Microsoft ALM server online this week

Saint Patrick's Day was the lucky day for developers awaiting Microsoft's ALM (application lifecycle management) server.

Microsoft formally announced at the SD West 2006 conference that Friday, March 17, was the release-to-manufacturing date for its long-awaited collaboration server for ALM, officially known as Visual Studio 2005 Team Foundation Server.

The date represents when Microsoft sends the software to be pressed at the factory. The product is expected to be available for download on MSDN (Microsoft Developer Network) in a few days.

"This is a long time coming for us, but we're very excited to be finally making the server available," said Rick LaPlante, general manager of Visual Studio Team System at Microsoft. Team System features client ALM components, which shipped this in November.

Several in the room applauded LaPlante's announcement. Team Foundation Server serves as a data warehouse for collaboration in software development projects. Microsoft's ALM platform was developed in recognition that development involves many persons and roles, LaPlante said.

"There are very few teams of one and even then, that person isn't just a developer," but also is a project manager, architect or is serving other roles as well, LaPlante said.

But an attendee at the conference found a problem with Team Foundation Server, although he likes the product.

"Our problem is that we love the idea of automated builds, but we don't want to use their source control [system] because some of our organization doesn't use [a] Microsoft compiler for building, so it doesn't make sense for them to use Microsoft source control," said Steve Grubbs, senior design engineer at SAIC. The company develops port security applications and does government contracting.

"[Development] in our organization is done on different platforms, so it's hard to tell a Unix guy to use this Microsoft source control system," Grubbs said.

LaPlante suggested mirroring between source code control systems as a remedy.

For a future version of Team Foundation Server, Microsoft is considering adding version control functionality that keeps track of the database configuration used when a database application was developed. "What people really want to do is they want to basically have a version strategy around the database," LaPlante said. Microsoft also plans to add unit testing of C++ into the next release of its ALM platform.

Team Foundation Server uses Web services to communicate back and forth with Team System clients. Users also will be able to use Microsoft's Windows Workflow Foundation technology to trigger a software build in Team Foundation Server.

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