Sunday, September 26, 2010

This Monday we are kicking off the refresh of the Visual Studio Architecture Tooling Guidance.


If you are a subject matter expert or have feedback on the previous release, please contact us!

(More info about this refresh can be found on Willy’s blog)

posted on 9/26/2010 5:57:00 AM UTC  #   
 Saturday, September 25, 2010

Interesse in ‘Extensibility’ in Visual Studio 2010? Lees dan dit artikel van Clemens en mij dat onlangs gepubliceerd is op de web site van het .NET Magazine. Hierin behandelen we het ‘Modeling Feature Pack’ en de ‘Feature Builder Powertool’…


posted on 9/25/2010 2:54:16 PM UTC  #   
 Monday, June 28, 2010

Interested in Visual Studio 2010 and Architecture? Check out the latest delivery of the Visual Studio ALM  Rangers. Some more info on this product can be found in this post from Willy, our Team Lead in this very interesting project. It was great fun working on this piece of guidance!!

The Rangers involved with this project are: Alan Wills (MSFT), Bijan Javidi (MSFT), Christof Sprenger (MSFT), Clemens Reijnen (MVP), Clementino de Mendonca (MVP), Edward Bakker (MVP), Francisco Xavier Fagas Albarracín (MVP), Marcel de Vries (MVP), Michael Lehman (MSFT), Randy Miller (MSFT), Tiago Pascoal (MVP), Willy-Peter Schaub (MSFT), Suhail Dutta (MSFT), David Trowbridge (MSFT), Hassan Fadili (MVP), Mathias Olausson (MVP), Rob Steel (MSFT) and Shawn Cicoria (MSFT).

posted on 6/28/2010 7:05:08 PM UTC  #   
 Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Recently, I noticed that the in last couple of months the amount of of time that I spend on cloud computing (Microsoft Azure in particular) is increasing quite rapidly. I am currently involved in a few initiatives/projects around Microsoft Azure and I suddenly realized that cloud computing has a positive impact on the way we think about Application Lifecycle Management (ALM). When we think about cloud computing from a project delivery or operations perspective (and not only from a technical perspective) there are absolutely interesting advantages that cloud computing can bring us.

[For more information about the way we think about ALM and a better understanding of the image I am using below, have a look at this post]

From a project delivery perspective, a cloud project has the advantage that we don’t have to buy the hardware and software that we need during for the development, testing and running the application in production (because we use the compute and storage power from the cloud). Of course we have to pay for using the Azure platform but these costs are likely less compared to buying bare metal and licenses for the complete lifecycle of the application. Another advantage of using a cloud platform is the time it takes to get our environment approved and up and running which potentially decreases the time to market of the application. If we have a look at the image below which represents the lifecycle of an application we can see that less hardware and an environment that doesn’t take long to get it up and running have a positive impact on the application lifecycle of the application. From a project delivery perspective lower costs (less hardware and licenses) for the project and a decreased time to market have a positive impact on the complete lifecycle of the application (represented by arrow 1 in the image below).

Further, one of the important goals of ALM (at least in our opinion) is increasing the added value of the application for the business user. Cloud computing enables some very interesting scenarios that potentially bring a lot of value to the business user. For example, the unlimited scalability of the platform (at relative low costs) makes it possible to deliver completely new (business) services for markets that couldn’t be reached that easily in the past. Also integration between companies, networks, applications, etc. becomes much easier with applications running in the cloud. The new scenarios that we can deliver by using cloud computing potentially add extra business value to the applications we are delivering and therefore have a positive impact on the complete lifecycle of the application (represented by arrow 2 in the image below). 


From an operations perspective, the fact we have less hardware and software to maintain (back-up, monitoring, patching, etc.) also has a positive impact on the lifecycle of the application (represented by arrow 3 in the image below).

So, besides all the technical challenges of cloud computing that I am very interested in, I like to think of cloud computing as “just another delivery form” for our software development projects with a very interesting positive impact on the application lifecycle of the application that we deliver.

posted on 3/17/2010 10:27:51 AM UTC  #   
 Monday, March 15, 2010

A few days ago Microsoft patterns & practices released a (preview) set of Layer Diagrams for Visual Studio that comply with their Application Architecture Guide 2.0. The diagrams are included in a simple VSIX package that can be downloaded from the Visual Studio Gallery. The image below gives you some idea about what to expect from this package. The diagram also contains a link to the complete architectural guidance on MSDN.


The layer package is a great start but there might be more opportunities for integrating architectural guidance in Visual Studio 2010. Right now, the package contains 5 layers diagrams so it shouldn’t be too difficult for an architect to decide which of the layer diagrams he should choose from the toolbox. But, what if we have additional layer diagrams or in addition to the diagrams we also have predefined architectural inspections and/or validations that the architect can choose from? In that case we might need additional guidance to help the architect choose between the various diagrams, validations and inspections. Below you can see a screenshot of a prototype we did in this direction where we use a WPF form to ask the architect some questions. Additional questions pop up based on the selection the architect makes (clicking yes or no on the form) to help him decide what exactly he needs for his architecture. In the end, based on his selections, the the environment is prepared for him.


This is just a prototype and not production ready but it might give you some ideas about how we think we should provide guidance. In the past couple of months Clemens and I have done some work on these ideas  but we haven’t really finished it yet. Now Visual Studio 2010 becomes close to RTM it is time to finish this so expect some updates in this direction.

Stay tuned!

posted on 3/15/2010 8:30:14 AM UTC  #   
 Tuesday, November 24, 2009

This is a translated version of an article that I wrote for Software Release Magazine

Application Lifecycle Management

In the past ten years, the costs of IT projects dropped significantly. In addition, the number of projects that turned out to be successful, rose. Nevertheless, only forty percent of all IT projects succeeds. This means that it takes less time today for a project to fail. Application Lifecycle Management (ALM) may help improve the return on projects. An efficient deployment of ALM requires the right scope and focus.

Today, many organizations regard Application Lifecycle Management (ALM) as one of the answers to their bad performing IT departments. With ALM, they try to get more grip on software development by integrating, coordinating and controlling the various phases of development. ALM guides an organization from software development until software implementation and management. Very often, an organization will limit its focus to optimizing the developer’s work processes and the communication between developers and project managers. An ALM tool is rolled out and its features are used to manage the progress of the project as well as the quality of the code. Deploying an ALM tool in this way is a step in the right direction but in practice it is not a guarantee for success. Without the right focus, software development will remain a stand alone activity without any relation to other parts of the organization, including business and operations. Additionally, research shows that companies spend on average 30 percent of their available IT budget on newly built applications. This means that they neglect an area of 70 percent, where optimization is also possible.

More return by shift in focus

With the right scope and focus ALM has much to offer. Figure 1 shows a schematic view of the lifecycle of an application that is to be developed. In this view de x-axis represents the time and the y-axis the value/cost of the application. In this figure, the extended curve shows the lifecycle of the application from development until end-of-life. The figure provides insight in the different phases of an application’s lifecycle. It also enables for determining the impact of ALM.


Figure 1. The lifecycle of an application


Reduce development costs

The lifecycle of an application starts in the first phase of development. As of the start of the project, costs are made for design, programming and testing. At this time, the application offers no value. All development costs are therefore to be regarded as costs. Often, organizations focus on these costs when deploying ALM and optimizing the software development process. Figure 1 shows however, that the development phase only accounts for a small part for the full lifecycle of the application.

Time to market

The figure also shows that the application will only add value to the organization when it has gone live. This means that the ALM activities need to be focused on getting the application (or a part of it) live as soon as possible. One of the ways to do this is using agile development methods, including iterative delivery. Shortening the time to market not only results in faster added value, it can also provide competitive advantage. In general, organizations that are first in addressing new needs or market changes profit the most from these developments. Organizations that are trend followers profit less; or even worse, they have to invest in order to stay in the market.  

Added Value

It is clear that an application will add value when it has gone live. Many organizations do no recognize this added value. ALM activities should focus on getting as much added value as possible. As the application is developed for the end-users , it is key to involve this group as much as possible in the development process. User involvement, support from the (executive) management, defining clear business goals and optimizing requirements are all equally important.

One of the ways to realize this is to optimize the communication between the user organization and IT and to create a common involvement for all stakeholders. In this way, stakeholders are better geared to state their demands. They are also better able to determine the consequences of their choices and to change priorities and requirements during the project, together with the project team. Here, it is also cost-effective to use short iterations, as changes in scope, priorities and requirements can easily be made. In this way, an organization can address new insights during the project, which may increase the added value of the application further.

Operational costs

When developing the application it is advisable to acknowledge in an early stage the need for application management. By creating consensus on the requirements for the management department, operational management costs of the application can be reduced significantly. The focus on management is paramount in an ALM approach.

Extending the lifecycle

By adding value and reducing costs, a developed application will provide return in the long run. By focusing on the value of an application and by constantly monitoring this aspect, an organization is better capable of determining the moment when value is replaced by costs. This early insight helps in deciding what to do with the application: adjust or phase out?

Phase out

When an organization decides to abandon an application, the knowledge of the application will lead to less abandoning costs. This is definitely the case when an organization combines this knowledge with the optimizations, provided by ALM in the earlier development phase of the application. An example is the right documentation on the application interface to other systems.


Figure 2. The new lifecycle of an application

The new lifecycle

Figure 2 shows the new lifecycle of the application. This is the result of broadening the ALM focus as described earlier. The green field in the figure depicts the extra return of the application. This is possible by speeding up the go-live process, a longer life of the application and more added value for the user. The red areas in the figure represent the decreased development costs and the costs for abandonment.

Priorities of an organization

Figure 2 shows that the return on ALM increases when an organization not only focuses on the development phase, but also on the other phases of an application’s lifecycle. This optimization obviously pays off, but the question is how to relate this to the goals of today’s organizations. Many organizations focus on cost reduction, compliancy and risk management. How can ALM be related to these three priorities?

Cost reduction

A too strong focus on cost reduction may well lead to an imbalance in this area, resulting in a paralyzed organization in terms of productivity. By continuously executing cost reducing measures, tools and communication channels are lost. In the end, this can affect the productivity of employees negatively. By combining cost savings and productivity improvements this issue can be addressed.

A combination of ALM activities with a so-called high-performance workplace can be the answer. The high performance workplace is a physical or virtual environment which is especially designed for knowledge and information workers. It supports them optimally in executing non-routine duties. In these duties, exploring, learning, innovating, collaborating and managing are key.

The current generation of ALM tools already pays attention to optimizing communication and collaboration between stakeholders in an IT project. This shows that the awareness on effective collaboration is growing. It also requires the focus to be placed on the process and the human aspect of collaboration. Important success factors are creating joint goals and making sure there is a shared vision of the truth.


The current compliancy requirements demand a high level of control. In recent years, this control is expressed in continuous process optimization. The need for a process approach led to reduction of flexibility within an organization. It is becoming increasingly difficult to address market changes and needs without losing control. The focus on processes, tools and management also led to a situation in which up to twenty percent of project costs can be allocated to the developed software. The rest of the costs are related to project support and meeting internal and external requirements. The new generation ALM tools and corresponding methods, enable an organization to meet these strict compliancy requirements without affecting flexibility. These tools provide the necessary mechanisms and means of control to link requirements, quality metrics and the solution. This makes it much easier to prove that the solution meets all requirements. The full support of agile methods within the ALM tools ensures the required flexibility.

Risk management

Experience from the past shows that risk is inherent to projects. However, the higher the risk, the higher the return, as optimists say. It is not necessary for organizations to exclude all risks. They need to assess risks continuously on the return they can provide. The collaboration in a project, the commitment from stakeholders and the combination of business and ICT knowledge enable the right assessment of risks. This may lead to a situation in which a risk that is regarded as unacceptable by individual members, is controllable or even desirable.


ALM is gaining in popularity. Many organizations take their first steps in this area and start to purchase ALM tools. Seemingly without thinking, they focus on the development phase. This is an excellent first step but still they should not stop here. By broadening their focus and incorporating the full lifecycle of an application in their approach, they are able to increase their return on ALM significantly. The broader approach offers more insight in the added value of the application. By combining ALM and a high performance workplace, and by putting the human aspect first, it is possible tot create an environment in which collaboration is optimized. The result is a software development process with predictable results and sufficient flexibility to contribute to the three main priorities of an organization: cost reduction, compliancy and risk management.

posted on 11/24/2009 2:58:09 PM UTC  #   
 Saturday, July 04, 2009

I Just wanted to let you know that we have just released the Beta 1 of This great tool supports a Contract First Approach for developing webservices in Visual Studio 2008. Some time ago, I took the project lead (together with Christian) for this great tool. Unfortunately, I have been kind of busy lately so we didn’t made a lot of progress in the last couple of months. Just recently a couple of  new members joined our team which resulted in this Beta 1 release. In this release we added MSI support which was one of the key requested features for this tool. For some more info on this release I suggest to have a look at this post from Benjamin (one of our new team mebers!). Our new team members inspired us a lot and brought some great ideas so expect some cool new features soon! Let us know what you think of this release on our forum.

Thanks Buddhike, Benjamin and Alex Meyer-Gleaves for getting this new release out!!

posted on 7/4/2009 8:31:37 PM UTC  #   
 Thursday, May 28, 2009

Currently, Clemens and I are writing a whitepaper about Architecture, Application Architecture Guide 2.0 and Visual Studio Team Architect 2010. (VSTA). In addition to this paper we are also working on some ‘tooling’ that we plan to deliver with the paper. Since we are not done with the paper and tooling yet and this blog becomes a bit too quite I decided to start sharing some of our thoughts and work in this space on this blog.

One of the topics in the paper is, what we call, ‘Architectural Inspections’. Without going into too much details just yet we can think of an Architectural Inspection as a ‘check’ to help us verify the correctness of (parts of) an application architecture. The concept isn’t totally new, in fact the Application Architecture Guide 2.0 comes with an organized checklist that sums up important inspections that an architect can use during the design and/or validation phase of an architecture. Although a checklist is a great start, we think that a standalone checklist doesn’t get the most out of these so called Architectural Inspections. In our opinion it will be much more powerful if we can include these inspections in our Application Lifecycle Management practice, integrate them in the Visual Studio IDE and provide the right guidance at the right moment!

To validate our thinking, we collected all the inspections in the Applications Architecture Guide 2.0 checklists and stored them in an XML format. In fact, we used the Team Foundation Server 2010 (TFS) Work Item Type XML format which enables us to easily upload our Architectural Inspections into TFS as work items. In addition to the ‘core’ Architectural Inspection data, like title,  status, description (where we explain what we need to validate and can add additional guidance) we added some meta data to categorize our Architectural Inspections and make it possible to do some grouping. For example, we can categorize our Architectural Inspections per ‘Cross Cutting Concern’ (Logging, Validation) or ‘Layer’ (Service Contract, Business Logic, etc.) or ArchType (Mobile, Rich Client, Service, etc.), or whatever we think makes sense. In addition we have build a little tool that lets us upload these Architectural Inspections into TFS as work items. Currently we store our Architectural Inspections as normal ‘Task’ work items and abuse some ‘hidden’ fields to store the meta data that we need. However, we already realized that we are better of defining our own work item type for our Architectural Inspections. So, this is probably the next thing on my ToDo list…

Below you can see a screenshot of (a very basic prototype of) the tool that we are using to upload our Architectural Inspections into TFS. As you can see we haven’t spend too much time on the User Interface yet and the data in the screenshot is just dummy data that doesn’t make too much sense.


However, the most important thing right now is that by using a tool like this we (as an architect designing an architecture) can easily decide which Architectural Inspections make sense for the architecture we are designing and add only those inspections into our Application Lifecyle. This means we can, for example, add only those inspections that apply to the layers or cross cutting concerns that our architecture requires. (In a future post we will demonstrate how we can even relate the inspections to layers in our Layering Diagram.)

Another thing that we think is important is to have a clear overview of all the inspections that are considered and/or executed during the design and/or implementation of the architecture of the application. Knowing that the guidance and best practices of a particular inspection wasn’t properly implemented or worse totally neglected is important information and (potentially) tells us something about the quality of the application. Of course sometimes it makes perfectly sense not to spend time on cross cutting concern X. However, at a later time we can’t recall the reasons for not spending effort on them.  The fact that we now have our Architectural Inspections stored in TFS (as work items) makes it possible to track the current status (by using the status field (Active, Closed, Rejected?) )and provide us with valuable information about the design decisions (captured in the description field?)  that are made during the lifecycle of our application.

Last but not least we think that, to get Architectural Inspections fully integrated in the Application Lifecycle, we need a proper way of visualizing them. In fact, an overview of these inspections and their status might be good starting point for a quality check or valuable input for our testers. The most common way for visualizing the status of work items would obviously be to create a report in TFS. However, we thought we better get some experience with another cool new feature of VSTA 2010 so we decided to visualize our inspections in DGML. So, what we did is, we create a little utility that extracts the Architectural Inspection information out of TFS and generates a nice DGML diagram for that. Below you can see a screenshot of how our first implementation of this looks like. (again, we might need some UI improvements and some real data) 


The little icons in the nodes (representing an inspection) display the status of the inspection. At this moment the green check means the inspection has the ‘Closed’ status in TFS and the warning sign means it has the ‘Active’ status (so nothing has been done with it yet).

There is a lot more to tell about the things we have been working on and the thoughts we are still having about Architectural Inspections, Application Architecture Guide  and VSTA 2010 extensibility. We are currently busy improving and refactoring all of the above. In the coming period we will share some other VSTA extensions that we are working on and if things goes as planned everything will end up in the whitepaper and/or downloadable assets. So, stay tuned and of course we are very interested in your opinion, concerns, etc. so leave us a message!

posted on 5/28/2009 8:05:24 PM UTC  #   
 Friday, February 20, 2009

A few days ago I was asked by one of my colleagues why I am spending a lot of my time experimenting with Visual Studio Team System 2010 (Team Architect), Blueprints, App Arch Guide and Application Lifecycle Management (ALM) in general. He noticed me ‘living’ in VSTS 2010 CTP for some time now and he was wondering if it isn’t a bit too early for this and what I did to convice to management to let me do this. My immediate answer to this question was ‘No, it is not to early!’ and I explained that we (Inter Access) expect VS 2010 to help us optimizing our Application Lifecycle Management practice. This answer was a bit too vague for my colleague and of course the next question was how will we benefit *exactly* from investing in VSTS 2010 and ALM. Will it make our life easier?, will it makes us better people?, will it improve quality?, will it save us time?, will it save us money?

Exactly these same questions popup when discussing ALM with customers. Apparently making the business case for ALM (and/or VSTS licenses) isn’t always easy. How come?

From our experiences we learned that currently most people and organizations are relating ALM to their development activities (Software Development Lifecycle). Therefore it is only logical that this is the area where people are trying to identify their benefits (costs savings) from ALM. But is this correct? Is this focus too limited?  Shouldn’t we focus on more than only development when it comes to cost savings? Especially if we keep in mind that, on average, only 30% of the IT budget is spend on new application development (the remainder is spend on maintenance/operations)!

How come most of us still only focus on development? Is it because we still focus too much on the tools instead of facilitating collaboration between ‘Business’ ‘Development’ and ‘Operations’?

Everybody experienced in VSTS 2005 and/or VSTS 2008 will come to the conclusion that these tools mainly focus on the different roles within the development team (developer, architect, project management). Source control, unit testing and quality assurance features of these products provide us with a professional development environment and help us improving the overall quality of the products that we deliver. Work item management, a centralized store, reports, portals, etc. improve the collaboration within the development team and support project management in tracking progress, staying in control and managing risks adequately. All of this is great and potentially boost the performance of the development teams but experience learns that these benefits don’t come ‘out of the box’! Installing the tools doesn’t make the development team collaborate by default and most certainly doesn’t stimulate collaboration with the Business and Operations!

Now we know where most of us focus on for their ALM related activities, let see how this relates to the complete application lifecycle. For this we will use an the graph below were the x-axis represents time and the y-axix represents value and negative value displayed as costs.


Obviously the lifecycle of the application starts with its development. During this phase we have to make costs to design, develop and test the application. At that time the application doesn’t bring us (actually the business) any value and the complete development phase of the project only costs money. From the moment the application (parts of it?) are installed into production the appliaction starts to generate value till the moment it needs to phase out where it starts to cost money again.

What we see is, that most organizations are focusing on reducing the developments costs and (sometimes) try to shorten the time to market. Btw. it doesn’t come as a surprise that these are exactly the areas where the current releases of Visual Studio Team System focus on.


Reducing costs and make the application add value earlier is good but if we have a look at the image above we can see that the application lifecycle doesn’t end at the moment the application goes into production (where lifecycle line crosses x axis). So, wouldn’t it be great if our ALM practices help us optimize (reduce costs and/or increase value) during the remainder of the application lifecycle also?

For example, one of the things we can do to increase the business value is to practice a proper User Experience design (see this post of my colleague Andries for more info on this). By taking ‘Operations’ into account during the design and development phase of the application we can reduce operations costs during the remainder of the lifecycle. These things combined will result in an application that is more successful for a longer period of time (because it adds more value and costs less to maintain). Also, because we have done a good job developing the application, we know exactly what it does, where it is interfacing with (something VSTA 2010 will help with) and most importantly when it stops adding value which will help reducing the ‘phase out costs’ of the application.

Adding this to the graphical representation of our application lifecycle results in a graph that looks like this.


Based on this, we can now draw our new  application lifecycle which might looks something like this (dotted line is new lifecycle).


The good news is that the green area between the ‘old’ and ‘new’ lifecycle is the area were we can make money by adding extra value. The red colored areas is the place where we can make money by reducing costs. Doesn’t that look great???

Please note that ‘Reduce operations costs’ might be misunderstood from this graph. We don’t mean less value but less costs. I didn’t know how to display this correctly :-)

Of course, all of these things don’t come by itself. We have to actually work for that to make that happen and we can’t do everything at once. In this post I am not going to detail all the steps that we can do to make that happen and where we can use the current or future tooling for. However, hopefully this last image makes it very clear that there are others areas, besides development, within the application lifecycle where we can either reduce costs or increase value. So, if anybody aks you why they should invest in ALM this image should give you a starting point for your discussion…

At least, it *did* help me explain why I should spend my time on ALM and experimenting with VSTS 2010, Blueprints and App Arch Guide :-)



posted on 2/20/2009 9:26:33 PM UTC  #   
 Monday, January 12, 2009

In an earlier post we mentioned that it is relatively easy to get the current Blueprints bits running on the Visual Studio 2010 CTP by modifying the .MSI in Orcas. At that time we forgot to mention that we need a few extra steps to really get things going with Blueprints in Visual Studio 2010.

When trying to build a Blueprint solution in Visual Studio 2010 we will notice the following error in the error window.


As we can see, the build task ‘BASM’ is failing to retrieve the correct path. This task is implemented in the ‘Microsoft.SoftwareFactories.Blueprints.Builds.Tasks.dll’ that can be found in ‘..\Program Files\MSBuild\Microsoft\Blueprints\2.0’. It turns out that the execute method of this tasks looks for a (hardcoded) ‘String Value’ called ‘Blueprints’ under the ‘HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\VisualStudio\9.0\MSBuild\SafeImports’ tree. Because we replaced all ‘9.0’ in ‘10.0’ in the Blueprints .MSI to get it to install on Visual Studio 2010 this value doesn’t exist under ‘9.0’ anymore (but does under ‘10.0’).

To fix this we can either make sure to skip this particular replacement when modifying the .MSI in Orcas or manually add the Blueprints ‘String Value’ under the ‘HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\VisualStudio\9.0\MSBuild\SafeImports’ and give it the value ‘C:\Program Files\MSBuild\Microsoft\Blueprints\2.0\Microsoft.SoftwareFactories.Blueprints.targets’.

Another issue occurs when debugging our Blueprint in Visual Studio 2010. Currently, there is no property page implemented for the Blueprint project type (.bpproj) and therefore starting up Visual Studio 2008 is hardcoded in the Blueprints core. To get around this we can add an empty C# ‘Class Library’ project to our solution, set this project as the ‘StartUp’ project and make this project startup Visual Studio 2010 (property page) when debugging. Although this solution does work it makes the Visual Studio instances in my Virtual PC image VERY slow (don’t know why). Another option, that does work for me, is to leave the Blueprint project as the ‘StartUp’ project, let it start up a Visual Studio 2008 instance, (and simple ignore it) manually start another Visual Studio 2010 instance and attach this instance to the debugging process of the Visual Studio instance we started the debug session in.

Now everything is in place to *really* start developing Blueprints for Visual Studio 2010 CTP!

posted on 1/12/2009 2:07:57 PM UTC  #