With the next version of its Visual Studio software development environment, dubbed Visual Studio vNext, Microsoft will emphasise agile programming practices as well as linkages between development and operations units.

Detailed this week, the agile and collaboration endeavours comprise Microsoft's application lifecycle vision for vNext. "When we asked people what the biggest problem they faced in successfully delivering software, they identified the need for better collaboration.We know that building software takes a team of people including developers, testers, architects, project planners, and more," said Jason Zander, Microsoft corporate vice-president, in a blog post.

Agile planning tools in vNext are intended to enable transparency across the planning process and full team participation through solutions like a new backlog and task board. Agile quality assurance capabilities include code review support, enhanced unit testing frameworks, and exploratory testing. A lightweight requirements capability in the product provides a way to receive feedback on requirements early in the process. Stakeholder feedback is intended to ensure that working code matches expectations. The vNext release will feature a web-based interface that implements the scrum model of agile programming. No timeframe has been revealed yet for the release of vNext.

"Visual Studio vNext provides a natural way to work through stakeholder feedback using something we are all familiar with, PowerPoint. Using the Storyboarding plug-in for PowerPoint, the product owner can quickly mock up the solution and get feedback," Zander said.

Microsoft's vNext plan brings needed integration between development and operations personnel, said analyst Al Hilwa, of IDC. "What I think is important here is that Microsoft can bring these capabilities to the masses in a broader way than other vendors typically can," Hilwa said.

Continuous testing support in vNext enables developers to use their favorite unit testing framework integrated with the IDE. "We will support MS Test, xunit, and nunit with vNext. You will also be able to target both .Net and native C++ code. Adding test frameworks is an extensibility point as well so if you don't see your favourite one listed here, you can easily add it," Zander said.

Also, Microsoft this week delivered a community technology preview of a connector between Microsoft System Centre and Team Foundation Serverr, to boost alignment between development and operations. Zander explained the connection between the two technologies: "If I see a defect or an alert that pops up in System Centre, I can right-click and assign to engineering. It gathers all the information about what that exception was and gets it over Team Foundation Server, for the developers. Those two things are now linked."