Microsoft Previews Visual Studio Team System

Microsoft released a Community Technology Preview of the framework and software development kit for building custom visual designers based on the modeling technology in Visual Studio 2005.

The preview will help customers and partners test the visual designer technology, code-named “Whitehorse,” that will ship with Visual Studio 2005 Team System. Although the product itself won’t be released until mid-2005, at the earliest, Microsoft said third-party developers and customers are already using the toolkit to create custom modeling tools for service-oriented architectures (SOAs) .

Microsoft demonstrated the software development kit at the ACM Conference on Object-Oriented Programming, Systems, Languages, and Applications (OOPSLA), held in Vancouver, B.C. this week.

Prashant Sridharan, lead product manager for the product, told the new technology will enable customers and partners to better adapt Visual Studio 2005 and the .NET Framework to meet specific business needs.

“The modeling tools available today are too generic,” he said. “There are tools to customize, but they can be pretty obtuse. We’ve delivered tools especially for service-oriented architectures. We recognize that several customers will want to build their own tools on top of that.” The SDK includes tools for building, designing infrastructures and validating that the designs will work.

The Tuesday announcement of the availability of the SDK was bolstered by announcements from Microsoft partners Borland, Siemens and Unisys that they would use the tools to deliver domain-specific language designers for their respective vertical industries.

The toolkit is part of a larger industry initiative called Software Factories, which are customized applications built on top of packaged apps. Software Factories lets developers focus on business rules and systems instead of having to build software from scratch.

“With Whitehorse, we tried to build a tool that makes it really easy to build service-oriented architectures,” Sridharan said. Microsoft expects that ISVs will use the toolkit to build plug-ins, and that system integrators will use it for their own-house product development.

With partners and ISVs, he said, “I expect there to be a cottage industry around this, just like there is in the control and component market.”

Users won’t be regular corporate developers, Sridharan said. “This requires a sense of foresight and industry knowledge that typically a software architect or very senior developer would have.” Most likely, technical decision makers and lead developers will use the SDK.

“You’ll see a practice grow up inside corporations that choose to build their own modeling tools,” he said. It will be an ongoing process of rolling out one version of an internal business application, then improving on it with subsequent versions. “We hope that investment and work will pay off as corporate developers use those models and are more productive as a result,” he said.

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