At the high end is Visual Studio Team System, which comes with several tools, that cover the whole project lifecycle. There are tools for system design, unit testing, web testing, code coverage, profiling, code analysis and so on, all integrated with the development environment. Visual Studio Team System itself comes in four editions, for architects, developers, and testers, which contain only a subset of those tools, and Visual Studio Team Suite, which contains all of them.
Teams that work with Visual Studio Team System can also install a server product, Visual Studio Team System Foundation Server, that integrates all the tools with workflow and source control. The server product will be released next year.
These new products are able to improve the development process considerably, but mind you, there is a learning curve to be mastered here. I have tried to install the beta version of foundation server. It is a bad sign that you need a setup manual to do that. Still, despite using the setup manual, after several hours of installing, my setup just failed with an error number (not even a message). And from what I am reading, configuring the server after installation is no trivial task either.
Realistically, if these new products are supposed to have a good share of the market, Microsoft will have to rely on experts - experts that know how to install and the server, how to configure it for your development process, how to make the most out of the various tools, and how to make sure this thing is used throughout the whole project lifecycle.
Now, I am a Microsoft Certified Partner and Independent Software Vendor, and I have experience with being in charge of a development process and consulting on development processes. So I think I am just the kind of person who could become such an expert and help Microsoft introduce this new product into the market. Surely, Microsoft will leverage their partner infrastructure to do just that?
Apparently, this is not the case. I phoned the partner hotline, and they told me that partners will only have access to the professional edition of Visual Studio. No team foundation server, no tools for architecture, hey, not even unit tests. So I thought the partner hotline must be wrong about this and I contacted my ISV buddy in Redmond. Here is the official statement I received from Microsoft today:
Visual Studio and MSDN Subscriptions are provided by the Microsoft Partner Program as a benefit of MSPP membership.
Prior to the launch of VS2005, MSDN Universal was provided to all members, from Empower through to Certified and Gold Certified members.
As we worked with the Microsoft Partner Program to revise the benefits for Visual Studio 2005, our goal was to provide every partner with a comparable or better benefit than they receive currently. Here is how these benefits have been revised to meet this goal:
- Partners at the Gold Certified Partner level will receive the enhanced version of Microsoft(r) Visual Studio(r) 2005 Team Edition for Software Developers with MSDN(r) Premium Subscription. As before, this will include 10 MSDN licenses.
- Partners at the Gold level and in the ISV or Custom Developer Solutions Competency will see an increase of 25 MSDN licenses with the enhanced version of Microsoft(r) Visual Studio(r) 2005 Team Edition for Software Developers with MSDN(r) Premium Subscription
- Partners at the Certified Partner level will receive the new Microsoft(r) Visual Studio(r) 2005 Professional Edition with MSDN(r) Premium Subscription. As before, this will include 5 MSDN licenses.
- Empower partners will receive the new Microsoft(r) Visual Studio(r) 2005 Professional Edition with MSDN(r) Premium Subscription. As before, this will include 5 MSDN licenses.
I think this is a very bad decision from Microsoft. Partners like myself will not have the chance to become experts on Visual Studio Team System. Big projects will not be able to introduce Visual Studio Team System without experts. If Microsoft does not rethink this decision, I am afraid that Visual Studio Team System will fail.