Microsoft to push life-cycle collaboration in newest Visual Studio

Due in a year, the revised Team System will add new roles, rethink existing roles, and drop the separate database developer role

Under the banner of "democratizing" application life-cycle management (ALM), Microsoft is unveiling today the next major release of its Visual Studio Team System platform. Visual Studio Team System 2010, which has been code-named "Rosario," focuses on collaboration between the different persons involved in the software development process. The company also is revealing "pillars" of Visual Studio 2010, which is the next version of the company’s development environment, and the accompanying .Net Framework 4.0 programming model. Visual Studio 2010 recently had been referred to as Visual Studio 10.

[ InfoWorld's Strategic Developer blog: A sneak peek at Visual Studio 2010 ]

In ALM, integration of roles is key for the 2010 release. Microsoft's goal in the planned release is to "enable a collaboration between those roles," which include lead developer, architect, a combined architect/lead developer role, general purpose developer, database developer, and tester, said Dave Mendlen, director of developer marketing at Microsoft.

Previous versions of the Visual Studio Team System has featured role-based products for testers, architects, developers, and database developers. With the 2010 edition, Microsoft is recognizing a blurring of roles between developer and database developer and thus is eliminating the database-specific product, which has been called Team System 2008 Database Edition. Capabilities for both general-purpose and database developers will be featured.

To boost the lead developer or architect, Visual Studio Team System 2010 will feature simplified installation and configuration in the TFS (Team Foundation Server) collaboration and source code control tool, Microsoft claimed. Also, the new versions of Team System and TFS promise to bolster continuous build processes to ensure that an application's architecture is maintained. When code is checked into the TFS, the software makes sure the code will not invalidate the architecture. "In the past, we were checking for bad code. Now, we're checking for bad architecture," Mendlen said. Workflow to catch errors also is incorporated in TFS.

Additionally, Visual Studio Team System 2010 will offer functionality to accommodate teams using agile programming methods, including enablement of preconfigured Excel workbooks for use by agile development teams.

For architects and developers, the Architecture tool in Visual Studio Team System 2010 will enable representations of what is going on with code through a feature called Architect Explorer. "The tool will integrate your source code and build a graphical model of that code," providing details on relationships and dependencies between different pieces of code, Mendlen said.

For testers, Microsoft plans to help developers and testers work better together via a new video capability in the Test product. "What we're doing with this release is we've been able to record a video of the tester while they’re testing the application so that when a crash occurs, the video is sent to the developer," said Mendlen. Screen activities are captured to assist the developer, who can see whether or not there is a bug.

For debugging, the tester tool offers a feature referred to as "TiVo for debugging." With this capability, a tester can record all PC activities and hand that off to a developer. Source code is examined and the state of the machine determined for developers inside of Visual Studio. The tester tool also offers an integrated manual testing.

Chris Menegay of Notion Solutions, a user of Visual Studio Team System 2008, looked forward to the 2010 platform. "We use Visual Studio Team System 2008 extensively today for managing our work processes, doing testing and handling our builds and releases. It's been incredibly valuable for streamlining both our process and those of the companies we work with," he said. "One of the main shortcomings we’ve been struggling with today is that the testing tools are sub-par. We've been looking at what's coming in the 2010 release, and it appears to fill all the key gaps that we've identified, which is phenomenal."

Microsoft's efforts in UML (Unified Modeling Language) as part of Visual Studio Team System 2010 were noted by Jeffrey Hammond, senior analyst for application development at Forrester Research: "They are putting in a lot of capability to round out the tools. For architects, the UML tooling will be a real improvement and go a long way toward finally putting the UML vs. DSL [domain specific language] debate to rest. There are also some really nice testing features that I think will compete favorably with anything else in the market today for unit and regression testing."

Microsoft has seen Visual Studio Team System used in applications ranging from line-of-business systems to departmental, aerospace, and Web applications. "Visual Studio Team System is a general-purpose software development tool, so we see all kinds of things," built using it, Mendlen said.

Microsoft views its competition in ALM as Rational and says that capabilities like Architectural Explorer and TiVo for debugging will make Visual Studio Team System 2010 stand out.

While there is no set ship date yet for the 2010 version of Visual Studio Team System, Microsoft has been on roughly two-year release cycles for upgrades to its Visual Studio platform. The last version, Visual Studio 2008, shipped in November 2007.

The Architecture product in Visual Studio Team System 2010 will work with the planned Oslo software modeling platform by enabling storage of models in the Oslo repository, according to Microsoft.

Mendlen says the pillars of the Visual Studio 2010 development environment, meanwhile, include "delighting" developers and riding the next platform wave, which involves .Net Framework 4.0 and the importance of Windows Workflow Foundation and Windows Communication Foundation. Other pillars include powering breakthrough departmental applications, enabling emerging trends like cloud computing, and "democratizing" ALM.

Microsoft plans to shed more light on .Net Framework 4.0 within a few weeks.

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