In my last column (http://www.windowsitpro.com/articles/articleid/46479/46479.html), I introduced you to Microsoft Team System and the Team Foundation Server. As part of this discussion, I mentioned that Team System is a huge product suite and that, as part of its introduction, Microsoft has modified the structure of its Microsoft Developer Network (MSDN) licensing. Now, I want to tell you about the licensing options and more important let you know about the options you might be most interested in. The official pricing for the new options is available at http://msdn.microsoft.com/howtobuy/vs2005/editions/team.

For starters, let's talk about the Visual Studio 2005 Team Suite. This is the mother lode and most closely resembles the MSDN Universal Subscription. Unlike some products in which the high-end product comes with more features than available in the lesser-value counterpart, the Team Suite is truly just an aggregation of the tools available in the three Team System packages:

  • Visual Studio 2005 Team Edition for Software Architects
  • Visual Studio 2005 Team Edition for Software Developers
  • Visual Studio 2005 Team Edition for Software Testers

As part of the beta 2 program, Microsoft has made the entire Team Suite available in hope that once you see and use all the tools, you won't be able to live without them. If you have an unlimited budget, Team Suite is for you and you'll likely want to upgrade from the beta 2 version to the release version before the end of the year. However, if you're like most developers, upgrading to the Team Suite will be on your wish list rather than your to-do list. However, the beta 2 version presents you with an opportunity to learn which new Team System features you like to use.

With that said, let's look at what's in each Team Edition. Based on the number of resumes I've seen lately in which applicants list "software architecture" as being a skill related to the developer position they're seeking, I'm betting that the Team Edition for Software Architects is the version that most people probably think they want. However, don't let the word "Architects" in this edition's title fool you. A true software architect doesn't write any code. In fact, I think it could be argued that Microsoft is making a mistake in even including Visual Studio 2005 in that package. Aside from Visual Studio 2005, none of the tools in this edition support code. The Software Architects edition has four tools, only two of which are unique to this package: SOA Modeling and Deployment Design. So, for most developers, the Software Architects edition isn't a valuable investment. Although in reality, if you're going to be focusing on these tasks, you'll probably have the budget for the full Team Suite.

Next, I want to approach the other end of the spectrum: Team Edition for Software Testers. This edition is intriguing in that it focuses on an area in which developers often fail--testing. Besides offering the two tools common to all the Team Editions (i.e., Visual Studio 2005 and Class Designer), the Software Testers edition offers tools for unit testing and code coverage. Unique to this edition are the Load Test and Test Case Management tools. Although these two tools are useful, the most exciting thing about the Software Testers edition is that it includes Microsoft Virtual Server. It's the only version of Team Edition to do so. That inclusion combined with the fact that it targets an area in which most developers are weak (testing) make the Software Testers edition an attractive package.

As attractive as the Software Testing edition is, the Team Edition for Software Developers has some specific advantages. Let's face it--most of us are still proud that we write code. Thus, we need tools to facilitate this process and to help us improve our weakest area, testing. Fortunately, the Software Developers edition addresses both needs. To help us write good code, the Software Developers edition has three unique tools: Static Code Analysis, Dynamic Code Analysis, and Profiling. Each tool looks at source code. As a group, these three tools are designed to ensure that the code we're writing is easy to maintain. To ensure that we test all our code, the Software Developers edition includes the Unit Test and Code Coverage tools (which, as I mentioned previously, are also in the Software Testers edition).

Here's the bottom line: Whether you're a casual developer or a fulltime developer who can have only one edition, the one you want is the Software Developers edition. To me, this decision is a no brainer. If you're part of a team of three to five developers, at some point you should consider investing in a copy of the Software Testers edition in addition to getting the Software Developers edition initially. As for the Software Architects edition, well if you think you need that, odds are you should really be looking at buying the entire Team Suite.