Microsoft Unveils 'Cloud Build' Feature for TFS/Azure

Microsoft on Tuesday unveiled a new cloud-based build service for its upcoming hosted Team Foundation Service.

The new service will let developers use a pool of build machines managed on its Windows Azure cloud computing platform. The service maintains a pool of Azure virtual machine (VM) roles that can expand and shrink as needed.

Brian Harry, a Microsoft Technical Fellow in charge of Team Foundation Server, made the announcement during his keynote presentation at the Visual Studio Live! developer conference, underway this week in Las Vegas. "The build servers actually run in the cloud," he told attendees. "You don't have to install or configure any build servers. You just open Visual Studio, point it at the cloud, queue a build, and that build will be run in the cloud… The experience looks the same as managing an on-premise TFS."

The new cloud-based build service is "the next step in getting your project and your team started and productive in the shortest possible time," he said.

Developers can also run a default workflow that includes compilation and testing, Harry added, or they can create a custom workflow that does whatever they want it to do. "I can set it up so I manually trigger builds, I can schedule builds, or I can do continuous integration builds," he said.

Using Team Foundation Service in the cloud is very similar to using an on-premises TFS server, Harry said. It looks essentially the same from within the Visual Studio dev tool and the Team Explorer Everywhere tool in Eclipse. You log on with a LiveID instead of a Windows login, and the new features, including the build service, are available.

Harry declared that Microsoft would be delivering new capabilities to its cloud service every three weeks. "This has been a journey for us that started a year ago," he said. "We're now at a point where new features are shipping literally every three weeks, so keep an eye out for that."

Harry said the new build service would be enabled immediately following his keynote for all new and existing accounts on Team Foundation Service. A preview of Team Foundation Service is available online for anyone interested in taking it for a test drive.

Harry used Team Foundation Service, which is now in preview, to demo new features of Visual Studio 11. That preview included demos of a new PowerPoint-based story boarding feature, one of several features aimed at improving "stakeholder feedback loops" that will help organizations to avoid common problems, such as misunderstood requirements and conflicting priorities, Harry said.

Visual Studio 11 also comes with new in-production diagnostics features, which are the result of a partnership with PreEmptive. There's also a new "exploratory testing" capability and a chat-like feature within code review to connect coders directly.

The Las Vegas edition of the Visual Studio Live! developer conference runs through Friday.

About the Author

John K. Waters is the editor in chief of a number of sites, with a focus on high-end development, AI and future tech. He's been writing about cutting-edge technologies and culture of Silicon Valley for more than two decades, and he's written more than a dozen books. He also co-scripted the documentary film Silicon Valley: A 100 Year Renaissance, which aired on PBS.  He can be reached at [email protected].