In-Depth

VSLive! SF 2007: Team Foundation Server to Ship in March

Microsoft's S. Soma Somasegar emphasizes VS 2005's collaboration and productivity features in his VSLive! SF keynote.

Team Foundation Server will be available as a Release Candidate at the end of this week and will release to manufacturing in March, said S. "Soma" Somasegar, Microsoft Corporate Vice President of the Developer Division, during his VSLive! San Francisco keynote on Monday. He and his keynote team also announced a Community Technical Preview (CTP) for a Visual Studio Tools for Applications (VSTA) SDK, as well as various CTPs for Visual Studio "Orcas" technologies such as Atlas, LINQ, Cider, and WinFX.

Somasegar also provided an update on the acceptance of Visual Studio 2005 since its launch on November 7, 2005. Ten million copies of .NET Framework 2.0 have been downloaded, and Somasegar claims this is the fastest adoption rate seen so far for a new or upgraded runtime. Hobbyists and developers with limited budgets downloaded 1.8 million Visual Basic Express, Visual C# Express, and Visual Web Developer Express copies, plus more than 300,000 SQL Server 2005 Express installs.

A Microsoft-sponsored IDC study of "trusted platforms" for "bet your business" projects in eight countries showed that .NET had garnered 35 percent of the applications, leading J2EE with 25 percent. Adding 15 percent legacy (unmanaged-code) Windows applications brings the Windows platform share to 50 percent. The remaining 25 percent run on mainframes, Linux, or various Unix flavors. Another demonstration of VS and .NET uptake is the expansion of the Visual Studio Industry Partner (VSIP) program from an original 22 partners to today's 240 companies offering 400 products for enhancing or supplementing VS 2005.

On the performance front, a slide compared IBM WebSphere benchmarks for three platforms: .NET was the winner with 930 transactions per second (TPS), followed by IBM with 440 TPS, and Sun Microsystems trailing the pack with 361 TPS.

TFS RC and RTM Dates
Somasegar announced that the missing link in Visual Studio 2005's application lifecycle management system—Team Foundation Server (TFS)—will release to manufacturing in March 2006 to complete the Visual Studio 2005 Team System (VSTS) product line. Developers, architects, testers, and project managers need TFS to enable collaboration between VSTS users. TFS beta testers can download TFS Release Candidate (RC) 0 from MSDN starting on Friday, February 3, 2006. Only VSLive! attendees will receive an RC0 CD by mail.

Eric Lee, a VSTS technical product manager, crashed a pre-RC0 TFS instance during his Excel-integration demo but managed to recover by restarting the server. Lee also demonstrated use of Windows Workflow Foundation (WWF) to "kick off a build" of projects that contain more than three code changes.

Microsoft decided in August 2005 to push back the TFS ship date from November 2005 to the first quarter of 2006, so the March 2006 RTM for TFS was expected. To quell the hue and cry from potential TFS users, the company released TFS Beta 3 for VS 2005 RC1 with a GoLive license in September, followed up with a Beta 3 Refresh for VSTS and SQL Server 2005 RTM in late October, delivered a December Community Technical Preview without a GoLive license, and promised a release candidate in early February 2006.

As Visual Studio Magazine's editor-in-chief, Patrick Meader, wrote in his "VS 2005: New Goodies, Some Trade-Offs" Editor's Note for the October 2005 edition, "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." Disappointed VSTS testers and potential adopters aren't likely to be mollified by VSTS lead program manager Jeff Beehler's blog comments, "we've found and fixed a ton of bugs" but "we're only fixing the most critical of issues to help prevent regressions." Click here for Beehler's explanation of why some issues won't get fixed.

According to Microsoft blogs and Web pages TFS now scales to 2,000 users in a dual-server configuration. TFS server pricing is complex. The server has a US$2,799 estimated retail price (ERP); client access licenses (CALs) are $499 each. A limited (5-user) version comes with each VSTS edition, and each VSTS license include one TFS CAL. TFS requires Windows Server 2003 SP-1 or higher and SQL Server 2005; a restricted-use version of SQL Server 2005 Standard Edition is included in the TFS download.

Peter Coffee contends in his "Dog Food Doctrine Deserves Debate" eWeek column that "[t]op-tier toolmakers may not be their own best testers," and cites Somasegar's "Self-hosting of VSTS" blog post, which links to Brian Harry's earlier but more detailed post that includes a link to a description of the "dogfood" server deployed by Microsoft's IT department. I'm inclined to agree with Coffee's assertion that Microsoft's software development model isn't necessarily analogous to the workload of potential customers for VSTS and TFS. Enterprise-level application development that warrants a substantial licensing and training investment in lifecycle management is likely to involve integrating business processes, managing workflows, and upgrading legacy components in a multiplatform environment with much tighter constraints on developer manpower and project delivery time. Unfixed "issues" (i.e., bugs) that aren't important to Microsoft's development model might turn out to be show-stoppers for teams that rely on a different management or coding approach.

Partners Extend TFS
Michael Leworthy, another VSTS technical product manager, recovered gracefully from an exception and then demonstrated Serena Systems' ProcessView Composer, an application requirements definition package that integrates with TFS. According to Somasegar and most software developers, lack of a sophisticated application requirements tool is a major customer pain point. Composer enables business units to define needed applications graphically and handle synchronization of design changes and project code as the definition matures.

Composer also models the user interaction experience and captures user actions for simulation. Leworthy announced that Microsoft intends to release in February a Word Integration Starter Kit and InfoPath Integration Starter Kit to add Microsoft-specific application requirements features to TFS. Watch the MSDN Borland CRM Forum for an announcement from Leworthy that the Starter Kits are available for download from the MSDN VSTS home page (see Resources).

Leworthy also demonstrated Australian ISV Sparx Systems' Enterprise Architect UML 2.0 modeling application that uses MDG Integration to create new UML 2.0 documentation or create UML diagrams from existing VS 2005 code. Darryl K. Taft's July 29, 2004 eWeek interview with VSTS General Manager Ron LaPlante describes the early history of VSTS and explains why VSTS doesn't use UML as its native modeling language. Another partner, Teamprise (a division of SourceGear), offers its Explorer client as a standalone Unix or Linux front end for TFS and a TFS plug-in client for Eclipse.

In closing, Somasegar described the two top priorities for the VS team: the MQ milestone and planning for the next ("Orcas") release. The purpose of the MQ milestone is to give the developer division "time to analyze its processes and make improvements" so as not to repeat the "Whidbey" issues of not being "agile enough" and taking "too long to ship." Orcas is well under way with current CTPs for Atlas, Language Integrated Query (LINQ), Cider, and WinFX.

Microsoft will release in February 2006 a CTP of Visual Studio Tools for Applications (VSTA) SDK for ISVs who want to integrate .NET 2.0 and VB 8.0 or C# 2.0 scripting capabilities into their applications. Somasegar promised to share the functional specifications for the Orcas release's features with beta testers, as well as provide code that demonstrates use of the features.

All told, there wasn't much new information for software developers, architects, and project managers in Somasegar's VSLive! 2006 keynote that you couldn't learn from the MSDN and other blogs written by 1,000 or so members of Microsoft developer division. Instead, the division's leader recapped and expanded on the progress made by Visual Studio 2005 since his 2005 VSLive! keynote. There's no doubt that Somasegar is (justifiably) proud of his division's success to date and that he expects to dramatically improve the quality, performance, productivity, and versatility of the "Orcas" release's VS, VSTS and TFS SKUs.

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