Recently I was given a link to the Azure based Team Foundation Services CTP which is currently underway. I’m always curious to see how Microsoft are transitioning products into on demand services based in the Cloud. Access to TFS Services preview is only available via a GUID key which is only available from an invite from a user already on board the CTP. That said, if you haven’t a handy contact to obtain one of the keys there is a short video on the access page which shows an overview of what you get if you are lucky enough to hold the keys to the magic kingdom.
So, let’s assume that you have a key to access the site and therefore have access to the TFS Services environment. What next? Well with many of Microsoft’s services you will need to have a Windows Live ID to authenticate you against the Azure security services. You’ll also want to have an idea of what you wish to call your TFS project. The name you choose will become part of the overall URL in the form of https://yourprojectname.tfspreview.com which will also the the URL you’ll use later on to connect your Visual Studio client to the Cloud based TFS server. Finally you’ll need to enter the GUID key you received and click the check box to agree to Microsoft’s terms and conditions. Once this stage has been complete you’ll be forwarded to the Windows Live ID login page where you can enter your credentials to connect the Service with your Live ID.
Once on the inside you’ll be shown the Welcome page which has a number of activities and information. The item reaffirms the URL you use to connect your Visual Studio client to the TFS project collection. The second item is a link to a page to create a new team project. Lets take a look at this. Clicking on this link opens a pop up which prompts you to enter a name for the project, a description of the project and prompts you to select a process template for use within the project. In my first project I selected the default choice which is the Scrum template provided by Microsoft. Once you’ve created the team project you may wish to connect a Visual Studio client to the project. This couldn’t be easier. Start Visual Studio and from the Start page select ‘connect to Team Foundation Server’. Click on the ‘Servers…’ button and then the ‘Add…’ button. Enter the URL you generated for you Project Collection and then authenticate using your Windows Live ID. Voila, you are connected to your TFS Preview project Collection. You then merely have to select the relevant project to connect to.
Now there are some gotchas you’ll need to be aware of before connecting to TFS Services. If you are using Visual Studio 2010 you’ll need to download the following:
In that order. If you wish to avoid downloading these installs then you can (if brave/stupid enough) download and install the beta preview of Visual Studio Dev11. This can take considerable time, SP1 is around 60MB which depending on your bandwidth could take over an hour to download and install. The hotfixes are minor but again may take over 30 minutes to download and install. The beta preview of Dev11 will take considerably longer at 1.1GB.
In addition you will need to configure a local build server to run the build agent. This isn’t available within the current setup so you may need to have a handy server sitting around to run this service.
Well, if you’ve achieved all that, pat yourself on the back, sit back and relax while you wander around the new landscape of TFSPreview. The UI will be familiar to those of you who’ve used TFS anywhere and if you are used to this type of interface then you’ll get on fine with managing the project via the browser. Developers/testers and power users will want to use the integration with Visual Studio to access the project, but hey, nothing new there right? The project is free to invite team members and they don’t have to have a unique key to obtain access, although depending on what permissions you apply to their accounts will determine what they can and cannot do. My advice would be to start a small project with some colleagues/friends for fun and see how you get on.
In my opinion this will be one of the game changers for distributed teams. I love the thought of having my team working out of their homes or from offices spread geographically. Mix this with other collaboration tools such as Office 365 then you have a great set of productivity tools which really does mean that the office can be a thing of the past.