Brian Keller

Director of ALM Evangelism for Microsoft

August, 2006

  • Brian Keller

    Upcoming Team System "Chat" on MSDN


    We have a Team System "Chat" coming up which is a nice way to talk in real-time to the product team which builds Team System. Here's more information:

    Join the chat on Wednesday September 6th, 2006 10:00am - 11:00am Pacific time. To add this to your calendar, click here. To see your local time of when this chat is, click here.

    Please stop on by if you can and don't be shy - we'd love to meet you and answer any questions you might have. But if you can't make it to the chat while it's happening then fear not - the transcripts from MSDN Chats are always made available after the show.

    Also don't forget the Team System Forums on MSDN which are a fantastic way of getting your questions answered and engaging in the Team System community.

  • Brian Keller

    Upcoming Visual Studio Team System Training Offerings


    Last week I had the opportunity to attend the "beta teach" for the 300-level Visual Studio Team System Training. As Brian Harry mentioned this training was a huge success and the official release of the curriculum is well on its way. I personally learned a *lot* from this class, and I met some great people along the way such as trainers, Regional Directors, MVP's, and companies who are adopting Team System. Many of the aforementioned are now ramping up to teach this class moving forward.

    I thought I would take a moment to position the 200-level and 300-level training so that people can determine which set of materials is most appropriate for them to look into.

    200-level content: This content is designed for anybody who is going to be a user of a Team System product. The focus is on the mechanics of how to use the various tools which are included with Team System. You will get hands-on experience using the new designers (class, application, system, logical datacenter), working with tests (web, load, unit, generic), performing profiling and static analysis, and configuring Team Build. You will also learn all about how Team System facilitates collaborative software development by using work-items, learning about the various source control functions (check-in/check-out/shelving/branching/merging), administering policies, working with reports, and you will even use Excel and Project to interface with Team Foundation Server.

    The 200-level course will be offered in a self-paced format shortly but can also be delivered in an instructor-led fashion. If you are new to Team System, or even if you have been using it for a while, chances are you can learn a lot from this training which will help you write better software and collaborate more effectively as a team by using Visual Studio Team System.

    300-level content: The 300-level training was designed for those key individuals on your software development team who are responsible for tailoring Team System to meet the needs of your team or project. During this course you will learn about a multitude of options for extending and customizing Team System. Such topics include writing custom check-in policies, authoring and customizing process templates, generating customized reports, writing highly-customized tests, subscribing to the Team Foundation Server eventing system (which leads to an excercise where you will configure Team Build for continuous integration), building new static analysis rules, and much, much more. This course is designed to be led by an instructor.

    I should emphasize that the 300-level training is not for everybody on a software development team, but I do believe that every software development team can benefit by sending at least one person through this course. Visual Studio Team System was truly built with customization and extensibility in mind to empower teams to use the tools in the manner which is most appropriate for them, not the other way around. After spending 4 days doing nothing but learning how to extend and customize Team System I feel confident that we met our design objective of delivering on this experience.

    As soon as I have more information on the availability of either course I will post an update. Please note that the rough syllabus I outlined above is subject to change as we review feedback from the beta teach. If there are topics you are interested in which weren't covered please suggest them and we'll see what we can do to incorporate them.

  • Brian Keller

    IIS 6.0 with ASP.NET: Required on the TFS Application Tier, but not the Data Tier.


    I received a great question via my blog from Mitchell Land about whether or not IIS must be enabled on the Data Tier of a Team Foundation Server installation. The short answer is no, you need to enable IIS 6.0 w/ ASP.NET on the Application Tier but not on the Data Tier. The Application Tier makes use of ASP.NET Web services to communicate with Team System clients. I believe IIS 6.0 also plays a role in the Application Tier's caching mechanism (but don't quote me on that).

    I was curious about why Mitchell was asking about this requirement so I asked him if he could elaborate. It turns out that his company has a policy against installing IIS on systems which also function as database servers. I hadn't encountered this particular policy before, but I can understand why such a policy may exist. Mitchell was relieved to discover that he could make use of a dual-server Team Foundation Server deployment (one server for the Data Tier, one server for the Application Tier) and still meet his company's IT requirements. Mitchell agreed to let me recount his story here in case it's of any use to others in a similar situation. Thanks, Mitchell!

    For more information on the system requirements for Team Foundation Server please see the Installation Guide and the Administrator's Guide.

  • Brian Keller

    Team Foundation Server Trials: The end is near! (maybe)


    I hate to just be an echo chamber for Rob and Brian's blogs, but it's important to get the word out to people who may be using the Visual Studio 2005 Team Foundation Server 180-day Evaluation edition that your eval time period may be coming to an end soon if you installed around the time that Team Foundation Server shipped.

    Rob has all of the details in his post, including a way to determine when your trial copy may be expiring. Unlike some trial software there's not a countdown timer in your face to remind you, so you just might miss it until you realize your server is down.

    And if you haven't checked out Team Foundation Server, here's a link to the 180-day eval copy which you can download. Likewise if you need a client to go with that you can download a 180-day trial copy of Visual Studio 2005 Team Suite. That's six months you can use the trial editions for free, even in a production capacity if you choose to. Just be sure to set some reminders for yourself to buy a full copy in a few months if you decide you want to continue using Team System past your 180-day eval period.

  • Brian Keller

    More about the glass walls in the patterns & practices lab.


    Yesterday I received an email from Beyhan Trock who is an architect (of buildings, not software). Beyhan was interested in learning more about the glass walls mentioned in the "Workspace of the Future" article I posted earlier. In case you missed the article it describes one of the next-generation workspaces being piloted here at Microsoft in order to facilitate Agile software development practices. Beyhan wanted to know more about the glass walls which make up that workspace because he's trying to implement something similar for another software development team.

    So I got in touch with Steve Olson (SKB Architects) who worked on the p&p workspace. He was very helpful in providing some more details regarding the glass walls:

    "It's great to hear the space is working so well on so many levels. The glass walls are not very complicated. The clear is 1/2" tempered glass with aluminum channels on the top and bottom.
    The 'whiteboard glass' is low iron laminated glass, 2 layers 1/4" with a 'white diffused laminate' layer. This is the same type of aluminum channel on top and bottom.
    There is blocking/seismic bracing above the ceiling that the channels attach to.
    I have attached the typical details we use for reference. The operable glass partitions can be had from Huffcor or Dorma."

    I have included Steve's PDF attachment as an attachment to this blog post. I have to admit that I don't really understand the diagram myself, but for anybody trying to construct such a workspace it may be helpful. Thanks, Steve!

  • Brian Keller

    Team Foundation Server: Application Tier Cache Settings


    A great question came in this morning from a customer regarding the recommended system requirements for the Application Tier of a Team Foundation Server installation. Before I dive into the customer's question, first some background on how Team Foundation Server can be installed...

    Team Foundation Server can be installed in one of many ways to meet various project requirements, team sizes, and network topologies. You can even install TFS proxy servers to facilitate distributed development scenarios. The full range of installation options and step-by-step instructions are detailed in the Visual Studio Team Foundation Server Installation Guide.

    For teams of 50 or less we recommend a single-server installation. But for larger teams, Team Foundation Server supports a dual-server installation mode with the Data Tier and the Application Tier on separate servers. The Data Tier is where the SQL Server 2005 instance resides and is responsible for storing everything associated with your projects (source control history, work items, build reports, etc.). The Application Tier is mainly just responsible for brokering data between the various clients connecting to Team Foundation Server, regardless of where the requests originate (Visual Studio, Project, Excel, Teamprise, and so on).

    Now back to this customer's question... They noticed that the recommended system requirements for the Application Tier go up from 20 GB of free disk space (for supporting <250 users) to 40 GB of disk space (when supporting 250-500 users). Of course it makes sense that the Data Tier would require more disk space since more users implies a larger project (or multiple projects) to data store. But why does the Application Tier need that much extra space?

    As it turns out, the Application Tier has built-in algorithms to speed up the transfer of data between TFS clients and the Data Tier. This can result in significantly faster transfer times for everybody on the team and is one of the main reasons you may want a dedicated server for this task. As the size of the project and the number of clients goes up, so does the recommended disk space available for the Application Tier cache. You can even change the settings on the cache, such as to tweak the caching algorithm setting or to change the folder/drive where the cache is stored. For best results, store the cache on a fast, non-system drive. This and other helpful TFS topics are covered in the Visual Studio Team Foundation Administrator's Guide.

    Thanks to Robert Horvick on the Team System team for providing all of this great information!

  • Brian Keller

    First three movies available on both hi-def formats.


    This article marks a landmark in the HD-DVD vs. Blu-ray format wars: the first batch of movies are now available in both formats, which has allowed for some great head-to-head comparisons. (If you visit the article be sure to drill into the movie-specific reviews, then skip past the "The Movie" sections to go straight to the good stuff.)

    Despite my affiliation with Microsoft I've been trying to remain truly unbiased in my evaluation of these format wars (I've avoided blogging about the subject until now). But this whole war doesn't seem to be faring too well for Blu-ray. Not only are the Blu-ray players more expensive (about twice as expensive right now) but HD-DVD has won in almost every technical category of every review I've seen. Which begs the question - who is buying Blu-ray players? In my opinion the only thing Blu-ray has in its favor right now is the fact that some people associate a higher price point with higher quality - but even if that's true, how many people are going to drop $1000 on a new player without doing a bit of research?

    If you want to learn a bit about the differences in the formats check out Major Nelson's Show #183 The One About HD-DVD. I realize, of course, that this interview is conducted by Microsoft employees so the potential for bias remains. But if anybody has any contradictory information please post away. I am very interested in hearing what people think about which format will win and why - I just don't see Sony winning this one. I'll be voting with my pocketbook this holiday season when I can buy an HD-DVD drive for my Xbox 360. I already have HD-DVD movies lined up in my Netflix queue.

    Flame away... <g>

  • Brian Keller

    Visual Studio Team Foundation Server Standardized as Enterprise-wide Service at Microsoft.


    Recently I started compiling a list of the teams at Microsoft who are using Visual Studio Team System. It quickly became obvious that several teams across Microsoft are making heavy use of Visual Studio Team System. I'm constantly hearing about new teams who have adopted various components of Team System which is enabling them to fundamentally change they way they develop software.

    As you may have heard, the Team System team themselves have been using early builds of Team System since 2004, and that’s a team which is geographically distributed worldwide and must coordinate with several partner teams who all need access to Team Foundation Server. The rest of the Developer Division - nearly 1000 people - recently moved over to using Team Foundation Server as well. Brian Harry publishes regular statistics for those servers which showcases how Team Foundation Server has scaled to accommodate even very large teams, and this dogfooding effort has driven some incredible performance enhancements which will be showing up in our upcoming service pack. But here are just a few other teams at Microsoft I’ve discovered to-date who have adopted Visual Studio Team System: XNA, Dynamics AX, Hotmail, MSN Autos, Microsoft TV, Mappoint,, and Channel 9/10.

    We have published several case studies showing how Visual Studio Team System has been adopted internally at Microsoft, including a new case study which details how Team Foundation Server has been standardized as an enterprise-wide service at Microsoft. As an enterprise-wide service that means any team at Microsoft who wants to adopt Team Foundation Server can enlist the help of a Team Foundation Server Solution Provider Team. The Solution Provider Team provides consulting and training to help a team get started, and even enlists a dedicated IT team which handles all of the server infrastructure. It’s a great service that more and more teams are taking advantage of every week.

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