Microsoft Announces Visual Studio Online

At its official Visual Studio 2013 launch today, Redmond moved its flagship integrated development environment further into Windows Azure.

On the same day Microsoft officially launched Visual Studio 2013 and the .NET Framework 4.5.1., it also introduced a brand-new service for cloud based development called Visual Studio Online.

Visual Studio 2013 and .NET 4.5.1. were initially released on Oct. 18. Visual Studio Online wasn't part of that release, but is set to become a key piece of Microsoft's efforts to speed up development time by integrating with Windows Azure.

"We're going through a transformation of devices and services, as more and more developers are flocking to the cloud," S. Somasegar, Microsoft's Corporate VP of the Developer Division, said during the launch.

Somasegar used the term "Cloud OS" to describe what he called the platform that allows developers to build applications solely in the cloud, build them locally and move them into the cloud, or some hybrid of cloud and local development.

With Visual Studio Online, Somasegar said, Microsoft is delivering an end-to-end set of services that will enable developers to build apps in the cloud or on devices. He said to think about Visual Studio Online "...as a set of finished developer services that run on Windows Azure, and extends the capabilities of Visual Studio."

Two of the most important new capabilities are "Application Insights" and "Monaco." Application Insights provides information on application performance and usage, by collecting live telemetry data across environments. It gives development teams a "360-degree view of an application's health," Somasegar wrote in a blog entry today.

"Monaco" is the code name for Visual Studio Online's browser-based development tool. "We believe there are some scenarios where we can offer light-weight, friction free developer experiences in the browser for targeted platform experience in the cloud," Somasegar blogged. Monaco allows developers to edit sites on any modern browser and on any device.

Distinguished Engineer Erich Gamma gave a demonstration using Monaco. He coded directly in a browser, and was able to get in-context information, IntelliSense, and do CSS coding and side-by-side editing. He also showed off the ability to rearrange windows, and added that Visual Studio Online uses a "save-less" model, eliminating the need to save work. He called Monaco and "end-to-end story" for lightweight development: he created code, edited and validated the code, and published it to Azure, all from a browser.

Both Monaco and Application Insights are at the preview stage. Somasegar didn't say when they would be finished. Application Insights currently supports .NET and Java applications running on Windows Server, Windows Azure, and Web and Windows Phone 8 apps.

Another advantage of Visual Studio Online is the ability to have roaming settings. "Developers spend a lot of time customizing their environment," Somasegar said at the launch, but when they move to a new machine, those settings don't travel with them. He showed a demo of how that's different with Visual Studio Online. The program was open on two different machines, and he switched the color theme on one machine. Instantly, the color scheme change appeared on the other machine.

Visual Studio 2013 wasn't the only version of Visual Studio to get attention today. Somasegar mentioned that Visual Studio 2012 has had more than 6 million downloads, making it the fastest-adopted version of Visual Studio ever. In addition, Microsoft today released Update 4 for Visual Studio 2012.

Update 4 was first announced last July. The Release Candidate, which came out in September, was mostly bug fixes. But it's been further updated to include better compatibility between Visual Studio 2012 and Visual Studio Online.

At the launch, Microsoft also announced a wider partnership with Xamarin, which makes cross-platform tools that allow .NET developers to use C# and Visual Studio to create apps for both iOS and Android. Xamarin's next release will support Portable Class Libraries, for better sharing of code and components across platforms. In addition, MSDN subscribers will get access to free training in the use of Xamarin as well as discounts on Xamarin products.

Visual Studio Online has a free version for up to five users. There are three versions of the product:

  • Basic. Basic has an introductory price of $10 per user, per month, and $20 for the regular price.
  • Professional. The introductory price for this is $22.50 per user, per month, and $45 regular price.
  • Advanced. The Advanced intro price is $30 per user, per month, and double that for the regular price.

Visual Studio Online requires an account, but no credit card is necessary.

About the Author

Keith Ward is the editor in chief of Virtualization Review.

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