Microsoft looks to move SourceSafe users to newer technology

The company will offer a special installation option for Team Foundation Server ALM platform as it winds down Visual SourceSafe support

With Microsoft set to wind down support for the Visual SourceSafe software version control system, the company is encouraging developers to move over to Microsoft's more full-featured ALM (application lifecycle management) server, the TFS (Team Foundation Server) product featured in the Visual Studio platform.

Company officials on Wednesday noted that Visual SourceSafe is on an "end of life" track, with support set to end in mid-2011. Afterward, users would need to pay for extended support, which would be available for a few years. But Microsoft is offering SourceSafe users a migration path via a new installation option for TFS expected next year, called TFS Basic installation.

[ Last year, Microsoft looked to "democratize" ALM with Visual Team System 2010. ]

"We see TFS as the successor to SourceSafe," said Brian Harry, who holds the title of technical fellow at Microsoft.  The Basic Installation option would be featured as part of Visual Studio Team Foundation Server 2010.

"In 2002, we set out to build the next generation of development collaboration tool and that was TFS. Our initial emphasis was on enterprise software development teams," said Harry.  TFS provides a collaboration platform combining capabilities for portal, version control, work item-tracking, build management, process guidance, and business intelligence.

"Now, with the [planned 2010 release of TFS], we have taken a big step taking the TFS level of sophistication and bringing it to the SourceSafe user base," he said.

The Basic installation option of TFS is suited for SourceSafe users because it is easier to install than previous iterations, installing in about 20 minutes if the .Net Framework is present. Also, it will run on client OSes including Windows Vista and the upcoming Windows 7 release. TFS thus far has required Windows Server.  With the client installation, users can have a software versioning server solution on their laptops, which then can be accessed by others over the Internet or on a LAN, Harry explained.

Plans also call for making the Basic installation much more affordable for SourceSafe users. TFS currently sells for about $2,700 plus $500 per user.

Harry was president of One Tree Software, which built SourceSafe in 1992 and was acquired by Microsoft in 1994. Although the product revolutionized version control by providing ease of use and a Windows GUI, it was built for a different time - before the advent of the Internet, ubiquitous LANs and databases and agile development practices, Harry said.  The product, for example, lacks continuous integration and bug-tracking featured in TFS.

Asked what SourceSafe users think of end-of-life plans for their platform and the migration to TFS, Harry said, "I've not talked to a ton of them, but the ones I've talked to I think are very excited about it."

Harry stressed Micosoft's commitment to SourceSafe customers, noting an update to SourceSafe is planned as part of the 2010 product release wave for Visual Studio. The update will enable SourceSafe to work with Visual Studio 2010.

Microsoft's move to phase out Visual SourceSafe "makes sense," said analyst Rob Sanfilippo, research vice president at Directions on Microsoft. "Visual SourceSafe is geared toward small development projects and is based on less sophisticated technology than is offered with Team Foundation Server," he said.  The Basic installation option should make TFS a viable replacement for Visual SourceSafe going forward, Sanfilippo said.

In another development in the TFS arena, users of mainframes would be able to access Microsoft's ALM server just like users of Windows, Unix and the Mac already can, with technology in development at Teamprise.

With a planned mainframe client, developers working on a mainframe could be "full and equal contributors to a development project that is being managed in Microsoft Team Foundation Server," said Martin Woodward, Teamprise senior software engineer.

TFS currently can be accessed for Java, Mac, Unix and Windows projects, Woodward noted. "However we have a significant customer base that also have developers for whom the mainframe is their development environment -- they don't use tools like Visual Studio or Eclipse. They use a IBM 3270 Terminal and log onto the mainframe where they find their code and development tools," Woodward said."It is for these people that we are developing the Teamprise mainframe client," he said. The client is being developed on z/OS  R08.

Microsoft's Harry gives Teamprise's efforts a thumbs-up in a blog entry.

"I'm really thrilled they are taking this step because I've always believed that it's important that all people in a software development project are able to access the project resources no matter what their role and no matter what platform they are on," Harry said.

Copyright © 2009 IDG Communications, Inc.

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