VS 2005: New Goodies, Some Trade-Offs
VSTS is an example of Microsoft branching out with the new Visual Studio 2005.
The toughest part about being a developer might well be keeping up with the pace of technology.
Change happens at a furious pace in this field, and there is always someone who wants to sell you a better version of an existing technology or, just as likely, rip-and-replace your old technology altogether. There is much at stake, too, not least of which is your job, your future earning power, and your sanity.
The imminent introduction of a new version of Microsoft's Visual Studio suite always brings with it a combination of angst and excitement. The new versions tend to come with a raft of goodies, set against some trade-offs that often include a steep learning curve as you get up to speed on the latest and greatest ways of doing things the Microsoft Way du Jour.
True, there are some companies that implement minor tweaks and call it a major new version. But, as .NET illustrates as well as anything could, that isn't how Microsoft likes to do it. When Microsoft plans big changes, it plans BIG changes. Betting the company seems such an annual pastime at Microsoft that "Let It Ride" should probably be the new company motto.
That's not to say you won't find the usual range of tweaks and upgrades in Visual Studio 2005. You'll find changes both small and large sprinkled throughout the various aspects of the tool, including the introduction of generics, a significantly different approach to Web development in ASP.NET 2.0, the first new version of SQL Server in five years, My classes and other productivity changes in VB, as well as a host of other features you'll find covered in previous and future issues of this magazine.
But the most ambitious change introduced in VS 2005 is Visual Studio Team System (VSTS), an application lifecycle management tool that attempts to integrate the design, development, deployment, and maintenance processes. Much is riding on this tool and Microsoft's hopes to break more fully into the enterprise and application lifecycle management space. Never one for subtlety, Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer fired a warning shot across IBM's bow at this year's Tech-Ed when discussing VSTS with the declaration: "Watch out, Rational, because I think we have some big breakthroughs."
It does, too. VSTS presents a new approach to modeling that downplays the role of UML in an effort to achieve a more integrated approach to designing and implementing applications. VSTS is an example of Microsoft branching out. This isn't a tool aimed entirely at developers, but rather at different IT workers in the enterprise space, with different editions depending on your role in the enterprise. For example, VSTS includes separate team editions for software architects, software testers, and software developers. You can also purchase the Team System edition, which includes all three team editions.
All editions of Team System include Team Foundation Server CAL; Visual SourceSafe 2005; Virtual PC; operating systems and servers for development and testing; and various tools related to Office, InfoPath, and MapPoint. The Team Foundation Server in particular should prove interesting to developers. It includes tools for integrated version control, reporting, process guidance, and automating builds. These are the kinds of tools and capabilities that have typically required returning to a third party to find.
Initial speculation held that VSTS was one reason Visual Studio 2005 didn't ship sooner; it was also believed that VSTS would be held back and shipped later than the rest of the tool, much as J# was held back and shipped later in a previous iteration of Visual Studio. In fact, Microsoft is shipping the client-side version of Visual Studio with the initial launch, then following up with the server-related tools sometime early next year.
This seems an, ahem, unusual approach to delivering such a key aspect of Visual Studio 2005, and it's a move that is likely to delay adoption throughout enterprises, even among those highly interested in its capabilities, as people wrestle with whether it's ready for prime time. In any case, VSM will take Visual Studio 2005 for a full test drive when Microsoft makes it available in its complete form early next year.
Patrick Meader is editor in chief of Visual Studio Magazine.