Minitab, a creator of statistical analysis and process improvement software, wanted to simplify and accelerate development. It deployed an integrated solution that includes Microsoft Visual Studio 2010 Ultimate, Visual Studio Team Foundation Server 2010, and Visual Studio Lab Management 2010. Now, Minitab can take advantage of tools such as IntelliTrace and Microsoft Visual F# to boost productivity, reduce development and licensing costs, and speed time-to-market for new offerings.Business Needs
Minitab helps global companies gain insight into their business and improve quality by capturing and analyzing corporate data. Universities also rely on software from Minitab to teach statistics. The company’s statistical software, which runs exclusively on the Microsoft platform, offers a blend of easy-to-use interfaces, high performance, and seamless data sharing with Microsoft Office products.
||With IntelliTrace and the profiling tools in Visual Studio 2010 Ultimate, we are saving hours in identifying defects and performance problems.
Manager of Database Development
In 2009, Minitab sought a way to streamline the migration of the company’s business applications. Developers were migrating native code written with C++ to managed code written with the Microsoft Visual C++ development system and the Microsoft Visual C# development tool. “One of our biggest day-to-day challenges is just managing our migration projects because there is so much code that needs to be rewritten,” explains Matt Kowalski, Manager of Database Development at Minitab.
The company also wanted its employees to adopt a consistent tool set. For all software projects, developers primarily used Visual C#, the Microsoft Visual Studio 2008 development system, and Windows Presentation Foundation. However, some developers—especially those who maintain internal databases—used third-party applications from vendors such as Perforce Software to manage builds, check in software, and compare database schemas. The disparate tool set increased licensing costs, contributed to administrative complexity, and impeded collaboration.
Development teams also had no way to capture software-testing workflows. As a result, software issues were not always easy to reproduce, which delayed resolution and time-to-market. In addition, test engineers lacked an easy, cost-effective process for setting up and managing physical and virtual test environments. Employees frequently waited hours or days to get the test environment they needed, which, in turn, slowed development cycles.Solution
In 2009, Minitab learned about Microsoft Visual Studio 2010 Ultimate. Initially, Minitab was interested in the product for its fully integrated support for development with Windows Presentation Foundation and the Microsoft Silverlight browser plug-in. However, other features in Visual Studio 2010 Ultimate quickly captured the company’s interest. For example, the interface is simplified and easier to use. Developers can also use the Schema Compare tool to compare and synchronize target and source schemas in database projects. In addition, test and development engineers can use enhanced profiling tools for debugging such as IntelliTrace to capture and share test run information so that issues are easy to reproduce and resolve.
Other new capabilities in Visual Studio 2010 include the Microsoft Visual F# development tool, which is ideally suited to process the complex math equations that are critical for Minitab Statistical Software. Developers can also use Visual Studio 2010 to develop applications for multiple versions of the Microsoft .NET Framework, including 3.5 and earlier. The product also includes improved IntelliSense technology that can recognize advanced C++ code constructs and conditionally defined macros.
In October 2009, Minitab deployed beta versions of Visual Studio 2010 Ultimate, Microsoft Visual Studio Team Foundation Server 2010, and Microsoft Visual Studio Lab Management 2010. Visual Studio Team Foundation Server 2010 includes tools to facilitate data sharing, project management, and process improvement with software methodologies such as agile software development, which Minitab has used for several years. Employees can also use Microsoft Test Manager 2010 with Visual Studio Lab Management 2010 to set up and manage virtual test environments, manage and record manual tests, and submit bugs with test workflow information to Team Foundation Server.Benefits
By using Visual Studio 2010, Minitab expects to boost productivity, minimize costs, and speed development.Increases Productivity and Speeds Time-to-Market
Today, employees have the tools they need to bring new offerings to market faster. “The added functionality in Visual Studio 2010 will definitely boost productivity and minimize the need for workarounds that can hinder product quality,” says Kowalski. “With IntelliTrace and the profiling tools in Visual Studio 2010 Ultimate, we are saving hours in identifying defects and performance problems. The new IntelliSense is also much more robust, which will certainly speed development.”
The new solution also simplifies project and test management. “We can use Visual Studio Team Foundation Server 2010 to manage software check-in and share test workflows recorded in IntelliTrace files,” Kowalski explains. “With Visual Studio Lab Management 2010, we can also create a virtual server or group of servers based on templates. This self-service model boosts efficiency. Developers and testers can spin up a virtual environment without engaging IT personnel.”Reduces Costs
Greater efficiency means less money spent. “By improving productivity with Visual Studio 2010, we expect our development costs to go down,” Kowalski explains. “Today, employees can create test environments in minutes rather than hours or days.” The company can also use Team Foundation Server to replace some third-party products. “After we move all of our developers to Visual Studio Team Foundation Server 2010 later this year, we expect to reduce our total cost of ownership by having all developers using a consistent tool set,” he says. “We will also reduce resource costs because everyone can submit bugs right from Test Manager 2010.” Facilitates Innovation
Developers can use Visual F# to expedite the creation of sophisticated mathematical algorithms in applications. Minitab is also investigating how it can use Visual Studio 2010 to create Web applications and services for the Windows Azure platform, and by doing so, support its customers in new ways through cloud computing.
For more information about other Microsoft customer successes, please visit:This case study is for informational purposes only. MICROSOFT MAKES NO WARRANTIES, EXPRESS OR IMPLIED, IN THIS SUMMARY.Document published March 2010