Visual Studio adds collaboration

In its pending release of Visual Studio 2005 — code named Whidbey — Microsoft Corp. will branch out beyond its traditional software development portfolio into software testing, architecture, project management and collaboration with its new Team System tools.

Visual Studio 2005 is slated for release this summer.

“This is a move beyond Microsoft’s traditional strengths,” said Greg DeMichellie, senior analyst, developer tools at Kirkland, Wash.-based Directions on Microsoft Inc., an independent research firm that focuses solely on Microsoft. “In the past Microsoft has concentrated on the core part of the development cycle — writing, compiling and debugging the code,” and has left everything else — planning, modeling and testing — to its partners.

In 2002, IBM Corp. bought Rational Software Corp., one of Microsoft Corp.’s biggest software development partners. Rational provides tools for the whole application lifecycle, including modeling and analysis, with the exception of compilers and debuggers.

“Microsoft had to jump into this area with both feet because it didn’t feel that it could rely on Rational anymore to fill this part of its needs,” DeMichellie explained, adding that IBM, with its support of Java and open source software, is in direct competition with Microsoft on the application development front.

Joel Semeniuk, CEO of Imaginet Resources — a software development and consulting firm in Winnipeg — has been beta-testing Visual Studio 2005 and is enthusiastic about Team System.

“[Microsoft] has turned a good software development tool into a good software engineering tool,” he said.

Semeniuk said Team System tools don’t have as many features and might not be of the same calibre as some third-party tools like TestDirector from Mountainview, Calif.-based Mercury Interactive Corp. However, he said the tools add value simply because they are integrated with Visual Studio.

Team System will enable developers who have written a portion of code in Visual Studio to make a test case to ensure the code does what it is supposed to do and doesn’t interfere with code that has already been written. With manual testing, this isn’t possible, he explained.

Semeniuk said that so far, he has developed whole applications on Visual Studio 2005 with success. Nevertheless, his firm will not abandon third- party testing tools because there are cases where Imaginet might need some of the additional functionality.

Directions on Microsoft’s DeMichellie agreed that there is value in the integration of Team System. However, he added, Visual Studio 2005’s testing tools are not nearly as comprehensive as third-party tools specifically designed for testing.

Additionally, he said Visual Studio’s Team System doesn’t do stress testing for anything other than Web applications.

“It can test what happens to a Web Site when it gets 10,000 hits at the same time but not when the system is going to run out of memory,” he explained.

Version control is an area where Microsoft stacks up well against third parties, he noted.

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