Visual studio team system (VSTS): first reactions

Microsoft has announced a new product called visual studio team system (VSTS) at TechEd Tuesday. Here is what I was able to understand about it so far.

VSTS is designed for all the actors involved in a software development life cycle.
- project manager: can create "work items" which represent tasks, bugs, new features to implement, risks, etc. They can manage this work item database using excel spreadsheet (to view/edit a list of tasks or risks or requirements), ms project (where they can timeline the WI) or in a sharepoint portal (where they access metrics)
- infrastructure architect: can draw network and server configuration and assign contraints
- solution architect: can draw application diagrams that link to infrastructure and work items
- developer: can perform round trip engineering with a class diagram tool
- tester: can perform unit, and load testing with full instrumentation

At its core, VSTS has a "work item" database, basically a "bug tracking" SQL database, but more flexible to allow any kind of WI to be defined and stored in there. All actors can get assigned to work items and update their status, create new ones, etc. from within Visual Studio or Excel or Project. So Microsoft is adressing project management issues in VSTS.

From a software engineering standpoint, VSTS provides diagramming tools and round-trip engineering capabilities. But also, they are *rewriting* their version control software (VSS remains but will be phased out) from scratch to support multiple files checkin assigned to one work item. Also, a build tool is made available outside of The nightly build process becomes part of the default installation and provide build report and metrics, allowing build master to drill down into build results. Unit testing and load testing tools are also available (great for nightly build). Functional testing is mainly provided by 2rd party providers (compuware).

Microsoft does not require one methodology to use VSTS but rather expects multiple methods to be made available as project templates in VSTS. They will ship an "agile" and a "formal" project template. Accenture has also announced that they will come out with a "delivery suite" when VS05 launches.

At this time, VS05 is scheduled for first half of 2005, basically a year away. First beta is expected in the fall. Microsoft has just come out of stealth mode, which means that they are just starting to validate their product feature set with the end users. I expect there will be lots of changes to the feature set as the feedback starts to trickle into Microsoft. There are numerous focus group discussions at TechEd where Microsoft VSTS program managers are polling attendees on what and how they plan to use VSTS. More on this later.

Nevertheless, VSTS opens lots of new opportunities for "addons" such as tools (Borland and Compuware have been demoed) as well as methodologies and a host of metrics and customizations of the tools themselves to provide "templates" of all kinds (reports, default projects, etc.).

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