Hosted Software Development Tools

When I first thought about Tuscany, this was the first thing that sprang to mind: Hosted Team Foundation Server (TFS). I sensed that developers in small organizations want to have private access to TFS features such as check-in/check-out, defect tracking, and so on without having to set up and administer TFS itself (which by all accounts is still too hard for the typical developer with 20 free minutes). The more I looked into this scenario, the more excited I grew: based on my customer conversations there were opportunities to introduce hosted stress/load testing services, hosted security penetration testing services, and a host (pun mildly intended) of others, or to enable someone else to offer those services.

But as I checked out the current offerings for hosted SDLC services, I found that there aren’t many and those that do exist don’t seem to be highly successful (please note: things like Sourceforge aren’t in this scenario because this scenario is focused on “private” hosted services). There are a few companies that do offer such services for a fee, but more common is a hoster offering “free” access to a CVS repository along with whatever hosting package you purchase.

Then I looked at the customer requirements for doing something like this by conducting over 30 customer interviews and found that the bar for introducing such a service would be exceptionally high, particularly when it came to ease of use – basically, using this product had to be as easy as signing up for and using a Hotmail account. Then I looked at the operational requirements for running a product like TFS in a shared hosted environment and I was struck at the level of technical difficulty of running any software in shared hosted environment is tremendous – provisioning, management, security are all tremendous worries.

So what's the un-overengineered solution?

Comments (8)
  1. whoisjake says:

    I use my svn repositories on Dreamhost all the time. It takes only a few menu clicks after you purchase an account to create one.

    It’s simple to use and fast.

    AFAIK, an un-overengineered solution probably doesn’t exist, because we’d all be using it if there was one. :: shrugs ::

  2. Certification + "Web 2.0" diffuse collaboration to maintain the rankings and status ("digg this TFS host")?

    When ASP.NET first came out, there was a glossy sheet in the box (and maybe even an in-IDE button?) that essentially said "We’ve vetted these guys as being capable of running this new-fangled technology." Must have given those companies a heck of a boost towards gaining critical mass. But as soon as the ink dried on that piece, it started becoming obsolete.

    Basically, create an entrepreneurial opportunity and look for ways, beyond a certificate whose relevance is lost on potential customers (MCSD vs. MCSE vs. MCAD), to facilitate the sales channel. For most IT guys who would potentially become TFS service providers, sales and marketing are going to be the hard part, not whatever technical challenges there are to running hosted TFS.

  3. orcmid says:

    I think whoisjake is probably right on that one.  

    SourceForge fails for another reason: The software must be open-source.  They don’t make their service available for private use (and it doesn’t satisfy the usability requirement you state anyhow).

    So, if MSFT simply made TFS available as a service (say tied into Office Live for Developers or something), would the usability still not be good enough?  I would worry about that if I was MSFT.  It should be a natural use-case for the web-based TFS version control and work-item integration.

    For me: I’m going to miss VSS when the bits finally rot.  I use sharing heavily, pinning occassionally, and I love the integration with FrontPage extensions on my local development install of IIS.  An improved VSS clone with superior storage and transactional check-in would have been plenty good enough for me.  (I haven’t tried the new one because my 6.0d is not broken and I’m wary about fixing it.)

    Now, if you are going to keep namedropping "Tuscany" would you please tell us what it is?

  4. johnmont says:

    Tuscany is a secret. 🙂

  5. orcmid says:

    Actually, there’s a kind of key to "Tuscany" if I use the category to review what you’ve posted in that direction.

    Meanwhile, I think I would not like to see a tied-into-hosting solution.  I suppose one could have Office Live for Developers, or Developers Live, but if it follows the current trend, that won’t do me any good either.

    How I would under-engineer the beasty is go back to peer solutions and make them work as modular but interoperable components.  

    Coordinating over web services is fine, but they should be able to run locally or on a small peer network and also maybe scale to collaborative Internet operation without requiring VSTS Team Server (Foundation).

    Also, I’d preserve VSS compatibility [and maybe some sane cut at WebDAV DeltaV] for all of the good ways VSS is already integrated with things (such as FrontPage extensions).

    I am not liking the sheer points in the current VS-progression model.  I’m also thinking that doing it privately or doing it openly should work as a matter of configuration control and existing security provisions.  

    Oh, and it should work without Active Directory.

    That should be heretical enough for one post.


  6. orcmid says:

    Oh, wait!  You responded to my first question about Tuscany (on an earlier post) and I didn’t notice you’d done that.  Well, say no more, nudge, nudge, wink, wink.

  7. johnmont says:

    Not work with Active Directory?!?! [hands to mouth in horror]

  8. orcmid says:

    It can work with Active Directory.  But it should also work without Active Directory (i.e., on peer-only small workgroups and even standalone).

    [uh, nodding to the irony [;<]

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