Microsoft ALM platform extended to bridge gap

Microsoft is expanding its ALM (application lifecycle management) platform on Wednesday with new tools aiming to bridge a disconnect between database developers and administrators.

The company will announce Visual Studio Team Edition for Database Professionals, a new addition to the Visual Studio 2005 Team System ALM product line. Available as a Community Technology Preview at the TechEd 2006 conference in Boston the week of June 11, Team System for Database Professionals features tools for collaboration in building data driven-applications, Microsoft said.

With the product, Microsoft is attempting to bridge a disconnect between people building applications and people maintaining databases, said Matt Nunn, senior product manager for Visual Studio Team System.

The product provides a foundation for change management of a database schema, he said. "What that means is we're talking about taking the schema of a database ... and being able to take it off-line and place it under version control and manage all the changes that happen to it away from production," Nunn said.

Changes made to the database by database administrators will be known to the development organization, saving software developers from building against an obsolete database, he said.

Featured is a test infrastructure for testing database objects and an interface to write tests in the T-SQL language. A tool called Data Generator enables building of tests that mimic a production system. Refactoring, meanwhile, provides for cascading of schema changes throughout a database.

The Schema Compare feature enables writing of scripts to update the schema of the target database to match the source database. Another feature, called Data Compare, serves the same purpose for data in the source and target databases. A new T-SQL editor also is included.

"The big thing with [Visual Studio Team System for Database Professionals] is we're finally bringing [Visual] Studio to the database developers so that they're an equal member of the team," said Richard Campbell, an early user of the product and president of Campbell and Associates, a consulting firm that works with developers.

"I think it's going to make a huge difference to us," Campbell said. Modifications to the database will be included with code changes in the application lifecycle, he said.

A final, shipping version of the product is due by the end of the year. The product is expected to carry an estimated retail price of US$5,469 and also will be available as part of MSDN (Microsoft Developer Network) subscriptions. Microsoft previously has offered role-based products for software architects, developers and testers as part of the Team System family.

In addition to being available at TechEd, the CTP of Visual Studio Team Edition for Database Professionals also will be available through MSDN (http://msdn1.microsoft.com/en-us/default.aspx).

Microsoft this week also is discussing how the planned "Orcas" release of the Visual Studio tools platform will deliver capabilities for individuals, teams and IT organizations. Orcas is planned for release some time after the proposed January 2007 ship date of the Vista version of Windows.

Featured in Orcas will be Microsoft .Net Language Integrated Query, to make it easier to build solutions that analyze and act on information. The "Atlas" Web client framework for AJAX-style (Asynchronous JavaScript and XML) programming also is to be included. UI tools code-named "Cider" will provide tools for building Windows Presentation Foundation-based applications.

Orcas will support multiple skills levels in software development.

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