Visual Studio 2010 release ups testing tools ante

Development and testing now closer during product cycle

Microsoft has released Visual Studio 2010, and the latest version of the software development platform is already winning fans among developers due to its emphasis on collaboration, extensibility and more rapid testing.

The aim of the 2010 release was to increase transparency, reduce waste and improve customer value, says Sam Guckenheimer, group product planner for Microsoft’s Visual Studio product line.

“The team was focused on scenarios like the ‘no repro bug’ where someone reports a bug and the developers can’t reproduce it, so it goes back to the person and it gets into a ‘ping pong game’ and meanwhile nothing gets fixed,” Guckenheimer said.

“There is huge waste today in the way teams work. We have technology built on virtualisation so the response from developers can be ‘fixed’.”

Guckenheimer said Visual Studio 2010 has six mechanisms to help eliminate this kind of waste, including automatic (time indexed) log captures and videos of what the person saw, which can be linked to configuration snapshots of the machine that was running the software.

“A developer can replay the bug like a video recorder to debug it,” he said. “Attached with the bug can be a ‘snapshotted’ test environment on virtual machines so that the whole machine, or images of multiple machines, form part of a bug report.”

Instead of saying “cannot reproduce” a developer then gets to follow exact steps and can inspect the machine state as it was at time of failure.

Visual Studio leverages Windows Server 2008’s Hyper-V virtualisation technology for this testing system, which Guckenheimer says an ordinary business customer should be able to set up “pretty easily”.

“In teams today there is a huge mismatch between development and testing so we have taken build automation build automation and extended it to do deployment,” he said. “So the testers can do a daily build and work on the same cycle as the developers.”

Local Testing

Sydney-based software testing company Access Testing is using SketchFlow (part of MSDN subscription for Visual Studio 2010 Ultimate and Premium) to shorten the time between development and user acceptance.

Access Testing’s customer experience manager, Greg Barnett, said using SketchFlow allows mock-ups to be created without a lengthy development process.

Visual Studio 2010 includes a new version Sketchflow (4.0), which Barnett says has marked improvements, including a large built-in widget library so there is less manual work, and “a whole lot of improvements in how you create the mock-up”.

“We’ve never been able to get as close with mimicking the final product,” he said. “When we test anything we invariably always find things we can improve and change so now we can easily create a visual of what we are recommending. I can spend 10 minutes in SketchFlow and create a visual.”

“Visual Studio 2010 has more visual, real-time, rapid iterative testing. With customers we can iterate on the fly right there and then.”

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Another Visual Studio user is Red Lizard Software, a NICTA-funded startup that develops automated code testing tools.

The company’s technical lead Ralf Huuck said the developers starting using Visual Studio in September last year and have been successful.

“We’ve been working with Microsoft to integrate with Visual Studio 2010 and it will be released simultaneously,” Huuck said.

Red Lizard’s product, Goanna, is a sophisticated way of studying source code automatically -- from syntax and how memory is used to identifying generic programming mistakes.

“This type of static analysis complementary to testing,” Huuck said. “We do this for C and C++ code which is the area where most things can go wrong and those languages are used most extensively in mission critical systems.”

Huuck says Visual Studio looks “much slicker” and integrates more tightly with Goanna. The next step is integration with Team Foundation Server.

Microsoft’s Guckenheimer said about 50 partners will launch products with Visual Studio 2010.

“For example, Micro Focus has a whole development experience around Cobol ready to go,” he said. “Cobol is a big step forward. You have the full Visual Studio experience on the legacy language and the ability to migrate between their language and Visual Studio.”

Microsoft also plans to announce an Eclipse-based client for Team Foundation Server for improved Java support.