NSERC becomes early adopter of Team Foundation Server

TORONTO — A month after Microsoft Corp. made parts of its workflow collaboration engine for Visual Studio 2005 available to developers, Microsoft Canada on Tuesday announced the availability of an evaluation version of Team Foundation Server to Microsoft Developer Network (MSDN) subscribers.

The Evaluation Version is valid for 180 days and supports workgroups of five or more. A workgroup version for five users has been available for download since March 17. Microsoft said the Standard Edition of Team Foundation Server will be available to customers on May 1st and costs approximately $7,000, depending on the customer’s volume licensing agreement with Microsoft.

Team Foundation Server is a development tool that allows IT and business executives to collaborate on application development throughout the entire software lifecycle. The tool also features a reporting and auditing tool called the Software Engineering Institute’s Capability Maturity Model (CMMI) that allows users to collect information for reports required by industry regulations such as Bill 198 in Canada.

Microsoft Canada made the announcement to developers attending its annual Visual Studio Developer Conference in Toronto Tuesday. Jeff Zado, senior product manager of development tools at Microsoft Canada, said businesses want a seamless integrated portfolio of applications.

“This puts a burden on developers to integrate applications seamlessly,” said Zado, adding that Microsoft BizTalk server can help them do that by automating manual processes.

David Wu, application design analyst at government research granting body Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC), said Team Foundation Server helps improve communication between business executives and IT managers.

“We don’t speak the same language,” said Wu, who has been involved with the implementation of a Web site that allows NSERC to track its grants to universities.

NSERC enlisted the help of Toronto-based consulting firm ObjectSharp three years ago to help it design and implement the site. The site was originally developed using Visual Studio 2003 but was later migrated onto Visual Studio 2005.

Barry Gervin, principal consultant at ObjectSharp, said Team Foundation Server offers customers like NSERC a more affordable alternative to link the suite of Microsoft applications such as SQL Server Database, SharePoint and Visual Studio.

“Microsoft brings applications together as one package,” said Gervin. “Licensing for a developer could range between $25,000 to $50,000.”

ObjectSharp helps its customers, which include development groups within large organizations like NSERC and independent software vendors, adopt new technologies like Team Foundation Server.

At Tuesday’s keynote, which kicked off this year’s VSLive, Jerome Carron, senior development evangelist at Microsoft Canada, demoed Team Foundation Server running in Microsoft Office Excel. There, developers can create cubes of information such as a work item that they can analyze by dropping it into a cell to reveal more information.

“They can see what’s active and what’s complete,” said Carron, adding Team Foundation Server is also integrated with Microsoft Project, which allows project managers to reassign or redirect work to developers.

NSERC’s Wu said before using Team Foundation Server, he didn’t know how many lines of code his development team had written.

“I can now tell how much code they are writing out,” said Wu. “I can crank out 50 tasks and know how long it took to write them.”

Wu added the software also allows him to test the code and send a report to his manager in PDF format.

The ability to test the code throughout the software lifecycle allows developers to approach development, and in particular, security, from a holistic standpoint instead of an afterthought.

“Security has to be thought of throughout the software development lifecycle,” said Microsoft Canada’s Zado.

Compliance and security concerns aside, customers also are faced with an “explosion of data,” said Zado.

“With the data explosion, we need to figure out how to take the complex data and give users what they want,” he said.

Developers can help customers better manage their data with WinFX, which includes Windows Presentation Foundation (WPF), Windows Communication Foundation (WCF) and Windows Workflow Foundation (WWF). WCF provides a unified communication platform for disparate applications while WPF allows for rich graphics across numerous devices. WinFX is currently available as part of Microsoft’s Community Technology Preview program to get feedback from the developer community and will be included in Microsoft’s upcoming Vista release. Developers can leverage WinFX on Windows XP and Windows Server 2003 platforms and then migrate it over to Vista later.

Team Foundation Server also gives developers the ability to write code for applications based on different devices such as PDAs and Smartphones. When users select a Smartphone project type, for example, a graphical representation of the device appears on their screen so they can see exactly how the application will look. The software then allows them to deploy code down to the connected Smartphone through an emulator.

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