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Goodbye VSTS: Microsoft team development enters new phase

by Jack Vaughan

Word of the next version of Visual Studio brought as well the news that Microsoft was planning to offer its core Visual Studio Team System Team Foundation Server product to all Visual Studio users.

This appears to end the divergence of Visual Studio and Visual Studio Team System. In its own terms, Microsoft has ”simplified the product lineup” for Visual Studio 2010. There are three basic versions expected: VS 2010 Ultimate, VS 2010 Premium and VS Professional. All are offered along with MSDN services. Visual Team Foundation Server is offered with all VS versions. But the server version of Visual Studio known as Visual Studio Team system is going away.

The Microsoft team offering first appeared as VSTS 2005. It came out at a time when many enterprises were seeking to improve the code quality and on-time delivery record of software development groups. No question, such motives were behind the concurrent industry push toward SOA. For Microsoft, VSTS was something of an answer to IBM’s Rational tools suite. But as it tends to do with these things, Microsoft took its own tack — forgoing industry-standard UML for enterprise modeling, and putting energy behind a set of Domain-Specific Languages (DSLs) instead.

A database development profile was over time one of the more interesting developments on the VSTS front. Its first rev of the important base Visual Team Foundation Server was plagued by configuration issues. As it looked to launch a new VSTS rev in 2010, the company finally tracked back to field a UML offering.

Through recent years, Microsoft’s reputation as a maker of excellent desktop developer tools remained intact. But it never proved outright that it could create successful, high-price-tag server-based developer suites.

Funny thing though, the client-server era for quality software development seems to be passing quickly. Development teams are very often global. Agile collaborative tool vendors such as VersionOne and Rally focus on Software as a Service (SaaS) offerings, rather than client-server. IBM is in the midst of refashioning Rational tools for more Web availablity. Microsoft rides that trend by making Visual Studio and Team Foundation Server part of an online MSDN package.

Microsoft needs to continue to nurture the art of team development. Its patterns & practices group would be a place where such an effort could conceivably flower.

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