Modeling a New Version of VS

Read Part 2 of this exclusive interview with Microsoft's S. "Soma" Somasegar on the launch of Visual Studio 2005.

S. "Soma" Somasegar, corporate vice president of the Developer Division at Microsoft, talks to VSM Editor in Chief Patrick Meader about the imminent release of Visual Studio 2005. This installment covers messaging and the significance of Visual Studio Team System, including the importance of domain-specific languages for modeling.

PM: Tell me what's new in Visual Studio 2005 from a messaging standpoint. How do these new features tie into Microsoft's larger messaging strategy, such as what's coming down the road in Windows Communication Foundation (formerly known as Indigo)?

Soma: There are two things at play, here: the messaging features specific to Visual Studio 2005, and how Indigo will impact messaging down the road.

Visual Studio 2005, SQL Server 2005, and BizTalk Server 2006 together comprise our application platform. From my conversations with developers, I believe they want three things. First, they want an infrastructure suitable for running mission-critical applications. Second, they want a programming environment that will make them highly productive. Third, they want data insight for any data they have in their organization. In other words, they want intelligence in their data. They want to be able to understand the data, to manipulate it, and to use the insight gleaned from that data to make better business decisions.

Now let's look at this question from the perspective of Indigo. In Visual Studio 2005, you can write a Vista application that will run on BizTalk seamlessly. We've put out some templates and an SDK that makes it easy for you to target Indigo and Avalon and other Vista-related technologies. For the next version of Visual Studio, we intend to create some app designers that will greatly simplify creating applications that take specific advantage of Vista-related technologies across the board, but with a special emphasis on Indigo and Avalon.

Today, you can use Visual Studio 2005 to build these kinds of applications now, but this process will get much easier over time.

PM: Will these designers be timed to the release of Visual Studio, or to the release of Vista?

Soma: It's too soon to say that at this time, but we'll be certain to share this information with the community at large as our strategy sharpens into focus.

Implications of VSTS
PM: Visual Studio Team System is extremely ambitious. Can you sum up what VSTS is and how it can benefit the typical enterprise developer?

Soma: There is a workflow that happens when a team of people work together. You want to be able to automate that workflow, as well as know where you are in that workflow at any given time. This means you need to understand the entire picture, so you know where you need to put your efforts to get things done in a timely manner.

VSTS enables you to implement workflow automation and be able to understand where you are in a given project at any time, all the way from design to deployment. In other words, you want to design for operations; you want to architect, develop, and test your application; and it is a closed loop because you want to continue updating your application. A set of tools that enables that whole process to be automated is what VSTS is all about.

PM: You didn't touch on the modeling aspects specifically in this description.

Soma: I glossed over that part when I referred to designing or architecting your application. The modeling, or Whitehorse, tools enter at this level. There are two advantages to VSTS's modeling tools. First, if you have a model, you can think about the hardware requirements for your app, and you can determine at design time whether your app can be deployed as envisioned, rather than doing so at deployment. VSTS lets you determine as you go whether you deploy the app on existing hardware, or whether you need to make infrastructure adjustments. The second big advantage is that VSTS has a model, and code behind that model. Anytime you touch the code, the model is synchronized. That is a huge advantage. This means you can ensure that the code and your model stay in sync throughout the development process.

PM: I think it's important to point out that UML is not the language you use to keep the model and code in sync.

Soma: UML is a great modeling tool or language. But there is a world that is beyond UML, a world you can address with the notion of domain-specific languages. What we want to do is build a platform that lets you take advantage of UML, where appropriate. But there are domains where UML might not be appropriate, and in those cases, people should be able to use a more appropriate language.

If you talk to the UML guys, they argue there are 11 or 12 domains for which UML makes good sense. That's great. But what about the 13th, 22nd, and 39th domains? We want to have a generic platform where you can plug in UML for the specific domains it makes sense to use it in, but also to be able to plug in a different language that makes sense for other domains you might work with.

We support UML, but the modeling world is broader than UML.

PM: Visual Studio Team System has been split apart in this release of Visual Studio 2005. The client-oriented tools will ship in November, but the Team Foundation Server that underpins the different skews of VSTS and provides the engine for collaboration and workflow will ship in the first quarter of 2006. Let's cover what VSTS will deliver, and when.

Specifically, what aspects of VSTS are shipping immediately?

Soma: All the client-side tools will be available immediately. For example, the modeling tools for the architect, the development tools for static analysis and profiling tools, and unit testing plus other testing tools will ship with Visual Studio 2005 next week.

The thing that is not launching next week is Team Foundation Server, which is the back-end server component that provides the store that ties together providing enterprise-wide, industrial-strength source control; issue tracking; and similar functionality. The beta 3 CTP is available now, and this will work with the shipping version of Visual Studio 2005. We have a Go Live license for customers who want to start using Team Foundation Server in their production environments now.

PM: Is there anything apart from Team Foundation Server that won't be made available with the November release of Visual Studio 2005?

Soma: No, Team Foundation Server is the only piece that won't ship immediately. It will ship in the first quarter of next year. When we first started working on Visual Studio 2005, Team Foundation Server and VSTS were begun a little later in the process. We expected to ship VSTS and Team Foundation Server a short while after the release of Visual Studio 2005. But the team got the client-side tools done sufficiently early to include them in the initial release of Visual Studio 2005, so only the Team Foundation Server will come later, and even it will ship in the relatively near future.

About the Author

Patrick Meader is editor in chief of Visual Studio Magazine.

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