Microsoft will launch a cloud-based application build service and improvements to its Visual Studio IDE to make it easier to build SharePoint programs.

Through an extension planned to the company's Team Foundation Service platform, developers can build source code on the Windows Azure public cloud. Team Foundation Service is basically a cloud-based version of the company's Team Foundation Server application lifecycle management server.

"The biggest benefit of the improvements is it's supereasy," said Brian Harry, Microsoft Technical Fellow of Team Foundation Server. "You could be up and going, building your app in the cloud in 10 minutes." The preview of the build service is intended for use with the Visual Studio 11 beta IDE as well as Visual Studio 2010. It will be extended to Visual Studio 2008 in a week.

Java builds

Developers can use the service with Microsoft .Net programming languages, including C#, F#, Visual Basic, and C++. Developers also can use it for Java builds via a plug-in to the Eclipse IDE, although that process at this juncture would not be as easy as using it with Microsoft-oriented languages. The company plans to eventually make it easier to use the service with Java.

Harry anticipates the build service can be used for all kinds of applications. "There's some natural affinity to use it for web apps," he added. Microsoft has not yet revealed when the build service will be ready for a full, commercial release. Developers wishing to access the build service can go to www.tsfpreview.com and request an invitation code, or find someone who already has a TFS preview account and get access through them. Team Foundation Service, which itself is still in a preview mode, previously has offered such capabilities as source code control, bug and work item-tracking, and agile project management.

Sharepoint collaboration

Microsoft also announced a feature pack for Visual Studio with capabilities to improve development of SharePoint collaboration applications. The feature pack will improve unit testing for developers to validate changes, as well as offer load testing for SharePoint.

The feature pack will also improve IntelliTrace instrumentation for building any type of applications, not just SharePoint applications. IntelliTrace monitors applications and enables debugging of problems encountered after an application has run. "It's particularly valuable for diagnosing problems in production applications where you can't attach a debugger to it," Harry said.

New capabilities enable instrumentation to be changed without restarting an application. "Basically, it's easier to diagnose failures because you can tune the most intensive instrumentation on the part of the app where the app is having problems." The feature pack, which is due after the shipment of Visual Studio 11, will be available for Visual Studio Ultimate customers. Microsoft has not yet set a date for availability of Visual Studio 11. Microsoft will unveil details of its software development improvements at the Visual Studio Live and DevConnections conferences held concurrently in Las Vegas.