Today at the BUILD conference, we announced availability of our Windows Azure based Visual Studio Team Foundation Service Preview. If you’ve been following my blog, then you know we’ve been working on it for a while now. We’ve had a private preview going for the past several months and are up to several hundred users. We’re ready to take the next step and open it up to a broader audience. As part of the announcement at the BUILD conference we gave invitation codes to all attendees to sign up for an account.

Everyone who signs up for an account can invite as many people as they like to use it with them. In addition, everyone who gets an account can get another invitation code that they can hand out to 5 friends for them to create their own accounts.

Now you are thinking to yourself: Dang! I didn’t go to BUILD. What do I do? You’re not totally left out in the cold J I’ve included below a registration code you can use. It’s good for the first 250 people that use it. Each of those 250 people get the same benefits I described above (creating a project, inviting friends and handing out 5 accounts to friends).

250 use activation code: “bharry”

To use the code, visit http://tfspreview.com.  Below you’ll find a walk through of the sign up experience.

 

Benefits

Our hosted TFS Service is a quick and easy way to get started with TFS.  In only a few minutes, you can have an account and be productive with your team regardless of where they are around the world.  It takes away the time and hassle of arranging for hardware, installing software, providing network infrastructure, etc.  The service takes care of all of that for you and lets you focus on your project.

Although the service is pre-release at this time and is not complete, much of the TFS functionality works today.  You can use:

 

  • Source control
  • Work item tracking
  • Agile project management (a new feature in TFS 11)
  • Testing
  • Build automation (though for now you will need to set up a TFS 11 CTP build agent on your own hardware)
  • and more…

You can use most of the TFS clients – including VS 2010 and Test Professional 2010 (with an available client patch), VS 11 (CTP to be available soon), Team Explorer Everywhere (compatible update available here), Microsoft Office integration, etc.

Getting Started

To try out our TFS service yourself, browse to http://tfspreview.com.  You’ll be greeted with this screen (though the video will have changed by then):

image 

You can watch the video (hosted from Channel 9) to learn more and when you are ready, just click Create Account.  You should see the sign up screen.  Here I’ve entered and account name (bharryblog) in the server url field.  And an invitation code (bharry) to authorize me to create an account.  If you attended the BUILD conference, please use the invitation code you received in your goodies bag.  Accept the terms of service and then click Sign Up.

Signup

You’ll need to sign in with a Windows Live ID.  Note, you can only create one account per Windows Live ID.

Login

And it will walk you through the steps.  Your account is created (make sure to make note of the url to get you to your account) but you need to create your first project.  Do that by clicking create team project.

GettingStarted

And that will allow you to name your Team Project and choose a process template.  When you have filled out the form, click Create Project.

NewTP

You’ll get a progress dialog:

NewTPProgress

And a completion screen:

NewTPComplete

At this point you can go one of two directions.  You can click “My Team home page” and begin playing around with the web experience.  Or you can click close and download the VS client patch.  The simplest flow (and what I show below) is to go to the Team home page.  You can download the client patch later.  If you choose to close this and go download the client, you just need to be aware that you are left in “administration mode” in the web UI and need to click the “EXIT ADMINISTRATION” link in the upper right to get back to “normal” mode.  Our usability studies have told us this is not intuitive and we plan to fix it for the next update.  If you click the My Team home page, you’ll see your team’s home page and you are ready to explore the product.

TeamHome

Enjoy and don’t forget my overview post on the Agile Project Management features.  I’ll write more in subsequent posts.   Once you’ve played around, you can invite others to join your project by selecting your project in the upper left of the nav area and choosing Manage teams and project groups.

 image

Select your team (or or other group you want to add them to, but your team is easiest) and click add members.

image

Type their Live ID and click Save Changes.  Note you are in administration mode in the UI and you need to click EXIT ADMINISTRATION in the upper right to get back to “normal” mode.  Did I mention we’d be improving that?  Roughly speaking you can add as many people as you like to your account.

image

Or if you want to invite a friend to create their own account, you can click the ADMINISTRATION link on the upper right and select ACCOUNT in the nav area.  On the lower right, you can click on “invite others” and it will generate an invitation code (good for 5 accounts).

image

Current Feature Status

As I mentioned earlier, this release is a preview and the product is not yet complete.  Most of the functionality is in place but I want to mention a few notable things that are not yet available:

 

  1. You cannot customize your process template at this time.  You can choose any of the 3 built in templates but you can’t change them.  For now we’re trying to keep upgrade of the service simple and don’t want to deal with potential conflicts between customizations and service evolution yet.
  2. Sharepoint integration is not available.  The on-premises product integrates with Sharepoint to provide a project portal in addition to the web UI available in TFS.  At this point Sharepoint integration is not yet available for the service.
  3. There is very limited reporting.  We provide some reports (like burn down charts) as part of our Agile project management experience but many of the reports that you may be used to in the on-premises product are not yet available on the service.
  4. The service does not currently support lab management.
  5. Email alerts are currently not delivered by the service.

If you find anything else that seems to be missing and you want to know if it’s a bug or simply an unfinished feature, let me know.

Status of the Service

We’ve been running the service for months now and it’s been working reliably.  I suspect now that they can talk about it, you’ll be able to find some of our early adopters blogging about their experiences.  But, like the product, the service isn’t fully finished yet either and there are some things to be aware of:

  1. The service has been very reliable but, at the moment, we are not providing any uptime guarantees.  We are not on a 24x7 support schedule yet.  We will do our best to keep the service running well but we’re still learning everything we need to know to do this well.  Our goal is 99.9% availability and so far we’ve stayed very close to that.
  2. Data you put into our TFS service WILL be carried forward.  We do not plan to ever wipe the service and restart or any such thing.  The service launched in April from our perspective and every time we upgrade it (which we’ve done about 3 times so far) we bring all the customer data along with it.
  3. For now the service is free of charge.  At some point in the future, we will announce a pricing model.  We’re still working on it and are not ready to discuss any of the thinking yet.
  4. Because the service is free and we’ve provided a network effect for invitation codes, we don’t know how many accounts people are going to create.  We do have some overall limits on the service and if/when we hit them, new account creation will get disabled.  To allow room for people who really want to use the service, inactive accounts will be deleted.  An inactive account is any account that has not been used for 60 days.  We will not keep backups of any deleted, inactive accounts.
  5. There is a per account storage limit.  It’s a bit of a soft limit and will depend somewhat on how you use the system but roughly speaking it should handle real world projects up to about 4GB of compressed source code.  Assuming about a 4:1 LZW compression ratio, that’s about 16GB of source and should handle the vast majority of projects.
  6. We currently only have the TFS service in a single data center (in Chicago).  Eventually it will be deployed to Azure data centers around the world.
  7. This launch of the preview will likely dramatically increase the usage of the service.  We’ve worked hard to ensure that the service is ready.  We’ve been doing performance and load testing work for the past couple of months trying to simulate the load that we expect the new wave of early adopters will put on it.  However, my experience in the past running large scale services says that any time you have a large inflection in the usage, you should be prepared for problems.  I expect we’ll see a few hiccups over the next week or two as we burn in the new load pattern but we’ll be working hard to keep things healthy and happy.
  8. We don’t currently have a way to migrate project either from your local TFS instance to the cloud or from the cloud to a local TFS instance.  Those are things we hope to provide in the future but for now you’ll want to start with “fresh” projects that can stay in the cloud.
  9. The service is currently only available in English.  We’ll add additional languages in future updates.

Overall, I think you’ll be very pleased with the service.  The feedback from our early adopters has been very positive.  Most have reported very good availability and performance.

Feedback and Issues

We very much want your feedback on the service.  Feedback comes in many forms and we’ve provided a number of avenues for you to provide it:

Feature suggestions: http://visualstudio.uservoice.com

Bug reports: http://connect.microsoft.com

Support questions: http://social.msdn.microsoft.com/Forums/en-US/TFService/threads

Eventually, we plan to have a nice self-service way for you to check on the status of the service and make sure everything is running smoothly (to help you determine if a problem you are seeing is service wide or specific to you).  For now, we’ll be using a blog to keep you informed about the state of the service.  You will find it here: http://blogs.msdn.com/b/TFService.  You can also use this Twitter url: http://twitter.com/#!/tfservice.

And, of course, I’m always here on my blog to help you if I can.

 

Conclusion

It’s an exciting time for us.  We’ve been working hard on getting this service ready and we’re thrilled to be able to offer it for you all to try it out.  We’re eagerly awaiting your feedback and, at the same time, working hard on the next update already.  One of the things that you’ll find is that a service is very different from an on-premises product from a release cadence stand point.  Right now we are upgrading the service with new capabilities about every 2-3 months.  We’re working on further decreasing that cycle time but you should expect us to keep bringing you fresh capabilities and reacting to your feedback on a pretty regular basis.

Thanks,

Brian