Everything you want to know about Visual Studio ALM and Farming
Brian Harry is a Microsoft Technical Fellow working as the Product Unit Manager for Team Foundation Server. Learn more about Brian.
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When I think about the TFS roadmap, I think about 3 different categories of things:
Servicing – These are Hot fixes, Service Packs, etc that fix bugs and add new capabilities to versions that have already shipped (today, that means TFS 2005)
Out of Band releases – We call them Power Tools (used to be Power Toys). These are add-on tools/utilities that enhance the value of already shipped products without actually modifying them directly.
Major releases – These are the big new releases. The next one is called Visual Studio “Orcas”. In parallel, we are also actively developing for the release after Orcas, which I’ll describe at a high level.
TFS Power Tools
So far our Power Tool releases have been popular and we plan to continue to use them as a vehicle for delivering new value to customers every few months. We don’t plan them way in advance – generally only 2 to 3 months ahead of time, so I can’t give a clear long term vision of where we will go with them. They are designed to be a very customer responsive way to deliver value, so we’ll be using them to deliver the things you want most (and don’t require us to change the core product bits). We’ll likely continue to deliver cool end user functionality as we have (like Annotate, the TFS MSSCCI Provider, Tree Diff, etc). We are also looking to expand the Power Tools to include some features for project managers and operations staff.
With that context, here are some things we are looking at doing in the near term:
Overall, Orcas is a “minor” release for TFS. Partly this is mandated by the fact that TFS shipped later than the rest of VS in the 2005 wave. We want to sync back up for the Orcas wave and that means doing less. Our goal for the Orcas release of TFS is to make it an “adoption focused release”. We are allocating most of our time to removing issues that customers have told us hamper their adoption. As a result, in the feature list below, you’ll see an emphasis on administration, operations & setup. Features in other areas are also focused on removing adoption inhibitors. The biggest “new scenario” we are aiming to enable in Orcas is out of the box Continuous Integration. In the release after Orcas we will turn our focus back to enabling major new scenarios.
A while ago, we committed to begin sharing specs with the community early in the process for people to provide feedback on. We’ve been working out the logistics for that. In the mean time we’ve been using the Power Tools and blogs to preview what we are doing. In the next few weeks, we are going to being trickling a few specs to the web and I expect that will accelerate over time.
Here are the TFS features that we currently believe will be in Orcas. Please understand that this is not a commitment to do these. As with any software product, features are reprioritized over time to meet delivery criteria, which means plans can change. However, this is our best effort to predict what will make it. We’ve got a few other things in the oven that I’m not quite ready to talk about yet.
Administration, Operations & Setup
Work Item Tracking
As Orcas is an adoption focused release, we have put a lot of emphasis on compatibility with VS2005. We are striving for near 100% compatibility. The Orcas client will be able to work with a VS2005 server and a VS2005 client will be able to work with an Orcas server. There are only a few compatibility issues.
The release after Orcas
I’m not going to talk much about post Orcas details and I’m certainly not going to speculate about dates. At this point we are mostly talking about post Orcas work in terms of “value propositions”. Value propositions identify scenarios or capabilities that we want to invest in. The set of value propositions that we choose for a given release are based on a great deal of customer feedback (forums, blogs, advisory councils, sales engagements, customer research, etc) and our strategic direction. Before talking about the value props that we’ve identified for the release after Orcas, let me say a few words about our strategic direction.
We continue to see TFS as the center of team collaboration and partner extensibility as we grow the breadth and depth of the team. We will focus first on completing our coverage of Application Lifecycle Management (ALM), as it is broadly understood. This covers the span from requirements elicitation to testing signoff and integration with deployment and operations, and includes the capabilities that you see today in VSTS for architecture, testing and database and code development. We’re not going to do this all ourselves, but will focus on the core collaboration platform and continue to expand the extensibility for partners to round out the complete solution. As we tackle ALM, we realize too that app dev team often works in a broader organizational context, with workflows that involve the PMO and Operations. We’ve taken small steps so far in enabling those workflows and will improve the integration with each future release.
With that context here are our top priority value props for the release after Orcas that will fill in the next step in that vision.
This isn’t to say that VSTS doesn’t already enable these scenarios to various degrees but these are big picture areas where we plan to drive new investments and further improve the capabilities we have. This is not a feature list but rather high level areas of investment. As we get a bit further along, we’ll begin to talk about features that deliver on the value propositions.
In addition to these value propositions, we will continue to invest in making the basic feature set better – better integrated, easier to use, more extensible, faster and more capable.
We have already begun development for our post-Orcas release. You might ask why we are developing two releases in parallel. The reason is that Orcas is a fairly tactical release for TFS on a shorter schedule. To achieve that and also be able to do some of our longer term architectural innovation, we decided to build portions of each in parallel. I hope to begin talking about the feature set in more detail within the next several months.