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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In my post on MTM performance, Lachlan asked if we plan to start releasing VS more often. I wrote an answer but it got so long that I decided to turn it into a post instead. Here it is...
As for release cadence, it's a complicated question. We've had a lot of conversations about it over the years and we want to release more frequently. I think the biggest thing we NEED to be able to do is to get experience improvements (rather than new features) in people's hands more quickly. Some random thoughts on what we do today.
About a month ago I was in a discussion on how we improve our release cadence and, for perspective, Jeff Beehler (he's kind of the head release manager for Visual Studio) did some digging on how many "releases" we've had in the last 18 months. He counted almost everything - Major product, service packs, Power Tools, Feature Packs, SDKs, out of band releases (like Silverlight tooling or phone tooling), etc. He did not count Hot fixes - that would really bloat the number and be misleading. The surprising thing was that there were about 75 releases. That means we've released some VS value about once a week for the past 18 months. That's pretty dang fast and if you actually had to consume all of that, you'd probably be begging us to slow down.
So, I think the real issue isn't how fast we are able to release value but rather whether or not we're choosing to release the "right" things. In my mind, the answer is that we have some work to do to refocus some of that weekly release energy to more directly customer responsive issues, like performance improvements. However, we also have to be careful about churn and regression risks in these more rapid releases. We are able to do so many today because most of them are additive to the core code base rather than disruptive.
Of course, the other problem we have is that I bet you didn't know we shipped that much stuff in the past 18 months and I bet you have no idea what it was and whether or not you want it. We have some work to do to provide a better delivery channel for the updates that makes it easier for people to learn about them and choose whether or not to install them. We also need to make sure they aren't disruptive to end users when they install them. We're working on a plan to better leverage the VS Gallery for that in the VS 11 release. We're contemplating a set of enhancements to the VS Gallery that will enable us to publicize more of our updates that way.