Outsourcing Team Foundation Server

Phase 2 International offers hosted SaaS solution for Microsoft's Team Foundation Server.

The rent-versus-buy model is moving beyond IT and business apps to source code and Team Foundation Server (TFS). Honolulu-based IT consultancy Phase 2 International has offered Software as a Service (SaaS) hosted solutions for about two years. In August, Phase 2 added TFS to its SaaS portfolio -- a suite of software focused at the small-to-midsize market that includes Microsoft SharePoint and Office Project servers, among other platform offerings. Rational Eyes Inc. in Markham, Ontario, Canada, launched TeamDevCentral, a hosted TFS solution, earlier this year.

Westchester, Ill.-based state unemployment software provider On Point Technology Inc. is evaluating the Phase 2 hosted TFS solution right now with a single account that uses Visual Studio Professional 2008 as the client. On Point Software Product Manager Hit Mistry looked at Visual Studio Team System with its different role-based versions as the client for TFS but decided not to use it.

"It just wasn't a cost-effective solution for us, as we're already a subscriber to MSDN and we've already got the license for Visual Studio," Mistry says.

Trial and Less Tribulation
On Point chose to trial TFS as a hosted solution because it was cost-effective, saving money on hardware, installation procedures and licensing -- $129 per developer per month with no setup fee, no minimum license or contract requirement. Time was another factor; the IT department didn't need to set it up and put procedures in place for backup and recovery, which could take six to seven months.

"With Phase 2, in five days I was up and running, if even that," says Mistry. "We're relatively new to Team Foundation Server, so we'll use this first account to go through the hurdles and evaluate TFS as a hosted solution. We've had it for three days now and we're quite confident that we're going to utilize it throughout the organization." Mistry was initially worried about TFS integration with Phase 2's hosted SharePoint Server, Project Server and SQL Server services. "Being relatively new technology, my concern was that they didn't get it all right," he says.

After a few kinks were worked out during the initial hours after the account was set up, the project is running smoothly. "We already have data analysis and SharePoint services here locally," he says. "I'm trying to work with Phase 2 to see if we can point those external services to our personal environments. So when Team Foundation Server creates a project, it associates it into a SharePoint portal rather than creating what they've got set up."

If On Point is happy with the hosted solution, the plan is to migrate the company's 10 to 15 developers, three to four project managers and at least three quality assurance staff to TFS. "The advantage of TFS is that you can collaborate among the different functional units," says Mistry.

Fast and Secure
TFS is a very complicated product that many companies find challenging to set up internally and administer, says Kevin Doherty, CEO of Phase 2. "This product lends itself to SaaS," he says. "If people are accessing [TFS] from around the world, it needs to be secure and it needs to be very fast."

The Phase 2 data centers are based in a tier-1 facility in Hawaii. The company plans to open another facility in Denver by year's end. The hosted network is 128-bit, secured from client to server and based on SSL.

"We don't use VPNs," says Doherty. Phase 2 performs nightly backups and offers 24-hour support.

Though Microsoft offers Exchange and SharePoint as hosted solutions, Doherty describes them as "template-driven, out-of-the-box, plug-and-play apps. I can't imagine that this is a product that a Microsoft-sized company could ever offer and effectively support on a large scale. It's just too complicated," he says.

About the Author

Kathleen Richards is the editor of and executive editor of Visual Studio Magazine.

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