VS 2010 Deployment (Package, One click deploy and Web.config transformation)

Introduction and Goal
In this article we will discuss about 3 important features provided by VS 2010 to ease our deployment task on production and other environment. We will first start with understanding problems with deployment and then move ahead by creating packages , one click deploy and web.config transformation.

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Problems with deployment
When we talk about deployment it's not just compiling and shipping DLL's to the production server. It involves lot of other things like IIS settings, SQL scripts, text file, configuration etc.
As a developer you would like to give a package to the administrators to install with all the dependencies or you would like to install the same from your visual studio IDE itself.

The Package and "MSDeploy"
Package is nothing but a ZIP file which has all the necessary components (DLL, SQL Scripts, configuration files, IIS settings etc) needed by your application.


Creating the package

To create package, click on project properties tab you will find two tabs 'package/publish web' and 'package / publish SQL'. The first tab has all the IIS and general settings while the SQL tab is for deploying SQL Scripts on production.

The Package and publish web tab has certain key things which you can define from IIS stand point and what should go in the package. Below figure describes some important key features.


The "Package/Publish SQL" tab helps you to configure everything what is related to SQL Server. The first point is you can import "web.config" file and all the connectionstrings of the web.config is taken to generate the SQL scripts.

You can also specify source and destination of SQL server for the package. The source destination is imported from the "Web.config" automatically, but you can always go and change it as per your requirements.


There are three more points in the "Package/Publish SQL" tab:

You can see the auto-generated schema, in other words the schema is generated automatically from specified source SQL Server.

If you want to go and add some scripts manually, like insert dummy data etc, you can always use the 'add script' tab as shown in the figure.

The final thing which I personally love is that you can sequence how the scripts should run. For instance in the below figure first the auto generate schema SQL will run and then 'indexes.sql' script will execute. This is a nice feature to exploit from versioning stand point.

In order to create the package, click on build deployment package menu and you should see the necessary package files in your project package folder.

Deploying the package

Ok, now the package is generated, let's understand how we can go and install the same. To install the package we need the Microsoft web deploy software. Microsoft web deploy a.k.a "msdeploy" was created by Microsoft IIS team to migrate from IIS 6 to IIS 7.

To leverage its power it's used as a back bone to install the package created by VS 2010.

If you remember the package folder created in the first step has some XML files. There are three files which are very important one is the source manifest, destination manifest and a cmd file. The manifest file is read by MS deploy for Meta data and deployment configuration and later these all things are executed via the cmd file.

The first thing you would like to do is check if the package is right and it will execute properly on the environment. To do a trial installation you need to go to "Microsoft Web Deploy" command and execute the cmd file with "/t". This does not actually install but does a brief check of whether there can be any issues while actual installation.
C:\Program Files\IIS\Microsoft Web Deploy>E:\deleteit\MyWebApplicationToPackage\

Once you execute the cmd file you should see summary of changes which will take place on your production server as shown in the below figure.

Once you have cross checked, you can deploy the package by using "/y" attribute as shown in the below snippet. If you run your package using the 'y' command it should create the IIS applications as well execute necessary database scripts to create SQL Server objects.
C:\Program Files\IIS\Microsoft Web Deploy>E:\deleteit\MyWebApplicationToPackage\

HTML clipboardThe one click deploy

Many times you would like to install the package from the VS IDE itself rather than giving it to administrators for installing. In order to achieve
the same VS 2010 IDE has something called as 'One click deploy'.

As the name says, you can deploy your package in one click in different modes by clicking on 'Build' and then
'Publish' menu. Below is the screen shot of how the one deploy publish looks like. You can publish on FTP. Web
deploy, file system etc.


Web.config transformation

The final feature which is worth discussing is the 'Web.config' transformation. Many times you have different config files for different environments. It causes of lot of confusion when it comes to handling different versions of web.config files.

So go to tools Configuration manager and add a new config file as shown in the below figure. You can see that it creates a parent 'Web.config' files which can be overridden by child config files with their own settings.


In order to see your newly added configuration you need to right on the web.config file and click 'add config transforms' as shown below.


Depending on your active configuration selected the appropriate 'Web.config' will be created for the environment.

Locate and Transform 

One of the questions which will come to your mind is how to do the transformation in the child web configuration file. In other words your parent web config file has a connection string how can we override/ transform the same in the child config files like production, acceptance, test etc.

The transformation of the config file is a two step process first is to search/locate what needs to be transformed and second to do the actual transformation.
There are 3 types of mechanisms by which you can search/locate a particular property / element Match, Condition and XPath. There are eight ways by which you can set / replace / transform the searched property or element as shown in the above figure.

Let's take one example how the search and transform works. Below is an image code snippet of the parent 'web.config' file and a child file having 'web.production.config' file.

We want to change the connection string to a different value for the production environment. You can see in the below code snippet the production environment config file has used "xdt:locator" to search by 'name' and then we want to set the attribute to a different value so we have used 'setattribute' transformation.
More Details of Locaters and Transformation
Let's have a cursory look on the 3 locators and 8 transformations.
All the below stuff I have ripped from http://vishaljoshi.blogspot.com/2009/03/web-deployment-webconfig-transformation_23.html.
The inbuilt xdt:Locators are discussed below.
In the provided syntax sample below the Replace transform will occur only when the name Northwind matches in the list of connection strings in the source web.config.Do note that Match Locator can take multiple attributeNames as parameters e.g. Match(name, providerName) ]
<add name="Northwind" connectionString="connectionString goes here" providerName="System.Data.SqlClient"
xdt:Transform="Replace" xdt:Locator="Match(name)" />
 Condition Locator will create an XPath predicate which will be appended to current element's XPath. The resultant
 XPath generated in the below example is "/configuration/connectionStrings/add[@name='Northwind or
 @providerName=' System.Data.SqlClient' ]"
 This XPath is then used to search for the correct node in the source web.config file.
<add name="Northwind" connectionString="connectionString goes here"
providerName="System.Data.SqlClient" xdt:Transform="Replace"
xdt:Locator="Condition(@name='Northwind or @providerName='
 This Locator will support complicated XPath expressions to identify the source web.config nodes. In the syntax
 example we can see that the XPath provided will allow user to replace system.web section no matter where it is
 located inside the web.config (i.e. all the system.web sections under any location tag will be removed.)
<location path="c:\MySite\Admin" >
<system.web xdt:Transform="RemoveAll" xdt:Locator="XPath(//system.web)">
 Completely replaces the first matching element along with all of its children from the destination web.config (e.g. staging environment's web.config file). Do note that transforms do not modify your source web.config file.
<assemblies xdt:Transform="Replace">
<add assembly="System.Core, Version=, Culture=neutral, PublicKeyToken=B77A5C561934E089" />

 Removes the first matching element along with all of its children
<assemblies xdt:Transform="Remove"></assemblies>
 Removes all the matching elements from the destination's web.config (e.g. staging environment's web.config file).
<add xdt:Transform="RemoveAll"/>
 Inserts the element defined in web.staging.config at the bottom of the list of all the siblings in the destination
 web.config (e.g. staging environment's web.config file).
<deny users="*" xdt:Transform="Insert"/>
 Takes the value of the specified attributes from the web.staging.config and sets the attributes of the matching
 element in the destination web.config. This Transform takes a comma separated list of attributes which need to
 be set. If no attributes are given to SetAttributes transform then it assumes that you would like to Set all the
 attributes present on the corresponding node in web.staging.config
<compilation batch="false"
 Removes the specified attributes from the destination web.config (i.e. staging environment's web.config file).
 The syntax example shows how multiple attributes can be removed.
 InsertAfter (XPath)
 Inserts the element defined in the web.staging.config exactly after the element defined by the specified XPath
 passed to "InsertAfter()" transform. In the syntax example the element <deny users="Vishal" />will be exactly
 nserted after the element <allow roles="Admins" /> in the destinationXML.
<deny users="Vishal" xdt:Transform="InsertAfter(/configuration/system.web/authorization/allow[@roles='Admins'])" />
 InsertBefore (XPath)
 Inserts the element defined in the web.staging.config exactly before the element defined by the specified XPath
 passed to "InsertBefore()" transform. In the syntax example the element <allow roles="Admins" />will be exactly
 inserted before the element <deny users="*" />in the destinationXML.
<allow roles=" Admins" xdt:Transform="InsertBefore(/configuration/system.web/authorization/ deny[@users='*'])" />

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