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Observers Debate Microsoft's Latest Visual Studio Delay

There are different takes on Monday's announcement that the Team Foundation Server piece of Visual Studio will be pushed back until early next year. Some believe it's just delays-as-usual; others wonder if there's inherently more risk in this piece of the puzzle.

Microsoft's decision to delay the release of Visual Studio Team Foundation Server (TFS) will further postpone corporate deployments, say partners.

In a statement issued Monday, the Redmond, Wash., software giant said it will finish Visual Studio 2005 Release Candidate 1 in September and ship final product on November 7 as planned. It will, however, push back the release of Team Foundation Server until the first quarter of 2006.

Server-based software for team collaboration, TFS is part of Visual Studio 2005 Team System Edition, one of five product lines under the Visual Studio 2005 banner. Team System comprises many components, including a core suite; roles-based editions for software architects, developers and software testers; a Team Test Load Agent for simulating user loads and application performance; and finally, the Team Foundation Server that helps developers manage and track projects.

Microsoft has delayed Visual Studio 2005, code-named "Whidbey," several times since its originally scheduled release date in late 2004.

"For larger developers, I think it is another one of Microsoft's typical disappointments, like leaving out features of [Vista]," said Jeffrey Sherman, president of Warever Computing, Los Angeles. "But for small clients that either don't develop applications themselves or who might typically have only a single developer, it won't make a bit of a difference."

Microsoft tried to soften the blow Monday by announcing that it will provide Beta 3 of Team Foundation Server with Visual Studio 2005, along with a GoLive license that will allow customers to run the server software in production. Additionally, a Microsoft spokeswoman claimed that the roles-based versions of Visual Studio 2005 Team System can run without the foundation server.

Still, several partners said they won't advise their customers to deploy Visual Studio 2005 Team System until all the components are fully baked.

"By the very nature of pre-release and beta software, users can expect changes in the core release that may invalidate the pre-release deployment," said Paul Freeman, president of the Coast Solutions Group, a technology services distributor in Irvine, Calif. "Beta testing and deployment should be limited to lab and training environments, and deployments beyond that environment are at the user's own risk. The fact that Microsoft would suggest [licensing] pre-release software for production environments seems risk-filled for customers and Microsoft alike."

Not everyone agrees about the general risks of using beta 3 software in production, however. Chris Menegay, president of Notion Solutions, a Dallas-based training and consulting firm, said he views TFS of primary concern to development teams. "It won't put [other users] at a huge amount of risk," he said. "Giving us beta 3 with GoLive support will help tremendously, as well as the fact that you will be able to migrate from beta 3 to RTM. I will happily use the beta if there is a migration path to RTM."

And while many developers had been looking forward to having TFS in two months' time, they still will get their hands on the core components of the next major .Net development platform, including the express, standard, professional and team system versions of Visual Studio 2005.

"The delay [of TFS] is slightly disappointing because we are converting our entire design, architect and delivery methodologies over to the Visual Studio Team System framework of plumbing and tools but, honestly, it won't affect us," said Tim Huckaby, president of InterKnowlogy, a Carlsbad, Calif.-based software developer and Microsoft partner. "Microsoft will never ship a product before it's ready again -- the pain of the past is just too damaging."

One analyst said he is not surprised by the delay since each Team System release has fallen behind key Visual Studio 2005 milestones. He expects the delay will push back corporate deployment by another three to six months.

"It confirms what we suspected. Team System has clearly been on a separate schedule from the rest of the product," said Greg DeMichillie, a former Microsoft product manager and analyst at Directions on Microsoft, a newsletter based in Kirkland, Wash. "The GoLive [license] does allow customers to use [team system] in production and provides technical support. But it is a complex product and although I'm sure some of the bleeding-edge customers will go ahead with Beta 3, I think most IT organizations will hold off until the product is really done."

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