI Dashboards (preview) and Power BI Datasets (preview) are not currently supported in pipelines.

Are standalone licenses required to use pipelines?

  • No pipelines specific enforcement will be added until pipelines become general available.
  • Standalone licenses won't be required to use developer or trial type environments in pipelines.
  • When pipelines become generally available, end users within any production environment(s) linked to pipelines will require a standalone license for either Power Apps, Power Automate, or Dynamics 365. Makers generally won't require a standalone license unless they're also an end user.

A common setup example:

Environment purpose Environment type Standalone license required
Host Production No
Development Developer No
QA Developer No
Production Production Yes

Can I configure approvals for deployments?

Not currently.

Can pipelines deploy to a different tenant?

Not currently. We recommend using Azure DevOps or GitHub for this scenario.

What should I do if my development or target environment is reset or deleted?

You should delete the environment record and update the pipeline configuration when needed. If an environment is reset, you re-create the environment record then associate it with your pipeline.

Can I use pipelines in the default environment?

Yes. However, using the default environment as the pipelines host isn't recommended. You should carefully evaluate the intended purpose and state of your default environment when deciding if ALM and pipelines is appropriate.

Can I deploy using my own service principal?

Not currently. Note that deployments are facilitated via a Microsoft-provided service principal that impersonates the deploying user. This is secure, compliant, and is designed to accommodate future capabilities.

Can pipelines be used with Azure DevOps, GitHub, or the ALM Accelerator?

Not currently. We aim for these to work together more seamlessly in the future.

Can I roll back to a previous version?

Not currently. The same is true when manually importing solutions.

Can I specify advanced solution import behaviors such as update versus upgrade?

Not currently. Pipelines default import behavior is Upgrade with Maintain customizations.

Can an environment be associated with multiple hosts?

No. However, one environment can be linked to multiple pipelines within the same host. In order to associate an environment with a different host, you must first navigate to the current host environment and play the Deployment Pipeline Configuration app. Next, remove this environment from any associated pipeline stages, then delete the environment record (just the entry in the app, not the actual environment). Now you can associate this environment with a different host.

Can I customize or extend the first-party deployment pipeline app and tables?

Not currently. For now, don't attempt to customize the app or register plug-ins on deployment pipeline tables.

Where can I view and run pipelines?

Currently within any development environments associated with a pipeline. Pipelines can't be viewed or run from within target environments. Notice you can also retrieve and run pipelines from the Power Platform CLI.

Can I deploy across regions?

Not currently. The host and all environments associated with pipelines in a host must be located within the same geographic location (as specified when creating environments). For example, a pipeline can't deploy from Germany to Canada. And a host in Germany shouldn't manage environments in Canada. Instead, separate hosts should be used for Germany and Canada.

Should I deploy the same solution using different pipelines?

Yes, this is possible, although we recommend starting with the same pipeline for a given solution. This helps avoid confusion and inadvertent mistakes. Pipeline run information is displayed in the context of one pipeline and one solution (within the solution experience). Therefore other pipelines may not show the latest deployed solution version or other important run information associated with different pipelines. Notice the Deployment Pipeline Configuration app shows run information across all pipelines and all solutions for the current host.

Can the host environment also be used as a development or target environment?

This isn't recommended.

How can I view what changed between different versions?

Currently, pipelines don't show these details. However, you can view XML diffs if you're using a source control system. Within the solution interface, you can see the layers of objects within a solution as well as what changed between layers. Additionally, you can see XML diffs between layers for model-driven apps, site maps, and forms.

Should my host environment be the same as where I installed the COE toolkit?

This is a valid configuration and should be evaluated based on the needs and policies within your organization.

Can I deploy unmanaged solutions?

No. We recommend that you deploy managed solutions to non-development environments.

Can I deploy multiple solutions at once?

Not currently. You'll need to submit a different deployment for each solution. However, the same pipeline can be used for multiple solutions.

Do pipelines publish unmanaged customizations before exporting the solution?

Not currently. We recommend you publish individual objects as they're saved. Note that only certain solution objects require publishing.

Can I use pipelines for multi-developer teams working in isolated development environments?

The current implementation uses a single development environment for a given solution.

How are pipelines different from the ALM Accelerator?

Both offer many valuable capabilities and the owning teams work together closely in developing the pipelines and broader ALM vision for Power Platform. Pipelines are more simplistic in nature and can be set up and managed with less effort. Access to other products and technologies isn't required as everything is managed in-house. The ALM Accelerator, on the other hand, is feature-rich and capable of handling more advanced ALM scenarios including source code integration and other areas not currently available in-product.

While there are many additional functional differences, the fundamental difference is that pipelines are an official Microsoft Power Platform product feature—meaning it's designed, architected, engineered, tested, maintained, and supported by Microsoft product engineering. Pipelines are built into the product code and can be accessed within native product experiences.

When should I use pipelines versus another tool?

We encourage customers to choose the tool that best suits their ALM needs. Power Platform pipelines are currently best suited for customers seeking simplicity, fast setup, and lower cost of ownership. Other tools often provide more advanced functionality and source code management. Notice other tools may also be more complicated and costly to set up, use, and maintain.

Can I use impersonation to deploy on behalf of another user?

This is not supported.

Next steps

Set up pipelines