Visual Studio Team System adds database personality

Jack Vaughan

The 'team' supported by Microsoft's Visual Studio Team System [VSTS] is getting bigger. VSTS, which presently has profiles for architects, developers and testers, is adding support for database developers and administrators, the company said today.

A beta is expected for Tech.Ed in June, with a full SKU due by the end of the year. Looking further out, Microsoft also discussed an Orca-timeframe add-on to Visual Studio that will act as an enterprise-wide software portfolio analyzer.

With the new DB Team System edition, Microsoft is concentrating on the gap between application development and database development. This gap in programming styles between application developers and database developers has become more notable in recent years.

Often, issues of contention arise when an application has been deployed, and app developers have to fix bugs and add features while trying to work against a production database that is largely untouchable.

That production database schema usually evolves and differs markedly from the schema used by app developers. With Visual Studio 2005 Team Edition for Database Professionals, Microsoft offers a comparator that synchronizes these two schemas. As well, it automatically generates scripts for version staging, and supports version control under the VSTS umbrella.

"You can use 'schema compares' to see how the production database compares to the [development group's original schema]," said Matt Nunn, senior product manager, Microsoft Developer Division. "You can script the changes that need to be made to put the developers' schema in synch with the production database."

Nunn also touted new test capabilities in Visual Studio 2005 Team Edition for Database Professionals. These new test capabilities introduce the notion of "database unit tests." Masked data handling, which lets developers work against a replica of the production database without handling protected data [for example, social security numbers of customers] is also part of the new offering. Early reviewers have been impressed.

More on Visual Studio Team System

Reference: Visual Studio 2005 Team System Learning Guide

Tip: Unit test facility in Visual Studio Team System

"They have brought the database developer in from the cold," said Douglas Chrystall, chief architect, Quest Software, a Microsoft partner and early tester of the Visual Studio 2005 Team Edition for Database Professionals.

"This makes the database developer a fist-class citizen in the Visual Studio world," said Richard Campbell, principal, Campbell and Associates.

The other product discussed by Microsoft today is more of a 'futures' offering. In fact, it may ultimately arrive as a high-powered Microsoft Project product, rather than a Visual Studio SKU.

The company, according to Prashant Sridharan, group product manager, Developer Division, Microsoft, is working on software that will bring together reports on activity of multiple projects so that CTOs and CIOs can judge the status of their teams. The development process data now being accumulated by VSTS will feed the new tool.

"It will show you how teams doing projects are they doing," said Sridharan.

How does this compare to the Microsoft Project-oriented tools already in Visual Studio Team System? "Today we do integration [with MS Project] in which you can look up items and build-out Gantt charts, responds Sridharan.

"It is very much project management at the team level. Not at the corporate level," he said. The new product under development will 'piggyback' on Project, supplementing it with new data.

"When we deliver this product it will be part of Project, not Visual Studio," he said.

The still-unnamed product would likely compete with portfolio and change management tool suites from IBM/Rational, Mercury, Borland and others.

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