A small, grass-roots development effort could presage better connections between Microsoft and the open-source community.
Working in their free time, two Australian software developers are creating a software plug-in to tie Microsoft's Visual Studio Team System into the open-source Eclipse environment. David Lemphers, a developer evangelist at Microsoft Australia, and Joe Sango, a senior developer at TeamForce, a software house in Victoria, Australia, last week set up shop on Sourceforge.net, an open-source Web site that hosts collaborative software projects. The two, who are working on the project independently of their jobs, are inviting in other developers and hope to have working software available in the near future.
Visual Studio 2005 Team System, which is an adjunct to Microsoft's Visual Studio development environment, is a software lifecycle-management tool. It supports the coordination of source code produced by multiple programmers working on a single project, and enables them to track bugs and profile their software. It also helps managers monitor a project's progress. Microsoft Monday rolled out beta versions of both Visual Studio packages.
Eclipse is an open-source platform that's become the basis for integrated development environments in Java, C++, and other languages. As Eclipse has become increasingly popular, third-party developers and commercial vendors have begun to field numerous "plug ins," through which new features can be added into Eclipse.
That's precisely what the Lemphers and Sango are planning, intending to create a suite of plug-ins that will enable Eclipse users to take advantage of the source-code control and work-item tracking features of Team System.
"The great thing about the idea of this plug-in is not so much what .NET developers can gain from using Eclipse, although it will give them an alternative development environment to work with, but more for what [software] developers that use Eclipse can gain," Sango said in an e-mail interview.
A big advantage of the planned plug-in is they will make Team System features available to programmers working in Java or C++. Currently, Visual Studio users must stick with Microsoft's so-called .NET programming languages: Visual Basic, Visual C++, Visual C#, and Visual J#.
"Imagine this from a project manager's perspective," Sango said. "You have projects coming up that utilize Java [or] J2EE technology. How good would it be to utilize work-item tracking functionality? It would give the project-management side a real kick! Development progress is tracked and could even be effectively aggregated and reported on, depending on the toolset available. That's just one example of how these Eclipse plug-ins could utilize [Team System] functionality."
One issue Sango and Lemphers will have to resolve is how they'll handle Team Foundation Server, which is the virtual-machine on which the features of Team System reside. "The plan is to have the plug-in free for download by the community," Sango said. "But we have some decisions to make around how Team Foundation Server will be distributed to the masses."