Microsoft's Ecosystem Effort

Early access and intensive assistance helped bolster tooling support for Visual Studio 2010.

Bob Muglia, president of the Microsoft Server and Tools Business, praised the efforts of third-party vendors during his keynote speech at the Visual Studio 2010 launch event in Las Vegas on April 12. And for good reason. Many longtime Microsoft partners faced a major challenge as they reworked their solutions for the updated Visual Studio 2010 platform.

Visual Studio 2010 introduced a series of breaking changes to the IDE, including the completely overhauled Windows Presentation Foundation (WPF)-based Editor and revamped integration model based on the Managed Extensibility Framework (MEF). Despite the disruption, 57 third-party vendors appeared at the April launch event with shipping Visual Studio 2010-compatible products.

"It takes a village to solve this," Muglia said at the keynote, "and it's the connected ecosystem of our partners that makes it happen."

In fact, it was the combined effort of partners and Microsoft itself. Terence Clancy, business development manager for the Microsoft Development Platforms and Tools group, spent the last 18 months working with Visual Studio Integration Partner (VSIP) companies, trying to move them to the new platform. It was a tough sell, to say the least.

"It's a hard sell to tell your boss that you're going to work on something for a year, just to get the same level of functionality that you had a year ago," Clancy said at the event.

A lot was at stake for Microsoft. Clancy said that late-arriving products and tooling for the new IDE would almost certainly slow adoption of Visual Studio 2010. "If you can't get your ReSharper or whatever product to work with the new version, you just won't upgrade," he explained.

To get partners up to speed, in 2008 Microsoft began to focus on the changes in the Visual Studio platform at its triannual Dev Clinics and biannual Dev Summits. VSIP partners under non-disclosure agreements gained early access to project information, technical documentation and code drops well in advance of the first public community technology preview of Visual Studio 2010. Still, some partners faced a daunting task.

"The hardest bit was the Editor. The people, quite frankly, who were most heavily impacted were the refactoring companies -- DevExpress, JetBrains, Whole Tomato -- because they integrate at a very granular level with the text editor. And, quite frankly, they had to throw away a lot of code," Clancy said.

JetBrains worked for months with Microsoft to enable the new WPF Editor, according to Oleg Stepanov, head of the JetBrains .NET division. "Microsoft scenarios were debugged early, but when ReSharper came in, we found we made heavy use of advanced APIs," he said. "So we worked for several months to make sure there were no memory leaks."

Event attendee Daniel Jebaraj, vice president of component maker Syncfusion Inc., said Microsoft did an outstanding job supporting partners throughout the Visual Studio 2010 development cycle.

"They've been really good putting out releases through the VSIP program," said Jebaraj, who noted that VSIP partners got early access to release candidate and release to manufacturing (RTM) bits. "With RTM, every vendor looks for minimal changes before it goes live. I don't think we made a single code change to go live with the RTM," he added.

Ultimately, said Clancy, pulling together support for Visual Studio 2010 was largely a matter of timing. "Partners were happy to see the product moving in a good architectural direction, as long as we gave them plenty of warning," he explained. "And one thing we got right was we gave them plenty of warning."

About the Author

Michael Desmond is an editor and writer for 1105 Media's Enterprise Computing Group.

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