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Team System development server released to manufacturing

The final component in the first generation of Microsoft's new Application Lifecycle Management platform, Visual Studio Team System, is now on its way to market.

SANTA CLARA, CALIF. -- The final component in the first generation of Microsoft's new Application Lifecycle Management (ALM) platform, Visual Studio Team System, is now on its way to market. At the SD West conference yesterday, the company announced that the all-important Team Foundation Server was being released to manufacturing (RTM) Mar 17. Bits are expected to be available on the MSDN early next week.

Team Foundation Server is at the heart of Microsoft's first server based developer suite, Visual Studio Team System, which was formally released, without this key ingredient, last November. With this software in place, the collaboration and repository capabilities of the Visual Studio Team System can be truly judged.

In an SD West keynote, Rick LaPlante, general manager of Visual Studio Team System at Microsoft, maintained that existing ALM products have been inadequate in terms of allowing development teams to stay on time and on budget. At the same time, LaPlante said Microsoft is supporting third-party tool vendors' effort to hook into the Visual Studio Team System, in order to enhance its capabilities. Perhaps surprisingly, the third-party tool vendor support includes Linux tools.

LaPlante cited a number of problems that have plagued software collaboration in the past, including the use of strict waterfall methodologies, heavyweight processes, and duplication of effort. "I am not convinced that what is out there is working," he said.

Part of the challenge has been that developers tend to be stream of consciousness workers, and their collaboration tools need to support their process of working instead of adding in extra overhead, LaPlante said.

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"Sometimes the cost of collaboration is unbearable," he said.

LaPlante went on to suggest that developers want to work within their own style of workflow, that their view on the project must be different than the project manager's view, and that Microsoft's new tools support this.

One issue is the sheer difficulty of automating the communication about processes such as testing. For example, when a program fails a load testing cycle, the tester is not sure which data is the most important to the tester, LaPlante said. "There can be over 3,000 performance counters on a Windows machine. Unfortunately the developer often wants to see data on performance issues the tester had not considered," he said.

Team Foundation Server is Microsoft's attempt to address these issues with a platform which can be extended by partner companies with best-of-breed tools in areas such as testing, requirements analysis, and project tracking. The platform serves as a centralized data warehouse that collects data on project history. The data intelligence features of Team Foundation Server are intended to form a bridge to the CIO and project management, helping to drive more realistic planning.

LaPlante made a set of commitments to developers in the audience. First, Microsoft wants to maintain transparency in the development of these tools, which benefits customers and Microsoft, and creates accountability. In the next release, they plan to publish all specs before they build the software. Microsoft is also committed to building a vibrant community around access to this information.

LaPlante said Microsoft is committed to developing a rich "partner ecosystem." That may mean some strange bedfellows. LaPlante's presentation included a demonstration of Teamprise 1.0, which supports a Linux-based interface into the VSTS environment. "In 18 years of doing this, I have never done a Linux demo on stage," he said.

Corey Steffen, general manager of Teamprise, said, "Since the initial introduction of Visual Studio 2005 Team Foundation Server, we have seen a growing demand from Java developers working in Eclipse-based IDEs for the same set of features, tight integration, and ease of use that Microsoft provides to .NET framework based developers working in Visual Studio 2005 Team Suite."

Steffen said using the Teamprise Client Suite in conjunction with Visual Studio Team System, enterprise developers can standardize on Team Foundation Server for the ALM needs of both their .Net Framework-based and Java development teams.

This article originally appeared on TheServerSide.NET.

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