Microsoft announced a new member of its Visual Studio Team System family geared toward database professionals, and the company also gave some more direction on the future of its development tools overall.
Microsoft on May 31 announced Visual Studio Team Edition for Database Professionals, expanding Visual Studio 2005 Team System to include tools that let software development teams collaborate more effectively when creating reliable, data-driven applications, said Prashant Sridharan, group product manager for Visual Studio Team System.
The new product will be available as a CTP (Community Technology Preview) at Microsofts TechEd 2006 conference in Boston in mid-June and is expected to ship by the end of 2006.
Sridharan said the new component to Visual Studio 2005 Team System is the next milestone leading to the next major release of Visual Studio, which is code-named Orcas and will enable developers to better build applications that target SQL Server 2005, Windows Vista, the 2007 Microsoft Office system and the next generation of Web technologies.
“Visual Studio had been focused on individual developer productivity; we wanted to enhance team productivity,” said S. “Soma” Somasegar, corporate vice president of the Developer Division at Microsoft.
Somasegar said Microsoft created VSTS to address team productivity and established three primary roles that the product should target: developer, tester and architect.
“Now we want to add a fourth role, that of the database professional,” Somasegar said. “And well continue to expand the focus” of the tool set, he said.
“One of the main issues in software development today is a lack of collaboration among members of a software development team and beyond,” Somasegar said in a statement. “Our goal is to ensure that all members of the IT organization can gain more visibility into and greater predictability of the software development process.
“The expansion of Visual Studio Team System to include data tools, along with developer productivity innovations in the upcoming Visual Studio Orcas, demonstrates Microsofts commitment to providing tools that help individuals, teams and organizations derive greater efficiency when building solutions on the Microsoft platform.”
Moreover, Microsoft said Visual Studio Team Edition for Database Professionals meets the need for more advanced tools for managing database changes.
Database architects, developers, administrators and other database professionals can use the product to employ integrated change-management functionality to streamline changes to their databases, Microsoft said.
In addition, database professionals can use the new tool to drive better quality earlier in the development process through integrated database testing, including support for database unit tests, complex test authoring and automatic generation of test data.
Visual Studio Team Edition for Database Professionals requires Microsofts SQL Server, “but in the next version well expand it to support other databases,” Somasegar said.
He said the new version will support both SQL Server 2000 and SQL Server 2005.
The new edition delivers integrated change management to give database professionals more control over their databases and streamline changes to their databases, Microsoft officials said.
The products database testing features help create full unit tests for database schemas. And the lifecycle integration capabilities enable database professionals to participate in the software development lifecycle using Visual Studio Team Foundation Server, the company said.
Andrew Brust, chief of new technology at Twentysix New York, a New York-based IT services provider formerly known as Citigate Hudson, said he thinks the new VSTS version is big news.
“Lifecycle tools for database design, development and deployment are a huge bald spot,” Brust said.
“Being able to version database schema and schema changes properly is really crucial. Most people end up writing their own scripts to manage this, and its time the tools grew up to take this on.
“The ability to design unit tests against your database objects is also very significant. And the ability to generate effective test data is especially important and timely: Various compliance laws and rules now preclude developers from using actual production data in a test environment, but crummy test data wont allow you to test your database under production-like circumstances.”
Richard Campbell, president of Campbell & Associates, in Vancouver, British Columbia, said, “Im stoked about the DBPro edition—to me, Microsoft has done for database developers what theyve done for years for traditional developers: brought all the tools needed to build code successfully into one place so that its easier to be successful.”
Moreover, Campbell said he also likes the testing capabilities the new edition provides.
“One of the biggest features for me is the integrated unit testing—testing database structures the same way that we test object structures,” Campbell said.
“Building and automating testing for databases has always been difficult and so often fell by the wayside. The integrated environment of Visual Studio brings all this capability together into one place.”
Kimberly Tripp, founder of SQLskills.com, of Redmond, Wash., said the new database-focused edition of VSTS is not targeted at her role as an administrator/operations professional, but “I can see some phenomenal benefits across a variety of different disciplines,” she said.
While the new product “is targeting more developer teams, and earlier in the product lifecycle” than Tripp typically gets involved, “Im really impressed with the Source Control integration with any SCCI [Source Code Control Interface] provider; I think customers will absolutely love this feature. I also like their general direction of managing schema outside of production. However, for me—and for Administration and Operations—I especially like their direction with regard to unit testing and sample data generation.”
Meanwhile, “as the software development lifecycle matures, theres an increased need for a tool that makes the database professional an integral part of the application team,” said Larry Humphries, vice president of product management at Microsoft partner Quest Software, in Aliso Viejo, Calif., in a statement.
“In expanding Visual Studio Team System to include this functionality, Microsoft provides developers and data professionals with such a tool. We look forward to integrating our solutions with Visual Studio Team System and providing customers with a compete solution for building productive and robust data applications.”
The biggest challenge for the new edition of VSTS, according to Brust, is “that its defining a new product subcategory. In other words, this tool is solving a problem some people may not realize they have. So Microsoft will have to evangelize the concept as well as the product.”
Market analysts had different takes on the new release.
“I see this new product release from Microsoft as a way of underscoring the power of its unified repository and Microsofts ability to apply change management to a wide variety of development assets,” said Carey Schwaber, an analyst with Forrester. “Its interesting that Microsoft has chosen to bring the DBA [database administrator] into the ALM [application lifecycle management] fold with this client role, but whats even more interesting is how it has used Team System to do so. You have to wonder what other roles they might target.”
“VSTS is really just beginning to find its feet as a collaborative environment, and the new SKU [stock keeping unit] helps establish a presence in an area that has been very weak for Microsoft,” said Jim Duggan, an analyst with Gartner. “In this release this is still a Microsoft-only offering, but they do have the intent to broaden support. The value of VSTS is that it expands the market for Microsoft from the individuals to the team developers. The current ALM offerings are incomplete, but this SKU, like the acquisition of UMT for portfolio management function, continues the expansion of the line.”
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Meanwhile, Microsoft also discussed how Visual Studio “Orcas” will deliver capabilities that help individuals, teams and the entire IT organization successfully build dynamic applications and solutions on the Microsoft platform. In addition to support for Windows Vista and the 2007 Microsoft Office system, Visual Studio “Orcas” will include several innovative technologies: Microsoft .Net LINQ (Language Integrated Query) makes it easier for programmers to build solutions that analyze and act on information; “Atlas” is the code name for a Web client framework that simplifies AJAX-style development; and “Cider” provides the user interface designer tools for building Windows Presentation Foundation-based applications, the company said.
Somasegar said Microsoft will begin releasing CTPs for Orcas “in the summer/fall time frame.”
Microsoft will distribute the first CTP of Visual Studio Team Edition for Database Professionals at TechEd in June, and it will also be available for download at http://msdn.microsoft.com/vstudio/teamsystem/products/dbpro. The final version of Visual Studio Team Edition for Database Professionals is expected ship by the end of 2006.
Visual Studio Team Edition for Database Professionals will be available to current and future subscribers of Visual Studio 2005 Team Suite with MSDN Premium as part of their subscription. Visual Studio 2005 Team Edition for Database Professionals will also be sold separately, consistent with the other “role-based” products in the Visual Studio Team System family.
“If you have the suite youll get the database version for free,” Somasegar said.
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