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Microsoft Reveals More About Rosario

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VSTS Group Manager Stephanie Saad
This week, Microsoft offered its first public glimpse of the next release of Visual Studio Team System (VSTS), Redmond's next-generation integrated application lifecycle management (ALM) suite, though the company is still not committing to any deliverables.

Stephanie Saad, a group manager for VSTS at Microsoft, showcased the next version of VSTS -- codenamed "Rosario" -- at this week's VSLive! conference in San Francisco. (VSLive! is an event held by RDN publisher 1105 Media.) Her presentation highlighted what developers might expect in the version after VSTS 2008, which shipped last November. Microsoft first released a limited CTP of Rosario last summer.

While Saad's presentation outlined what's on the agenda for Rosario, she warned that the features demonstrated may not be in the final release.

"I can't talk about ship dates, and I certainly can't promise anything you're seeing today," she said. "But everything that I'm showing you here we're already dog-fooding up in Redmond as production quality across a 400-person team."

Among the considered capabilities demonstrated were integration with Microsoft Office Project Server and some lightweight project management and reporting tools in Excel; new testing capabilities, such as historical debugging, test-impact analysis and standalone debugging; and a set of administrative and operations improvements and source-control enhancements. Although the company had talked about much of this functionality during its final push to release Visual Studio 2008 last fall, it was demonstrated at VSLive! for the first time. Microsoft may also offer its Team Foundation Server (TFS) -- a source control, data collection, reporting and project tracking toolset -- as a hosted service.

The focus on aligning application development with business requirements and project management in the next version of VSTS is "dead on," said Forrester senior analyst Jeffrey Hammond.

"In my experience, turning business needs into applications that do the 'right' thing the first time is still a challenge for most software teams," Hammond said. "I also don't think any business user is going to be unhappy about higher-quality applications with fewer defects."

Going Public
The demo was a coming-out for Saad, who recently launched a blog at the request of VSTS users.

"This is the first time the marketing team has allowed me to give this talk outside of Redmond," she told the VSLive! audience. "I'm going to gauge which features you guys think are cool by how much you applaud for them."

VSTS combines a set of tools, processes and "guidance" to support dev-team collaboration, software quality assurance and project management. Improvements in the next version will rest on three "pillars," Saad explained. The first centers around aligning application development with business.

"The idea is, when you get to the end of the cycle, you've built what the business wants," she said.

The second pillar is application quality and testing, and the third is continuous improvement in the ALM core.

Saad's team is currently taking a careful look at report authoring, a move the audience welcomed because it continues to be an especially challenging task. To lower the barrier to authoring reports, the team is working on a relational version of the TFS data warehouse, which will allow report authors to do their work in SQL.

Manual Testing First
She also revealed an unexpected twist in Microsoft's plan to integrate testing tools into a future version of VSTS: Rather than emphasize automated testing (the approach taken by most standalone testing tool providers), the VSTS team is focusing on manual testing capabilities.

"We've gotten a ton of feedback around the need for better testing tools," Saad said. "And we thought we'd be building this fantastic automated testing system, because everyone was doing it. But we talked to a lot of testers, and what we found was that 80 percent of the testing people do today is manual testing. They told us, 'What you guys really need to do first is to think about building a great system for manual testing. Then you can think about automated tests.' So that's what we're doing."

Also, look for a mobile debugger that can be carried in a USB drive. This proposed offering, which Saad called a "debugger on a thumb drive," elicited the biggest applause of the session.

One attendee asked whether the Team System Web Access (TSWA) tool would ever be integrated with SharePoint Server. Saad disclosed that Microsoft is looking at the possibility of merging Team System Web Access and the VSTS SharePoint portal to provide a single point of access.

"We want to make it so that you only have a single place to go to get all the Web information," she said. "Our long-term goal is having a single point of access for everything on the Web." Much of TSWA would become Web parts, she added.

Saad admitted that many of these additions might not be best-of-breed the first time they're provided. The selling point, she said, is that they're integrated.

"We see development being interconnected with business, project management and operations," she said. "Our job is to figure out how to use Team System to connect those pieces. Our long-term vision for VSTS is to bring all of these pieces together so that you can plan a project effectively, run a development team, and deploy it into operations and manage it using a unified set of tools."

Despite not commenting on a release date, Saad suggested that given Microsoft's typical tools release cycle, it would likely be available approximately 18 to 24 months from the last release.

About the Author

John K. Waters is a freelance author and journalist based in Silicon Valley. His latest book is The Everything Guide to Social Media. Follow John on Twitter, read his blog on ADTmag.com, check out his author page on Amazon, or e-mail him at john@watersworks.com.


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