Microsoft formally launched Visual Studio 2005 today, marking its largest foray to date into team-oriented software tools covering the entire development life cycle. The company's new Team Server development tool product, a high-end offering in the overall Visual Studio 2005 suite, supports modeling and testing, and is said to improve development team members' ability to collaborate.
"This is the first time Microsoft has delivered lifecycle tools," said CEO Steve Ballmer. He noted as well that this release represents the second major stage in .NET technology. Microsoft first created .NET in the late 1990s in the face of competition from the Java object-oriented language for distributed computing.
"This broad platform is entering its next generation," said Ballmer. "One program model, one management model, one business intelligence model ... support the entire platform."
In what is essentially Version 2 of the .NET Framework, Visual Basic, long the staple of Microsoft's broad array of languages has come in for special attention. VB 2005 aims to set right some of the challenges that emerged when VB became VB.NET.
Microsoft has added the "My" namespace framework, which offers file-finding shortcuts, as well as expanded drag-and-drop options and automated processes for displaying data in Web applications. These and other changes are intended to ease the lot of the large community of Visual Basic developers.
Other languages updated in Visual Studio 2005 include C#, C++, and J#. ASP.NET 2.0 Visual Web Development has also been improved. Released along with Visual Studio 2005 were SQL Server 2005 and BizTalk Server 2006.
"Visual Studio is for many the anchor tenant in this new launch, and it promises up to a 75% reduction in coding," said Ballmer.
Originally introduced as Yukon in 2005, SQL Server 2005 was designed to go after larger-scale users who have traditionally been Oracle and IBM customers, with features including data management and business intelligence tools absent from SQL Server 2000. Other improvements to the oft-delayed update include native support for XML and Microsoft's Common Language Runtime, which integrates .NET compliant languages into build objects.
Absent with leave
Missing from today's festivities was a generally available version of Microsoft's Team Foundation Server, which was initially pegged for release along with Visual Studio 2005 but is now expected early next year. Sitting at the center of Visual Studio Team System, Team Foundation Server is key to Redmond's venture into team-oriented, server-based software centered on the full application development life cycle. Among the challenges with TFS is its status as the Microsoft Developer Division's first server.
Microsoft's team oriented toolset is viewed by some as a response to IBM Rational's various life-cycle offerings. In larger enterprises that both IBM and Microsoft covet, individual programmers are more likely to work within the context of a team comprised of individuals playing a variety of roles. The team must answer to a central IT authority that requires constant feedback on the state of projects, and quality of delivered software.
Said Gartner Analyst Theresa Lanowitz, "One of the things that Visual Studio Team System does is take the focus off of the construction component of the development cycle and show that there is the whole application lifecycle that needs to be taken care of. This includes requirements, modeling, test and validation, deployment, and maintenance."
So-called software-life-cycle products address such situations. IBM and Microsoft are far from alone in widening the breadth of their developer tools offerings. Compuware, Borland, Mercury Interactive and others also address team programming issues, which began to gain more attention in the late 1990s with the advent of Agile Modeling methods.
One of the challenges in moving to Visual Studio Team System will be training developers and other members of the software team how to get the most use out of the group tools. Chris Menegay, a trainer with Notion Solutions, which is offering Team System training, said, "To make the most of VSTS, developers will have to learn from scratch what their organizational infrastructure puts on them."
"Most companies are going to start with the source control system," Menegay said.
Owing to a focus on simplicity, Menegay believes that it will be much easier to learn how to use Visual Studio Team System, than similar types of tools people have used in the past from companies like IBM Rational. Training in Rational, he maintained, can "take an immense amount of time and an army of servers."
"Rational takes about six months to roll out, whereas Visual Studio Team System takes about a month," said Menegay.
With additional reporting by Brian Eastwood and Jack Vaughan.