Rick LaPlante, Microsoft's general manager of Visual Studio 2005 Team System (VSTS), talks about Team Foundation Server, a key component of VSTS that began shipping early this year. Although Microsoft shipped the other components of Visual Studio 2005 last November, it delayed the release of Team Foundation Server, a server-based product that supports integrated version control, reporting, work item tracking, process guidance and automated build capabilities.
Excerpts from the interview with LaPlante follow:
What does the release of Team Foundation Server signify in terms of Microsoft's approach to developer tools?
I spent the last five years with more than 200 customers, CIOs and senior application development and IT management staff trying to understand what their pain points are. Partnering with the business is communication, it is visibility, it is how the business can get a sense of what is going on in the engineering process. They describe it to me as 70 percent or 80 percent of the budget is spent keeping the lights on and 20 percent is spent doing the new stuff. I heard over and over again ... this view of [IT being seen as] not being responsive to the business because we look at big projects that take long periods of time. Developers are stream-of-consciousness people, and a lot of these [competing] tools interrupted that flow. [Developers] write the code to solve that problem, and when a process says you do reporting or [other things] that break that flow of consciousness, they don't do that. They revolt.
We said, "We're going to put all the value of data collection behind the scenes. When you do a build, we're going to squirrel away these tests that were done on it." That notion of having a data warehouse and then having a set of collectors that ... squirrel away data was a huge piece of this. I think about Team Foundation Server as being the data warehouse and the role-based [versions of VSTS] as being those collectors.
Microsoft originally spoke about TFS supporting teams as large as 500 per server but has recently alluded to being able to support larger teams. How high do you see TFS scaling?
It is hard to talk about scale numbers without talking about hardware. We're seeing on a big box, like an eight-way box, peak loads of over 3,600 [users] on a single server. I think that is quite conservative. We took the load profile of Microsoft's engineering teams and recorded the way we used the server. If those [users] don't use it as hard-core as our developers do, then those numbers will go up. Internally, we are up to about 700 people on a single server.
Microsoft seems to be pushing enterprise project management with TFS. How does TFS work with Microsoft Project, and will you increase the integration between Project Server and TFS in the future?
Today, the real chasm that people have is developers having to do things twice. They go implement the functionality and they check it in and mark it off. Then they have to go to the Project system and say, "I am done." We allow you to retain the relationship between an element in Project and anything in our work-tracking system. Any change in the [TFS] work-tracking system is immediately reflected in Project.
We don't work today with Project server out of the box, although we have some solution kits you can download. IT managers want time tracking in Visual Studio. They want to know how much time people spent on a task, and they want it to automatically populate in Project. Our commitment is [to] a much deeper level of integration.
Last year, Microsoft spoke at EclipseCon about how VS 2005 could be extended. Are you speaking this year?
What is your take on what the quick growth of Eclipse means to the integrated development environment market overall? I don't believe we are speaking at EclipseCon, because we have [a commitment at another show]. I think people are using Eclipse because it is a very good IDE, and it is decreasing their costs for developing software. Their user experience and component model are very, very good.
I also think it is a complete knock-off of Visual Studio. People choose to do plug-ins to VS because it is a built-in market. There are 6 million professional developers they can sell to.