Visual Studio Team System Beta 2 To Get Process Methodology Guides

Beta 2 of Visual Studio 2005 Team System and other editions will be released by the end of this month or the first week of April, Microsoft executives said this week. As part of the Beta 2 release, Microsoft will incorporate templates for two popular process methodologies: Microsoft Solutions Framework (MSF) and the Capability Maturity Model Integration (CMMI).

MSF is an extensible, scalable and fully integrated set of software development processes, principles and proven practices, according to Microsoft. CMMI was developed by the Software Engineering Institute of Carnegie Mellon.

Visual Studio 2005 Team System will ship with two process templates: the MSF for CMMI Process Improvement template for more mature application development, and a more "lightweight" MSF for Agile Software Development template. MSF Agile, for instance, will offer risk management, release management and design for operations guidance to developers.

Beta 2 is the first version of Visual Studio 2005, code-named Whidbey, that will have all of the Team System components. The Beta 1 version, released last fall, had only some of those features. Microsoft executives said Beta 2 also will enable customers and partners to create Domain Specific Languages (DSL) for vertical industries.

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Executives also said that MSF Agile and CMMI support goes well beyond documentation because Visual Studio has features that allow development managers to enforce software development methodology practices. The goal, they said, is to ensure more consistent, high-quality code development. The templates also allow customers and systems integrators to customize software development process methodologies for their own companies or their clients.

"Team System is a suite of life-cycle tools, and one feature is process guidance. Process guidance today is books on shelves that give you common practices, but they're not consistent and reportable," said Prashant Sridharan, senior product manager for the Visual Studio 2005 Team System at Microsoft. "It's done manually. So we are shipping source-code controls and settings so teams could enforce those policies. With this, anyone checking in source code will have to pass certain tests they want to enforce."

Microsoft will provide the tools and framework, but each team can customize it for their own use. Integrators and developers said CMMI is an industrial-strength guidance, but MSF Agile will be suitable for many Visual Studio developers and partners.

CMMI-compliance and the upcoming MSF have been topics of discussion lately at Citigate Hudson, said Andrew Brust, chief of new technology at the New York-based custom database application and business-intelligence solution provider. "We've been trying to get an understanding of the degree to which the two might coincide or complement each other. If, in fact, it's the case that there will be a nexus between CMMI, MSF and Visual Studio Team System, I think that's going to be very helpful," he said. "If things do emerge this way, it will also show me that Microsoft is working proactively to help developers adapt to the new standards and demands being made on the software industry and the software development profession."

For many software companies and partners, some of the higher CMMI levels will be overkill and might "end up injecting a degree of bureaucracy and paperwork that runs counter to the efficiency and agility that customers truly want," Brust added.

Other tools to ease development for customers and partners also are planned for the Team System Beta 2, according to Microsoft. For example, the company late last year introduced a plug-in for new modeling technology, code-named Whitehorse, in Visual Studio 2005 Team System that allows customers and partners to build visual designers for specific domains, as well as domain-specific language designers to enable faster development and deployment of applications for vertical industries. The framework and tool set are available today as a Community Technology Preview but will be included in the Visual Studio 2005 Team System Beta 2.

Microsoft made the Visual Studio Team System Beta 2 announcement on Wednesday at the Software Engineering Process Group conference in Seattle. Also at the event, ISV partner Borland unveiled 15 new customers for its Process Optimization Practice. As part of its January acquisition of TeraQuest, Borland launched process consulting services based on assisting companies in improving their development software processes by leveraging CMMI and Agile methodologies, among others.