Microsoft is expanding access to its Team Foundation Service cloud-based application lifecycle management tool, although the service still remains in preview mode.

At its TechEd conference in Orlando, the company announced that anyone can utilise its Team Foundation Service ALM server, which is hosted on Microsoft's Windows Azure cloud. First announced last September, the preview had been limited to invitation-only usage. Since it remains in a preview phase, the service can be used free of charge. 

"Anybody who wants to try it can try it," said Brian Harry, Microsoft technical fellow and product line manager for Team Foundation Server, the behind-the-firewall version of the ALM server. Developers can access Team Foundation Service at the Team Foundation Service preview site.

Through the cloud ALM service, developers can plan projects, collaborate, and manage code online. Code is checked into the cloud using the Visual Studio or Eclipse IDEs. Languages ranging from C# to Python are supported, as are such platforms as Windows and Android.

With Team Foundation Service, Microsoft expects to compete with rival tools like Atlassian Jira. "Team Foundation Service is a full application lifecycle management product that provides a rich set of capabilities from early project planning and management through development, testing, and deployment," Harry said. "We've got the most comprehensive ALM tool in the market, and it is simple and easy to use and easy to get started." Eventually, Microsoft will charge for use of Team Foundation Service, but it will not happen this year, Harry said.

Microsoft has been adding capabilities to Team Foundation Service every three weeks. A new continuous deployment feature enables applications to be deployed to Azure automatically. A build service was added in March. Microsoft also announced the addition of a rich landing page with more information about the product.