Microsoft adds more features to its cloud-hosted Team Foundation Service

Microsoft is adding a new build service to its preview version of its Windows-Azure-hosted version of its application lifecycle management tool.
Written by Mary Jo Foley, Senior Contributing Editor

Microsoft is continuing to add more features to the Windows Azure-hosted version of its Team Foundation Service.

Microsoft first previewed plans for a cloud-based version of its Team Foundation Server -- its source-control and software-development-project-tracking tool -- a year ago. The company made available a technical preview of Team Foundation Service at the Build conference in September 2011. Since then, Microsoft has continued to add new features and updates to the code.

On March 27 at the VS Live conference in Las Vegas, Microsoft is announcing that a new build service has been added to the Team Foundation Service. From a blog post from Brian Harry, a Microsoft Technical Fellow in charge of Team Foundation Server:

"From the beginning with tfspreview, you’ve been able to do builds, but – you had to install, manage, patch, etc the build machines yourself. With this new service, we’ve made it possible to skip that and just use a pool of build machines that we manage in the cloud (though you can still install and manage build machines if you like). And, of course, you can do more than just build – like with on-premises TFS, you can run a default workflow that includes, compilation, testing, etc or you can create a custom workflow that does whatever you like."

Microsoft officials said the new build service will be enabled on all new and existing Team Foundation Service accounts by early afternoon on March 27.

"We've been evolving from a boxed product (Team Foundation Server) to a services organization," said Harry during a call I had with him yesterday. "We're on a rapid cadence of doing new stuff. Every few weeks we are getting more features."

Originally, the Team Foundation Service unit was updating the cloud version every four months, said Harry. Currently, it's every three weeks.

The Team Foundation Service is still considered a preview. "At some point" it will become a beta, Harry said. Currently, there's no SharePoint integration or lab integration, and no charge-back mechanism, but Microsoft nonetheless has authorized the service's use for production work. Microsoft officials declined to say when they expected to move to the beta phase or share a target as to when they expect to deliver the 1.0 version of Team Foundation Service.

Microsoft's top brass has said that Redmond's goal is to offer a cloud version of almost every, if not every, on-premises Microsoft product. But that's not the only reason the company is moving its ALM product to the cloud, Harry said.

"It easier to get going, especially if you have an ad hoc distributed team" using the service as opposed to the server, Harry said. For enterprises that are equipped to manage their own servers, this is not a huge issue. But Team Foundation Service makes more sense for SMBs who need high reliability management worldwide, he said.

Microsoft officials also shared a bit of new Visual Studio 11 information at VS Live today. While still not sharing a ship target or final name for the next version of its tool suite (which is largely expected to be known as Visual Studio 2012), the Softies did say they plan to continue to provide feature pack updates to Visual Studio Ultimate users.

The first Ultimate Feature Pack will include enhancements to IntelliTrace and improvements in SharePoint load and unit testing, Microsoft officials said. They declined to say when this first feature pack is likely to be available or how many feature packs Microsoft intends to release for the next Visual Studio.

Microsoft delivered a beta of Visual Studio 11 in late February 2012.

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