Recap CinNug meeting 1/18/2005

CinNug - http://www.cinnug.com/.

This was a Microsoft product pitch for Team System by Alex Lowe who runs with the title Developer Evangelist. He made a point of apologizing for his title at the beginning.

To be released in the second half of the year sometime, this solution includes a Team Server and three possible client options, Team Architect, Team Developer and Team Test. Each offers extensions to Visual Studio 2005 which is due for release in the middle of the year.

The target market is the enterprise development team so cost will be high. Alex kept comparing it with the Rational target market. He mentioned that MS would beat their price by 20% but that we should not do a feature for feature comparison since they are very different products. MSDN Universal owners will have a license for one of the three client options but would have to by Team Server anyway. It is not clear which of the client features require Team Server to operate.

The idea behind this solution is to establish a standard framework from which teams can manage their projects. Apparently MS is starting to use the product internally but so little of it is working at the moment there is little internal feedback. It is their intention to completely adopt this development framework within the next 5 years.

Disclaimer 1: I have never used Whidbey or Team System so this write-up is probably filled with assumptions. I am copying Alex so he can correct us if he feels like it.

Disclaimer 2: I am also a long time java developer with perhaps 4 months of full time .Net work under my belt so please forgive any ignorance based bias. With years of VC++ and ASP development I have some background but java swept me off my feet many years ago.

So into the new features of Team System.

Team Architect contains a design diagramming tool replacing the use of Visio for class diagrams. Alex talked about the MS's preference for Domain Specific Languages (DSL) as opposed to the standards based UML syntax. He explained that customers are more likely to understand a language that uses the terms and shapes that they are familiar with.

The demo included a class diagram which showed up in non-UML format. Though we only saw two classes, one that inherited from the other, the inheritance arrow was UML like but the class boxes had rounded corners and contained non-UML sections and verbiage. I am all in favor of DSL's when they best represent the subject you are communicating but developers understand classes and I would wager most understand or at least have seen UML so why go non-standard for class diagrams?

The class diagramming tool included two way dynamic code synchronization so we you add to your diagram the code is being written and as you edit your code the diagram is being updated.

To my mind the biggest problem with class diagrams of larger systems is complexity so the selling points of a class diagramming tool should be the filters that can be applied to simplify the representation. Unfortunately we didn't see any of that.

Enhancements to VSS improve performance, scalability and offer new features like "shelving" which allows you to check your code into a new branch so that you don't pollute the main branch with your failing tests until you are ready. Since VSS already supported branching I assume all they have done is to make it easier to do and given it a fancy name.

Most significant improvement to VSS is that you can integrate with it remotely over HTTP so it can finally be used outside a LAN. While I love CVS, it would be better if we could use a source control system that integrated into VS.

Alex presented the unit test features that allow you to select the classes and methods to create tests for. Team Developer produced NUnit like code to exercise them. Not just test stubs but completed methods with some best guess code in them. This months .Net Developers Journal discusses the same feature with the similar screen shots in Whidbey which will be Visual Studio 2005 so I presume that there is some overlap in these products.

Notice I said "NUnit like". Microsoft has changed the "attributes" that you use to tag the classes and methods that are exercised as tests. NUnit uses "TestFixture" and "Test" but the new MS unit test integration uses "TestClass" and "TestMethod". I view this as a change in standard names that are out in the industry and is completely untenable.

Imagine a 100 developer team with 1000's of NUnit tests thinking about migrating to VS.Net 2005. I would lay money of the fact that no admin is going upgrade 100 developer machines in a weekend, the risk would be enormous. So as desktops are upgraded they become unable to run the product test suite. Alex mentioned that a tool would be provided to convert all your existing test cases but you are still leaving a portion of your developer community out of the testing process until they migration is complete.

Code attributes were invented as a way to abstract the code location from class and method names. This can be a fine idea if one wants that abstraction. MS has ignored the industry standard names and is forcing developer shops to build repositories of tests that are dependent on Microsoft testing tools. Choosing to use these new unit test tools is as bad an idea as choosing .Net as a cross platform development strategy. I see myself continuing to use TestDriven as my VS integrated NUnit framework.

The demonstration of test automation went pretty smoothly but I missed asking one question. When Alex entered into the test creation steps a new VS like window opened up with a new view layout targeted on test management, I believe Alex even called it a "Test Manager". From this new "Test Manager" Alex was able to run the tests and we saw the sample test being scheduled, we waited a little and then it was in run state and finally the red/green bar appeared. Alex then exited this new window to get back to the code.

This UI will impact the way test first developers work because it introduces a time and complexity barrier between your fingers in the code and the red/green bar of feedback. This will reduce the number of times tests get run which is contrary to the goals of test first development.

One of the major reasons that JUnit, NUnit and all the other XUnit frameworks work so well is that they are ultra simple to use. With IDE integration the single click to run a test is a really important feature. I think MS missed the boat on this one.

By the way Alex, you mentioned that test first required writing tests before the code. You should rephrase that as "writing the tests while writing the code". The process requires that a single, simple test is written before code is written and when the test passes, another is written. Think really small cycles like 60 seconds or so.

Team System has an integrated build and deploy process. Not much was said about it but a short demo showed the creation of a diagram that you can add IIS server definitions to, then you can drag your Web Projects into your diagram to deploy them.

Since best practice suggests isolating your build and deploy tools from your IDE this may not be a good solution. However, I didn't ask the question, and Alex didn't say whether the build/deploy tools could or could not be used from outside the IDE or whether an IDE deployment/license would be necessary to run them. It strikes me as insane to require a VS IDE on a build server. We need nant integration please. Then we can plug-in it into our CruiseControl.Net environment without a care in the world.

When you create a project you have the option to select a "profile" which is allows you to chose MSF Agile methodology (the only one available at the moment) which sets up your project with the "standard set of documentation required". I think they missed the point of agile if they think it requires any documentation. Anyway, I guess we can say that they are thinking about the concept anyway. Alex also mentioned that we will be able to set out own standard profiles to help with company standardization.

Alex admitted that the product was pretty shaky but promised performance improvements before its release date. Advertised release dates are in question and Team System will probably be released after the VS 2005 which it is targeted to integrate with.

Team System allows us to integrate the management of design, source code control, testing and deployment as well as bug tracking and reporting. This is a really good thing for development teams.

The architecture of Team System appears to be completely MS centric which could work for pure MS shops. Alex even mentioned that Team Server only works with the packaged SQL server and they have already received feedback from Oracle shops about having to support another database.

I look forward to trying it out when it is available.

Thanks to Alex for a good presentation.

Additional References

Microsoft product page


The .Net Developer Journal story on Team Developer:


If you have a subscription you can see the story on Team Test: