Microsoft's Acquisition of devBiz Promises Improved Application Lifecycle Management for Development Organizations
March 26, 2007
Cross-browser Web access to Microsoft Visual Studio Team System enables greater participation, streamlined collaboration.

REDMOND, Wash., March 26, 2007 – On the stage at VSLive! San Francisco, Microsoft today celebrated the 10-year anniversary of Microsoft Visual Studio, the company’s flagship line of developer tools for customers of all stripes, from novice programmers to experienced enterprise development teams. As part of the keynote address, Microsoft announced the acquisition of devBiz Business Solutions, a company well known for its software development tools and components for professional .NET developers.

The announcement has the biggest impact for users of Microsoft Visual Studio 2005 Team System (VSTS), Microsoft’s integrated software development platform for building mission-critical applications. VSTS extends the benefits of Visual Studio from the developer to the entire development team by delivering tools for software architects, developers, testers and project managers.

For insight into what today’s announcement means for development organizations using VSTS, PressPass turned to Brian Harry, Distinguished Engineer, Visual Studio Team System.

PressPass: Can you explain what the acquisition of devBiz Business Solutions – especially TeamPlain – means for Visual Studio Team System Users?

Harry: This is great news for Visual Studio Team System (VSTS) customers. It really comes down to improving the overall usability of the product and bringing more people into the application development lifecycle. One of the most important aspects of VSTS is that it brings the power of Visual Studio to the entire development team, providing tools for software architects, database professionals, testers and project managers. However, there are countless other individuals who have indirect roles in the development cycle that don’t necessarily require the full functionality of Visual Studio; they just need access to one piece of it: Team Foundation Server (TFS). That’s why when we originally released VSTS we provided an add-on to Visual Studio 2005 called Team Explorer that enabled users to just access TFS. 

Customers have been telling us, though, that they want a variety of ways to access TFS. In fact, this has been one of the most consistent pieces of feedback we’ve had about the product. This is where devBiz Business Solutions comes in. devBiz has a great reputation in the industry for providing a number of solutions and extensions for VSTS, with the primary focus on making access to TFS easier for non-users of Visual Studio 2005. One of the company’s primary solutions is called TeamPlain Web Access for Team System, which helps users to manage work items and share documents, access automated build and project management, and view report and source-control repositories – all from a Web interface. With this acquisition, we can now offer both Windows and Web clients for TFS, making it that much easier for users to participate in the development lifecycle.  In addition, the TeamPlain client provides cross-browser access to a core subset of functionality within TFS, making it even more appealing to a broader set of users. With Team Explorer, this new acquisition and third-party solutions such as “TeamPrise,” we can also now offer cross-platform access to Team Foundation Server for any usage scenario.

As part of this acquisition, we are now inviting users of VSTS to download the current version of TeamPlain for free from the devBiz Web site so that they can start using it immediately. Of course, all users will still require a TFS CAL. Within the next several months, we will also release an updated version of TeamPlain as part of the Microsoft Visual Studio 2005 Team Foundation Server Power Tool and we will be offering support through Microsoft Product Support and MSDN Forums.

 PressPass: What does this mean from an application lifecycle-management perspective? Does it make it easier?

Harry: One of the biggest challenges with application lifecycle management is actually delivering a solution that meets the needs of all of the different people involved in the development process, including business, development and operations teams. Many times these needs change depending on the organization and they often even vary from project to project. VSTS already does a great job of helping organizations handle this by providing a productive, integrated, and extensible software lifecycle tool that reduces the complexity of development and facilitates better communication and collaboration throughout the entire process. For instance, TFS brings together the most critical aspects of software development, such as version control, work item tracking and reporting, into a single, secure platform which really helps teams work together more effectively. Projects managed by Team Foundation Server also benefit from integrated guidance – both custom-defined and industry-recognized best-practices – to ensure predictable, successful results.

Providing seamless Web access across multiple platforms to TFS greatly extends these capabilities.  Now it’s even easier for anyone involved in custom application development to access information within TFS.  For example, an application development manager or business analysts can now access specific reports within TFS, track and edit work items, view documentation on test procedures and overview the methodologies teams are utilizing, all from a Web client without the need of installing a local tool. 

But this is not the only benefit. Users of TFS also have another great tool to help them get their jobs done, since they now have access to a subset of core functionality of the Team Explorer within a Web tool.  Consider, for instance what happens when a lead developer is out of the office, and a request is made to review some code before it is checked in. Previously, this developer would have needed Team Explorer installed on the machine they were using. Now, they can access TFS through a simple internet connection – safely and securely – reviewing code, updating work items or even accessing core components of their source control systems, such as comparing changesets. 

PressPass: You’ve mentioned security multiple times. Are there any security implications?

Harry: Security is certainly critical, not only in terms of developing quality and secure applications, but ensuring the IP of customers is fully protected. TFS provides this through a number of mechanisms, including assisting customers to identify users who require access to information within TFS and enabling them to block users who don’t. This security model also enables administrators to get very granular about which users have access to what information – at the server level – ensuring all relevant IP and information can be fully protected.  This security model is fully supported with the TeamPlain Web client. Moreover, users of the Web client will not be able to access any business-critical information, such as source code, work items and reports that they didn’t have access to before. The TeamPlain client also supports Windows Integrated Authentication and Forms Based authentication configurations, and requires no applets, or ActiveX components. There isn’t even anything to install on users’ computers.

 PressPass: What are your plans around some of devBiz Business Solutions’ other tools, such as the VS2003 plug-in or their Customer Connect tool?

Harry: devBiz provides a number of other solutions currently in beta under the TeamPlain brand, including an add-on to Visual Studio 2003 to enable it to access TFS, and a product called TeamPlain Customer Connect, which enables users to participate in an organization's internal software development lifecycle through a public help desk application or a trouble ticket system. We are evaluating these products and may decide in the future to integrate them into existing Microsoft products.

 PressPass: Can you tell us what’s next for Visual Studio Team System?

Harry: The next major release of Visual Studio Team System (VSTS), code-named “Rosario,” will be released following our “Orcas” release. This is a very exciting new release for us, since we are making significant investments to help software and business teams collaborate more effectively, ensure applications meet the quality bar for delivery, and improve team productivity during application development. We will be talking about this in more detail in the coming months.

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