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Microsoft VS 2005 Team System set for November launch

While Microsoft addresses team development issues in Visual Studio, third parties are forced to improve their offerings.

ORLANDO, Fla. -- At TechEd here today, Microsoft set the week of Nov. 7 as the launch date for its Visual Studio 2005 tool set. The set will include Visual Studio 2005 Team System, the software giant's first attempt to provide a complete development lifecycle tool set, with test, modeling and collaborative version control capabilities placed alongside coding tools.

Microsoft also said it plans to release BizTalk Server 2006 and the long-awaited SQL Server 2005 database at the same time.

The announcements, made by Paul Flessner, senior vice president of Server Applications at Microsoft, come at a time when third-party software tool vendors are lining up to roll out their add-ins to Visual Studio 2005 Team System. At last year's TechEd, several announced their plans to connect via APIs to the Microsoft tool set. Taken together, the new Microsoft tools and pledges of third-party support are seen as another step in the company's efforts to increase its focus on larger development teams in bigger enterprises.

Although the launch of these team-oriented tools has been in the works for some time, it still represents a major shift for Microsoft. "Visual Studio has always been about the developer," admitted Flessner. "Visual Studio Team System is about teams." He then called Visual Studio 2005 Team System "the most comprehensive development product we have ever shipped. "

Some observers see Visual Studio 2005 Team System as an attempt by Microsoft to compete with IBM Rational's broader development tools offering. At one time, Microsoft offered Rational UML modeling tools as part of the Visual Studio set, but for Visual Studio 2005 Team System, the company has fashioned its own, non-UML modeling tools. Third-party vendors supporting Visual Studio 2005 include Altiris, Borland and Compuware.

Visual Studio Team System is about teams.  [It's] the most comprehensive development product we have ever shipped.
Paul Flessner, Senior V.P. of Server Applications, Microsoft

Since some of the tools in the new package overlap with competitive third-party offerings, look for other companies to improve those sets, in order to stay a step ahead of Microsoft.

For instance, Compuware's DevPartner tool set will include enhanced performance monitoring capabilities. "We are very interested in the performance aspect [of the software development lifecycle]," said Rob Straight, DevPartner Studio product manager. "Our profiler can zero in on what is the slowest running code. We have always monitored CPU cycles, but we are adding disk I/O [measures], and melding in some of the memory measures as well."

At TechEd, Compuware showed how its DevPartner and QACenter tool sets can be integrated with Visual Studio 2005 and Visual Studio 2005 Team System. DevPartner Studio Professional Edition will offer improved Web services testing, and will also incorporate the basic features of Compuware's recently introduced DevPartner Fault Simulator. Fault simulation represents the kind of advanced testing capability that companyies will offer as Microsoft begins to field basic test functionality.

Top models
With its bulging war chest, Microsoft could have purchased a modeling company to fill out the front-end design modeling capabilities required for Team System. But it chose to build its own tool set, and in doing so, chose a relatively new approach to the task, opting for domain-specific modeling.

The domain-specific modeling approach is not based on UML, an industry standard for modelers. In fact, this leaves an opening for companies like Borland to build UML add-ons to the Team System modeling engine. "We wanted to build a modeling engine and a modeling platform, so other people could [create tools] for specific modeling domains," said Prashant Sridharan, group product manager in the Microsoft developer division.

Sridharan said a server-side modeling engine is key to Microsoft's strategy. He said Microsoft's more generic approach to modeling is intended to work better across different IT disciplines, including operations. "We feel a modeling environment should be aligned with development and testing environments," he said. "When we have a server that can drive communications very easily, then we can drive better collaboration among teams."

Although technical issues, such as implementation of Microsoft's CLR (Common Language Runtime) within SQL Server, get the most attention, Flessner went to lengths to point out the performance improvements Microsoft anticipates in SQL Server 2005, saying that the success of this next database will rest largely on how fast it is.

In TPC-H benchmarks to date, he said, SQL Server 2005 had up to 162 percent higher performance than SQL Server 2000 and 38 percent higher performance than an Oracle DB running on a 16-processor Intel Itanium 2 server, at a cost that is 20 percent less per query. Running TPC-C benchmarks on an HP Windows machine, SQL Server 2005 achieved more than 1 million transactions per minute, he claimed.

Flessner drew applause when he announced Microsoft's plan to include Reporting Services in all versions for SQL Server 2005, including Express, Workgroup, Standard and Enterprise Editions.

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