Engineering teams use a variety of tools and services for every aspect of their engineering process. Today, it is very difficult for a single vendor to satisfy all of the custom needs and provide best in-class solutions for all ALM scenarios. Our goal within Visual Studio Online is to be an Open Platform that allows software teams to weave together an integrated solution of tools and services that is perfect and custom for them.
Our Open Platform provides industry-standard and open extensibility mechanisms like REST API’s, web hooks, and UI extensions that achieve powerful, in-context and seamless integrations. As a team we have been on this journey for a little over a year. We first started to transition our SOAP endpoints to REST. We then invested in a push notification / service hook service to allow instantaneous communications between us and Github, Trello, Slack, and many other services. Our next step in the journey are Extensions and a Marketplace for finding and acquiring these extensions.
Extensions enable publishers (partners, customers, developers) to create first-class, integrated experiences within Visual Studio Online. REST, OAuth and service hooks enable integration at the data layer, but Extensions take the next step and enable integration at the UI layer – surfacing the relevant information in the right places and streamlining the user experience. An Extension can be a simple context menu, toolbar action or can be a complex and powerful custom user experience that lights up within the account, collection, or project hubs.
As of today, there are nearly 30 places in our web experience that Extensions can contribute new capabilities into. And in the very near future, members of our partner program will be able to contribute to other areas within Visual Studio Online including:
- Tasks for our new cross-platform build system
- Dashboard widgets
- Service hook services
As a team we are extremely excited about Extensions. They unlock a significant amount of innovation and customization opportunity for our users. A good example of what is possible from an integrated experience perspective is our Team Calendar extension, which will be available in preview in the coming months.
As we grow and enrich our ecosystem, we want to provide a good way for customers to find and acquire extensions. In the fall, we will launch a preview of a new Marketplace. The Marketplace allows customers to find and acquire a broad set of tools and services that integrate with Visual Studio Online and Team Foundation Server. It will be an evolution of the current Visual Studio Gallery and support IDE extensions, VSO/TFS extensions and third-party integrations. The initial launch will only support Visual Studio Online, but we will add support to TFS in one of our 2015 Updates.
Users will be able to discover and acquire extensions both from this “global” Marketplace, but also from an in-situ experience within their Visual Studio Online accounts. The majority of the extensions represent functionality that installs within an account, and the in-situ experience will allow users to find and request extensions that can then be installed by an admin.
Our vision also brings commerce to Marketplace, allowing publishers to monetize their extensions and integrations. The initial launch will have limited capabilities for commerce but will grow over time.
We are super excited about this next step in our Open Platform journey. The response at BUILD and Ignite from partners has exceeded our expectations and we look forward to having a broad set of extensions available to acquire and use when the Marketplace launches this fall.
Mario Rodriguez and Will Smythe