Microsoft’s developer roadmap
- By Johanna Ambrosio
Microsoft’s main message to those who haven’t yet implemented its development platform is as follows: .NET is so integrated -- within itself and increasingly with other MS tools, including Office -- that software development is easier, less expensive and more productive than ever.
Team System, for example, will be a part of Visual Studio 2005, which Microsoft says is on target to ship in the first half of next year. Team System is meant to improve communications between and among different members of the project team. It includes different but integrated functions for testing, coding, project management and architecture/design.
Separate tools for each job
“The lines sometimes blur,” says Prashant Sridharan, senior product manager in Microsoft’s Developer and Platform Evangelism Division. “Someone who sits down and writes code may be architecting the complete application as well, and may be doing some testing.” In other companies, these are totally separate job functions -- and people.
Traditionally, there have been separate tools for each job function, Sridharan explains. “We’ve built a set of tools that don’t promote these cultural and technical silos,” he says. “Hopefully we can break down the barriers.”
While pricing hasn’t been set for Team System, Sridharan says it will reflect the different ways that customer shops are organized. Users will be able to opt for just one or more of the major pieces -- developer, architect or tester, for instance -- or buy them together at a discount over the individual tools.
Team System is also an example of what Microsoft is calling “integrated innovation.” The software is based on SQL Server as its core data engine, so customers who may need to extend Team System -- or implement it on 5,000 developer seats -- can do so according to the same principles used in SQL Server for years. “I don’t need to spin out an entire new industry around Team System,” Sridharan says. The server pieces of Team System, called Team Foundation, will “consume Office, SharePoint, Project and the same reporting services in SQL Server.”
Another example of strong integration is how Visual Studio and associated tools will work with a customer’s network management layout. “We’ll ship a tool that lets you take a network topology diagram, then take the application you’ve designed and validate that it will work on the network,” Sridharan says. This is particularly crucial when designing Web services, which can have a major impact on network bandwidth without proper planning. This notion is something Microsoft is calling “designing for operations.”
Many of the modeling and testing tools with Team System have been written in C# from the ground up. Others, including those for project management and unit testing, are tools Microsoft has used internally for 10 years or more and has now productized for Team System. One in this camp, Sridharan says, is a code profiler that gets down to the kernel level to see how well any given application is running.
The company is also working to improve its support and licensing policies. All products in the Visual Studio 2003 family -- and those coming with Visual Studio 2005 and beyond -- are covered under the new 10-year support policy announced in June at Microsoft TechEd 2004.
Snuggling up to developers
And Microsoft is trying to get even closer to its developers. At press time, the company had fixed almost 500 customer-submitted bugs and suggestions, including providing a version of Virtual Studio 2005 that’s easier to download and makes it easier to print class diagrams from the IDE. There’s also a new section of MSDN, called Ladybug, devoted to customer feedback, and different product managers throughout the company’s tools division are tasked with responding to customers who make suggestions and implementing the feedback whenever possible.
As part of this notion of snuggling up to developers, Microsoft has introduced a new concept in how it beta tests its tools. Called Community Technical Preview (CTP), it gives customers more frequent peeks at major products. Traditionally, Microsoft has provided beta versions two or three times before a product ships; CTP means much more frequent looks.
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Johanna Ambrosio is a freelance writer based in Marlborough, Mass., specializing in
technology and business. Contact her at email@example.com.