Microsoft On Track With Team Foundation Server

Microsoft's S. “Soma” Somasegar, vice president of the developer division, and Rick LaPlante, general manager of Visual Studio Team System, sat down recently with Senior Editor Stacy Cowley to talk about Microsoft’s overhauled developer-tools philosophy and forthcoming projects like Atlas Tools. Below are edited highlights.

CRN: The first release of Visual Studio Team System offers distinct versions for four roles: project managers, software architects, software developers and testers. What’s not there yet are tools to bring higher-level roles like business analysts into the process. What are the plans?

LAPLANTE: Right now we have roles that I like to think of as one degree of separation from the developer, but those are clearly not the only roles in a development organization. There’s administrators, there’s business analysts ... when we talk about the vision of Team System, it’s about how you continue to march out and get more and more people involved. There isn’t a road map for those right now, but I would say that within the next year we should have some formal road maps about what’s coming next.

CRN: There’s been tremendous interest in Microsoft’s plans for Atlas. How is that being deployed?

SOMASEGAR: It’s going to be a plug-in to Visual Studio. We’ll have a Go-Live [license] of Atlas [which released last week]. Then it will be baked into the next version of Visual Studio, “Orcas,” when we do that. Atlas is currently available as a CTP [community technology preview].

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CRN: It’s going to be standards-compliant? I know there have been concerns about Microsoft taking AJAX-like functionality in a proprietary direction.

SOMASEGAR: It will be very compliant. We do want to have a standards-based client, so that if standards are the only thing you care about, we have support from a framework as well as a tooling perspective. As you go up the stack to the higher end, where we have the Windows Presentation Foundation, then, hey, if you want a rich-client application, a smart-client application, then we have that support as well. But guess what, that’s a Windows-specific thing.

LAPLANTE: We’re looking at AJAX and saying, ‘It’s too hard.’ The programming model is too complex. Wouldn’t it be good if you had a control model? Well, we have one for ASP.Net.

SOMASEGAR: Atlas is a way for us to say, ‘How can you do AJAX-style programming using a set of tools from us?’ Particularly for developers who are used to that ASP.Net programming model. How can we bring some of those language constructs and controls for the client side that enable to you to do AJAX-style programming in a better way? That’s the fundamental notion.

CRN: OK, so Orcas will include native Atlas support. What else will be in that release?

SOMASEGAR: Rick’s team is finishing up Team Foundation Server, and the rest of the development team is planning what we want to do next. Hopefully over the next two months or so we’ll be able to finish our planning and start making a road map.

LAPLANTE: When you ask what we’re going to do next, it’s the same thing we did the first time around—six months of customer research. We want to get back out there and sit with the customers and figure out the pain points, starting with the strategy.

Let me give you an example. We as a business had the same problem. The Powers That Be stood up and said, ‘We need to have better customer visibility. We need to have one way of talking to the customer.’ It came from the senior levels of the business and got handed over to the IT organization and it touched no less than seven different IT organizations and 20-some systems. It’s a very easy thing to say, ‘We need to do this.’ But that translates into thousands of lines of code and millions of dollars and scores of projects. Managing that matrix is what we’re about. Historically, we’ve been about individual developer productivity. With Team System, we’re about team productivity. I think we’re going to be about organizational productivity. That’s where we’re going.

SOMASEGAR: We’re trying to engage the community on an ongoing basis right from day one. There are big steps forward that we took with Visual Studio 2005. One is that we said we don’t want to wait for beta releases anymore.

CRN: That sounds like the open-source development model.

SOMASEGAR: It’s all about community engagement. To me, that’s the thing that I personally learned from the open-source world. The way they embrace the community—it’s a huge step that helps you build the right thing, and I’m a big fan of it.

For Orcas, we want to take the next step forward. Every specification we write for a feature in the product, we want to be able to share with the community and get their feedback. I want to have a dialogue with the customers so that we can build the right product. That’s our vision.