Wednesday, August 4, 2010

A Couple of Major Visual Studio Announcements

This week Microsoft is hosting the Visual Studio Live conference in Redmond. This conference is one of those that is fun to get to if you can, but I have unfortunately not been able to attend this time around. Microsoft has chosen this conference as a platform to make some pretty interesting announcements.

Developing Line of Business Applications from Templates

The first major announcement came yesterday when “Visual Studio Lightswitch” was announced. In short, Lightswitch is a Rapid Application Development platform. The marketing states, “Visual Studio Lightswitch enables you to quickly create professional-quality line of business applications regardless of your development skills” and from what I can tell, it definitely does that. While this tool isn’t targeted at developers who like to build code from the ground up, it certainly does make the lives of those who want to quickly build and deploy applications easier.. I could see this as a great prototyping platform, or even as a mechanism to quickly solve specific problems. I’ll play around with the bits and maybe post a few more articles on it here as I get the time.

Test and Lab Management

If you’ve spent any time at all looking at the Application Lifecycle Management (ALM) features of Visual Studio 2010, you have heard about “Test and Lab Management” and are likely excited about it. When Visual Studio 2010 released, the Lab management capabilities were unfortunately not quite ready, and were released in “Release Candidate” form. There are a number of stories and rumors behind this, but the reality is that the team just couldn’t be comfortable with where they were based on the amount of customer feedback that they had received. There was also a lot of confusion around how much this was going to cost organizations to deploy, and how things were going to be licensed. (The idea was you needed the client, the server, and agents for each of the machines deployed, which meant that larger organizations potentially were going to have to make a sizable and serious investment)

The announcement today is that the “RTM” bits for Test and Lab Management will be available by the end of August! The other announcement is that the licensing has been very simplified. The client portion will be available by purchasing either Visual Studio 2010 Ultimate or Visual Studio 2010 Test Professional. The server portion is automatically included with Team Foundation Server, and the agents will NOT require a CAL (basically they are included with your TFS license).

For those of us who’ve deployed Test and Lab Management already, there will be an update package that will upgrade the Release Candidate bits to RTM, but will also include fixes for each of the components (Client, Server, Agent) and the “things” they are packaged with (Team Foundation Server, etc).

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

A Very Interesting “Community-Focused” Project.

As a Microsoft Most Valuable Professional (MVP), I’ve had the opportunity to work with some pretty amazing people over the years, and have always been impressed with how “Community-Focused” this group of people can be.

I was, however, recently blown away by a friend of mine who’s also an MVP, and who I’ve had the pleasure of working with on numerous occasions. Arnie Rowland, who runs a consulting company based in the Pacific Northwest called "Westwood Consulting, Inc.” came up with what I think is a brilliant idea. (More on this in a second, but let me set the stage first)

One of the perks of being awarded the MVP award from Microsoft is you receive special attention from the product teams from time to time. Once in awhile a product team will decide to do something very nice for MVPs, like send some special SWAG, put on a special chat session, or offer an invite to take part in face to face meetings. Sometimes, in conjunction with the marketing teams, they offer SWAG that can be very impressive. Well, this year the Developer Division decided that developer MVPs would receive Not-For-Resale MSDN Subscription vouchers that they could give out any way that they chose. (Since many MVPs spend a fair amount of time in public speaking engagements, offering one as a giveaway for the event is likely what they had in mind). These things retail for just over $12K each, so it was certainly a very generous give-away. Of course it now begs the question, how do you maximize the value of these things and get them to people who could really benefit from them.

Here’s where Arnie comes in. He came up with this great idea, which in a nutshell says, “If you’re an unemployed or underemployed developer, we’ll give you free software and the information you need to use it if you’re willing to use it to help out a non-profit agency --- Oh, and you have to prove that you are willing to treat this seriously by submitting a proposal for the work you’ll do”. Arnie discusses this all in a blog post here: All in all this is an amazing “Win-Win” type project. The un-or-underemployed developer receives over $12K worth of software (there’s more than just the MSDN subscription on the table) and some deserving non-profit organization gets a problem solved!

When I talked to Arnie about this, I realized that I definitely wanted to be involved, so I donated the MSDN subscriptions that I had been given to him for this project. As it turns out several other MVPs have decided to do the same, so this is starting to almost go viral. The guys on the ping show over on MSDN Channel 9 picked it up in a recent episode, and it was also mentioned in a recent MSDN Flash.

So, if you’re reading this and you’re interested in helping out a non-profit organization, head on over to Arnies Blog, and submit an idea. Who knows, you may end up with a very cool pack of software.

Monday, July 19, 2010

It’s been awhile – and Visual Studio Scrum 1.0 is Released!

It has really been a LONG time since I’ve posted here. In my defense, I’ve spent the last year blogging about my dogs and their fight with cancer (See and for more info). We lost Buddy a few weeks back, and Nikki seems to have beat it for now, so we’re a getting back to normal in a lot of ways.

A number of things has happened in my professional life since the last post (Which incidentally, I’m still not happy about, and have since had the need to replace my HP Tablet. Guess which brand I DID NOT buy?) and here they are in no particular order:

  • My product, “EMC Ionix Configuration Analytics Manager”, was sold to VMWare, along with all of the former Configuresoft assets, including a number of my team members. My Product Manager, a couple of key architects and myself stayed behind at EMC and are now working to define a new Business Intelligence Product that is currently being called, “EMC Ionix Infrastructure Insight" or I3..  More on this in future posts, because it’s been an extremely exciting time and we’re really having some fun delving into the depths of the Storage Resource Management (SRM) domain.
  • Due to the fact that the building we had occupied is now the property of VMWare, my team and I have relocated to a new office just a bit Southwest of where we were. My new office has a much better view of Pikes Peak, and given that I mostly work East Coast hours these days, I’m in the office early enough to enjoy the deer and other wildlife that roam through the grounds before most folks get in.
  • I was re-awarded the Microsoft MVP Award (They have retired the “Visual Studio Team System” name, so now I’m a “Visual Studio ALM MVP”) for another year. As I told my lead, I didn’t really deserve it, but they gave it to me, so I’m dedicated to earning it this year.
  • I was able to speak at a number of Visual Studio launch events, most notably the “.NET Forever” event in Stockholm, Sweden. (Thanks Tibi!)
  • EMC announced the acquisition of Greenplum, Inc. If you haven’t heard about Greenplum, you might want to read up on them. This is definitely a major game changer in the world of Cloud Computing. I really can’t say much at this point about the acquisition, but don’t be surprised if you start seeing a lot more “Massively Scalable Data Warehouse” type posts here in the future.
  • This may be the first year since the mid 90’s that I have not flown enough to maintain top-tier status on my airline of choice (American Airlines). I’m not yet sure how I feel about this.

Anyway, I think that’s enough of that.

On to the real reason behind this post.

Today marks an important day for developers who practice agile development. Microsoft has release version 1.0 of the Visual Studio Scrum template and guidance. The reason that this is an exciting and important announcement is that Microsoft has finally seen fit to release a template that can be used with Visual Studio and Team Foundation Server out of the box! (This is a point of debate for many people I know, but I’ve always seen the existing MSF guidance as a starting point that must be customized. Now we have a solution that is good to go from the first install!).

This template was developed from the start by Microsoft, who engaged with some very well-known heavy hitters in the scrum community. This means that the template and guidance provided is not something that won’t hold up to real world development, but rather has been vetted by those who live and breathe Scrum on a daily basis.

Check it out!