Kass: Microsoft Sharpens Vision

Q&A: The company is tuning its application life-cycle plans and closing in on IBM Rational, says Andrew Kass, a general manager working on the Visual Studio Team System product line.

Andrew Kass is a general manager in the Microsoft Developer Division who has been in charge of developing the companys Visual Studio Team System product line for about a year. Kass, formerly senior vice president of product development at S1, replaced Rick LaPlante, who had envisioned Microsoft creating a team development product and who handpicked Kass to replace him and carry out that vision. In his first press interview since joining Microsoft, Kass told Senior Editor Darryl K. Taft his goals for the Redmond, Wash., company.

What would you say your vision is for application lifecycle management?

I think that were putting together a vision for ALM, but were putting together an even broader vision for connecting the whole IT life cycle through the enterprise—including things like planning, portfolio management and business impact—and out through the Systems Center deployment and management.

So do you see IBM Rational as your primary competitor?

Actually, our primary competitor is people who say, "We just use Visual SourceSafe and we dont understand this whole life cycle thing." But [among] people who are using tools, its generally Rational. There are a number of other vendors that have sets of tools, and we run into those guys, but none of them are really as fleshed out as the Rational line.

What do you think of IBM Rationals Jazz?

Its hard for me … to give a really meaningful answer because right now its still kind of "demoware." But what do I think of the concept? I think [IBM Rational] woke up and they saw Team System that we released in 2005 and said, "Holy cow, we need to update this stuff that weve been sitting on as a cash cow since 2003. We cant have all these multiple, different, separate databases that dont talk to each other anymore; we need some innovation."

/zimages/1/28571.gifIBMs partners are working on Rational integration. Click here to read more.

Weve seen a bunch of the demos that theyve given, and from the screen shots weve seen, we said, "Oh, well, they copied Team Explorer here, and theyve clearly taken a lot of our ideas." ... I think that its great news for them and their customers. I think its definitely a much more compelling solution than what theyve had in the past.

Well, let me remind you that youre still the underdog and youve got a lot of share to gain.

But for me thats a fun place to be because it gets me jazzed up and it gets the team excited. Now we see [IBM Rational] trying to move, but were the ones who feel the passion and the need. We are the underdog, but if I were to be an underdog anywhere, it would be here at this company with the kind of resources and commitment that were putting into this area. And I look at the vision that we have and the assets that we can bring to bear on this problem besides what were doing in Team System. We have this little product called Visio thats only the single-most-used product in the world for modeling.

Im actually enthusiastic that IBMs moving in this direction because I was worried that my team might look at them as so bad that we dont have any competition. I want the team to see that weve got a horse race. A lot of the stuff [IBM Rational has] demod looks really similar to what weve already shipped. In other ways, they have pieces we dont have. But I know exactly what those are, and were moving pretty darn fast.

How far along would you say you are, in terms of the vision Microsoft set out for Visual Studio Team System?

Honestly, we released Version 1 a year and some months ago. And when I look at it, I say if this was easy to do, somebody wouldve done it. I think weve got a long way to go. We started making some fantastic inroads. I see teams at Microsoft using it. And as much as we like to "dogfood" our own stuff, were also the most skeptical customers of any. But people are starting to buy in and see how this stuff is useful, not just in terms of productivity but in terms of changing the way developers do things.

So I think weve started to make some significant progress towards that vision, but when I look at the goal of transparent integration across the whole life cycle … and things like operations and management, that all should happen without the developer involved. The ultimate vision is you build an application with Team System, and its manageable, it automatically understands things like high availability and scale-out, [and] it can dynamically configure itself to the environment youre putting it in.

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