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Configuresoft uses VSTS DB edition to take on workflow

Configuresoft found that the new capabilities in VSTS shrank development time of a major product. A user said the tools help coordinate the efforts of database developers.

Independent Software Vendor Configuresoft found that the new capabilities in Visual Studio Team System shrank development time of a major product. The company recently began using the latest addition to the VSTS family, Team Edition for Database Professionals. A Configuresoft architect said the tools help in coordinating the efforts of database developers, and improved the company's efforts to support Agile methods.

While the initial release of the suite created an umbrella environment for C# and other Visual Studio languages, it was challenging for programmers to create efficient workflows involving SQL, said Ted Malone, Product Strategy Architect at Configuresoft. He noted as well, "Sometimes when you think about C# or Visual Basic, the database is an afterthought. [Visual Studio Team 2005 Edition for Database Professionals] makes the database developer a first class citizen, and now the developers have a single platform to work with."

Configuresoft creates a suite of products for tracking the hardware and software configuration components of enterprise information systems. The company wanted to create a new database tool that gathered information from help desk systems and other sources to track the various costs associated with troubleshooting and maintaining various software/hardware configurations.

Malone said this major initiative would have taken 18 to 24 months to develop using a traditional development process and tools. Visual Studio 2005 Team Edition for Database Professionals enabled a release of the new product in only 12 months.

Component Mismatch

Although Configuresoft has been using team systems for its basic development process, it was not particularly suited for the database developers.

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Consequently, the company rigged a collection of tools from different vendors for source control, bug tracking, and task tracking. This led to a mismatch of different components, and required database developers to switch between different tools that did a poor job of supporting the overall workflow process.

Malone said a database programmer had to grab the source code from one environment and then look in another tool for bug tracking. The company standardized on a third tool for task tracking. "The developers were spending more time managing these disparate systems than working," he noted.

Configuresoft began work on this new analytics tool at about the same time that Microsoft released Team Edition for Database Professionals. Configuresoft had already standardized on Team System, so it was fairly easy to add in the database component.

The new environment also allowed developers to create and test projects within a sandbox database environment that mimicked what the code would run against on a working server. Prior to this, database developers would make changes to scripts external to the database environment, and then sometimes forget to include them in the new database. The sandbox enables the developers to capture all aspects that affect the database environment, which are automatically included in the final build of the database. Malone explained, "Now you can compare your project against the deployed master schema, and employ those directly into your project."

The Microsoft tool capabilities also enabled Configuresoft to embrace MSF 4 for Agile Processes, which also contributed to the significant development time improvements. Malone said it would have been possible to use MSF 4 for Agile in the past, but it would have been significantly harder.

Malone said the best part of the transition was that the software was offered as a free add-on to their existing VSTS license.

Among the features Configuresoft took advantage of in Team Edition for Database Professionals are the following:

  • Rename Refactoring, which enables Configuresoft database programmers to rename any object in a database and expect automatic updates of all references to that object with the new name
  • Schema Compare, which lets Configuresoft team members quickly match two database schemas or the source-controlled project and a database
  • Unit Testing

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