Reflections on three days at Tech Ed

This is my third day at Tech Ed 2008 in Barcelona, the breadth of the technologies and languages that we as .Net developers now need to at least understand and preferably master to some degree is enormous. I believe that developers will need to specialize more explicitly on certain technology areas to remain productive in the future. It has been impossible to master all of Microsoft’s products for many years now but up until a year or so ago it was at least conceivable for a developer to master all of the developer technologies that Microsoft had on offer. With the introduction of cloud based services and all the news in .Net, both libraries and new languages I cannot see how any one person will be able to master it all… I want to sum of some of my thoughts on the sessions that I have attended here at Tech Ed on Visual Studio 2010.

Fixing Continuous Integration

CI is a great principle and has moved into the mainstream along with many other agile principles. While Continuous Integration as such has never been broken there has always been a problem with developer discipline. If you check in something that is broken then it will be discovered quickly with CI but if you don’t fix the broken code other developers will be less productive if they cannot get the latest code or have their own checkins fail in CI due to previously broken builds. With Visual Studio Team System 2010 Microsoft is introducing a new concept for CI, the gated check. It is not a big change to the CI flow but a very clever use of a shelving, a feature in TFS which I find generally is underutilized. Instead of doing a standard checking in and then running a build on that code, gated checkins shelve the developers changes and then performs a build on the shelveset. If this build is successful then the shelveset is promoted to a proper check in, if the build fails then the check in is not committed to the mainline. The visibility that CI offers is maintained but using gated checkins other developers will never get failing code from other developers which was discoverable! Obviously undiscovered errors can still sneak into the code due to bad or missing tests or incorrect configuration of the build environment but it I believe that this will lower or eliminate the fear of checking in that some developers have. It will also allow you to check in before you go home without the need to wait and see that the CI build completes successfully. If I check in my code 5 minutes before I go home I should ideally wait to see that the build is successful, if it does not then I need to fix that immediately since other developers will be getting that code tomorrow morning when they come in. Using a gated check in I can go home, let the CI build complete on my shelved changes and if the build is successful then everyone can get my changes in the morning, if it fails I can safely wait until the morning before fixing the code and no one else is impacted by my errors.

Reproduction of Errors and Architecture Compilation Failures

Visual Studio 2010 looks like it contains some pretty good testing tools like the ability to record a testers GUI while performing manual tests and also including debugging and tracing info from remote machines. Pretty powerful stuff! It seems Microsoft have their mind set on eliminating the problem of irreproducible errors.

Another interesting feature is the architecture layer diagram which allows you to specify how the different layers in your application may and may not call each other. This is useful for validating that your code follows the intended architecture at compile time instead of detecting it when problems arise. All of these features (and there are more) are great but unfortunately Microsoft still has silly distinctions between different editions of Visual Studio Team System, so many of the cool demo features will probably be marginalized in most organisations due to them not actually having the appropriate edition of Visual Studio.

One Response to “Reflections on three days at Tech Ed”

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  1. Arman says:

    I agree about the huge technology challenges for Microsoft developers. Still as Microsoft technologies become more and more fragmented (even in the small areas, simple example is which dataaccess techkology would you choose linq2sql ent framework entLib….) I believe that an top Software specialist (i will not call it developer because it is too big domain) must have at least good knowledge what kind of technologies are out there (not just MS), which of thoose could be the best one for me to fix one specific problem and after that dig deeper in that technologie to achieve the best possible solution (in that moment).

    Most important thing is selfknowledge of knowing that you can handle (learn) new technologies in fair amount of time.

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