Microsoft 'Opens' .NET as Broader Team Sport

Microsoft is making .NET a much broader team sport, for both developers and software partners. Thanks in large part to a new Methodology Council, Microsoft is getting greater input from software partners to improve its support for life-cycle and team development. Take a look at how deeper third-part discussions are expanding .NET's framework community.

Tags: Developers, Methodology, Management, Patterns, Microsoft, Design, Frank,

Microsoft is making .NET a much broader team sport, for both developers and software partners.

During last month's TechEd, Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer laid out plans for bringing capabilities to the .NET framework to enhance deeper developer team collaboration and life-cycle support for .NET projects.

With Visual Studio 2005 Team System, Microsoft's next upgrade to its .NET tools, Ballmer said the company will weave into the .NET framework capabilities to allow developers and teams of developers, to design, deploy, test, modify and update their code from a central console.

Notably, this expanded vision for .NET has prompted Microsoft to create what it calls a "Methodology Council," in which the company works with a number of key VSIP (VSIP Studio Industry Partner Program) partners to make suggestions and contributions to .NET architectures, as well as offering ideas for supporting and encoding best practices, patterns and even models.

"The creation of the Methodology Council underscores that [VS2005 Team System] is not a closed system," said Karl Frank, chief architect for Borland's Together unit and a member of the council, "and we're happy that Microsoft is interested in some of our areas of expertise."

Frank added, "One of the issues in methodology is there are some people who favor very heavyweight process methodologies and others who favor agile, lightweight methodologies." In the Methodology Council, Microsoft has stressed its interest in providing a framework for methodologies that accommodate both approaches, Frank told IDN. "That's relevant to Borland's experience in supporting both agile and heavyweight methodologies," he said, noting that he expects to offer perspectives on Borland's/Together's expertise in the area.

"While the .NET Framework has [always] been designed to let third parties plug in their technologies, through the Methodology Council we hope to effect changes natively in the framework, bringing its [functionality] much higher in the stack," Frank added.

Borland also expects to make significant contributions to Microsoft in the area of filling in gaps for development patterns for .NET and SOA development projects. "The patterns movement is one of the most exciting in all of software engineering," Frank said. Criticism that .NET lacks patterns is "overdone," Frank told IDN, adding, ".NET has patterns that it can leverage already, so I see no problem there at all."

He continued, "As an architect at Together, I've been interested in patterns for quite some time, and organized patterns can simply be made available to developers as blocks of pre-tested, pre-engineered code... You can insert a pattern by using a modeling tool, or you can even take classes you've already developed and apply a pattern after the fact to the ones you want to use again." In fact, Frank said, in Together, the product will insert all the necessary C# classes, with connections to each other, for a number of key patterns, including Visitor and Observer patterns.

Building Out the .NET Team
One key to creating the developer team approach is .NET's approach to mitigation of differences between designers and developers, or departmental groups of developers. A portion of the "Microsoft VS2005TS road map describes how a "Logical Datacenter Designer" will achieve mitigation among different views from different groups:

"When creating mission-critical software, application architects often find themselves communicating with their counterparts who manage data center operations. In the process of delivering a final solution, the application's logical design is often found to be at odds with the requirements and constraints of the deployment environment because of lack of early and proper communication between the teams.

"Typically, this communication breakdown results in lost productivity as architects and operations managers reconcile an application's capabilities with a data center's realities. In Visual Studio 2005, these differences are mitigated by the Logical Datacenter Designer that enables operations managers to specify their logical infrastructure and work with application architects to verify that the applications are designed such that they will work within the specified deployment constraints," the roadmap said.

VS2005TS also looks to increase the predictability of the software development process and shortens the development life-cycle by including modeling tools to represent back-end systems and a method for gauging how a new application fits into a company's existing projects.

Borland is also supporting .NET team development through its core modeling offerings, as well as some best practices it has encoded in its CaliberRM (Collaborative Requirements Management System) software product, which supports traceability between high-level requirements as articulated by management, and more detailed requirements as articulated by more technical users.

"There's a benefit for the managers and teams members, [using CaliberRM] because we provide an interface where they can constantly monitor and manage the requirements," Michael Swindell, Borland's director of product management for Delphi told IDN. CalliberRM also offers a developer integration feature that allows developers to participate in the requirements-setting process, he added. The key to Borland's ability to work with Microsoft's VS2005TS is Borland's methodology-neutral approach to CaliberRM, Swindell added. "We can plug into different methodologies, whether in .NET or in other [framework] approaches," he added.

Other current Microsoft VSIP partners expected to participate in the Methodology Council include Computer Associates and Hewlett-Packard (security, management); EMC (storage management); Serena Software (change management), Oseillus (requirements management), and Unisys (workflow, configuration).