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Are You Ready for Visual Studio 2010?

Microsoft's Professional Developers Conference will bring previews of 'Oslo,' 'Rosario' and .NET Framework 4.0

The countdown is on: developers and software architects will get their first chance to sink their teeth into "Oslo,"; the code name for Microsoft's next-gen modeling platform. Microsoft has confirmed that it will issue a community technology preview (CTP) at this month's Professional Developers Conference (PDC) in Los Angeles.

Redmond will also expand on its plans for the next generation of Visual Studio Team System (VSTS), which is code-named "Rosario" and is part of the now officially named "Visual Studio 2010" rollout that also includes a major upgrade of Visual Studio Professional and .NET Framework 4.0. Developers can expect to learn more about Windows Communication Foundation (WCF) 4.0 and Windows Workflow Foundation (WF) 4.0 at PDC.

Changes to TFS
Team Foundation Server (TFS) will add support for 64-bit server OSes and all Microsoft-certified virtualization environments, and continue to support Windows Server 2003 and Windows Server 2008, as well as future server operating systems. The integration of Microsoft Project Server 2007, Office 2007 and SharePoint 3.0 (2007) -- the Rosario reporting platform enables Microsoft Office SharePoint Server -- is also planned.

In a surprise move, Microsoft decided to discontinue TFS Rosario support for SQL Server 2005. VSTS lead Brian Harry writes in his blog: "That was a controversial decision but it is a final decision. The primary driving force behind it is that the Report Server feature in SQL Server 2008 is sooooo much improved over that in previous versions that we simply could not pass up taking advantage of it for Rosario."

Microsoft is working to make TFS easier to install and configure, and a better fit for methodologies such as Agile. Developers can also expect improved customization of the continuous-build process through new features such as architectural validation. That includes the ability to model the app's UI layer, business layer and data layer, set up constraints and map back-end code onto that architectural diagram. Using the new Architecture Explorer and Layout Diagram designer, team leaders can now enforce policies at code check-ins through architectural validation.

"Team Build will include a WF engine that's very extensible," says Cameron Skinner, product unit manager for VSTS. Rosario's Team Build uses an agent/controller architecture and supports distributed builds.

Microsoft will upgrade its existing role-based VS clients: the Architecture Edition -- which includes the Architect Explorer and Layout Diagram designer -- as well as the Test Edition and Developer Edition. The separate client environment for testers, which supports manual testing and test-case management, is built using WPF to enable better visualizations of software processes. For example, testers can run test cases that relate only to modified code. They can also capture what happens in the debugging process through video recording -- what Microsoft calls TiVo for testing -- and that, along with a debugging log, can be handed off to the developer. The VSTS 2010 Developer Edition will support historical debugging -- a feature that records what the app does when it's running a standalone debugger on a USB stick for testing code on separate machines, code analysis rule sets and test impact of code changes.

Going forward, VSTS 2008 Database Edition will be rolled into Visual Studio 2010 Developer Edition. Starting this month, MSDN subscribers with licenses for Database Professional Edition or Developer Edition can get the other product free of charge. Plans for Expression Studio integration or a VSTS "Designer Edition" are not currently on the roadmap.

With the first release of VSTS, Microsoft focused on a developer context and expanded from there, says David Mendlen, director of developer marketing at Microsoft. "We're trying with this release to update the roles in application lifecycle management and to break down the walls that exist today."

The VSTS April 2008 CTP 12 offered a glimpse of many of the new features in the upcoming Developer, Test and Architecture Editions -- excluding the Layout Diagram designer. The next CTP is expected this fall, though Mendlen declined to commit to a time frame.

David Mendlen, Director, Developer Marketing, Microsoft

New Modeling Platforms
In a videotaped statement released last month, Bob Muglia, senior VP of Microsoft's Server and Tools Business, made the official announcement that Oslo will be incorporated into VSTS. The goal, according to Muglia: "Really focusing on getting modeling to be mainstream across the IT development lifecycle."

Core to Oslo will be Microsoft's BizTalk Services, speakers at last month's VSLive! New York show noted. Douglas Purdy, a product unit manager at Microsoft, will outline the fundamentals of Oslo at PDC. In a recent blog posting, Purdy breaks Oslo down to three components:

  • A tool that helps people define and interact with models in a rich and visual manner
  • A language that helps people create and use textual, domain-specific languages and data models
  • A relational repository that makes models available to both tools and platform components
"That's it," Purdy notes. "That's all Oslo is. Oslo is just the modeling platform."

Purdy and his team are still determining how to roll out Oslo. Purdy says they will frequently issue new bits, potentially even a CTP every two weeks.

"Our goal is to make our direction and feature set a conversation rather than a fait accompli," Purdy writes, warning testers not to expect the early bits to be sold. "Since we are still relatively early in the release cycle, these releases may have more stability and performance issues than we want, but we think the trade-off for better community engagement is worth it."

The question is, what does that mean to .NET developers? Speaking during a panel session at VS Live! New York, Brian Randell, a senior consultant at MCW Technologies LLC, explained that Purdy's strategy will broaden programming to a much wider audience.

"His vision is that everyone can be a programmer," said Randell. "The idea behind this is they want to make building complex systems easier, and there the big word is 'modeling.'"

Still, there was a fair amount of skepticism at last month's VSLive! about Oslo. "It's important to realize that this whole Oslo initiative is an umbrella term that's talking essentially about a 10-year vision," said Rockford Lhotka, principal technology evangelist at Magenic Technologies Inc., who was on the same panel.

Douglas Purdy Quote

Thumbs up for UML
Redmond is also taking new steps toward its support for the Unified Modeling Language (UML). Microsoft's recent announcement that it was joining the Object Management Group (OMG) -- steward of UML standards -- "may give it a seat at the table" for future iterations and specs, says Stephen Bohlen, a project manager at New York-based consultancy Microdesk Inc.

Microsoft officials have hinted support for UML might be coming in Oslo, which would be a change from the company's longtime championing of a lightweight modeling approach -- called Domain Specific Languages (DSL) -- as an alternative to UML. The April CTP of VSTS supports UML, which Microsoft's Skinner says makes sense for higher-level concepts such as the logical layer, with DSL at the physical layer. Currently the DSL Toolkit ships as part of the Visual Studio SDK.

Forrester Research Inc. analyst Jeffrey Hammond believes Microsoft views UML "as a great DSL for software architects." Hammond points out that the Microsoft Visio application "includes UML templates that are quite good."

One of the issues for Microsoft early on was the problem of complexity in modeling, and "Microsoft rightly noted that building off of UML 2.0 can create some complex tooling for architects and developers," Hammond says.

Still, a Forrester study conducted for Unisys shows that three-quarters of organizations doing modeling and model-driven development were using the OMG's UML.

Microsoft currently has two model-driven development technologies of its own -- Extensible Application Markup Language (XAML) and ASP.NET Model-View-Controller (MVC) -- that developers can use. Those technologies will be part of Oslo as well as Rosario.

Microsoft has plans to contribute to standards development at the OMG, and has already been working with the OMG's finance group to address "information models for insurance business functions," according to the company's announcement.
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