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Dan Wood (Mugshot)

Microsoft recently announced the support of Git, the ubiquitous Distributed Version Control System with Visual Studio, and even more significantly, with Team Foundation Server. Scott Hanselman, on his blog, beat me to the punch in using the prolific geek quote from Ghostbusters, “Dogs and cats, living together…mass hysteria!” to describe the enormity of this development, but what does the new Visual Studio support and TFS integration with Git mean to you? The answer, like the answer to almost all technical questions, is “it depends.”

For many small development shops, the idea of using TFS and a centralized source control repository is anathema. The mere thought of being restricted by a software configuration manager on how and when to branch or merge cuts against everything they cherish in software development. Git is their natural and chosen ground for managing source code. The freedom and flexibility of using Git enables them to work where they are. This is especially true if they are working as part of a distributed team on modular projects.

Microsoft addressed many of the existing concerns with TFS source control with the advent of TFS 2012 and local workspaces. However, even though local workspaces enable great flexibility in offline work, they are still ultimately tied to a central repository and the policies and restrictions imposed on it.

Enter Git support in TFS. Git support currently comes in two forms; stand alone Git support in Visual Studio and Git support with TFS.

Git support with Visual Studio is completely straightforward. Simply change the source control plug-in selection to the Microsoft Git Provider and all the power and flexibility of Git is available to the Visual Studio developer such as private branches and online collaboration with Git hosts such as GitHub and BitBucket.


Configuring Git for Visual Studio Source Control

However, from an ALM perspective, the real power and the compelling feature of Microsoft’s integration with Git is the ability to work with TFS.

Developers still get all the advantages and flexibility of Git, but can also take advantage of the ALM features of TFS such as work item tracking, team tools and integrated build. The Git – TFS integration gets us much closer to the ultimate goal of true cross-platform support in a single ALM toolset.

The TFS – Git integration can be utilized a couple of ways. The first option is the ability to essentially synchronize a Git repository with TFS source control with the Git-TF utility. This utility makes it easy to clone sources from TFS, fetch updates from TFS and push changes back to TFS. What’s more, it fully supports TFS shelvesets and work item integration, which presents some exciting possibilities. The features and functionality Git-TF provides makes it a compelling solution and a credible compromise between centrally managed teams with source control and distributed teams with distributed source control.

The second option, available now only through Microsoft’s hosted TFS Service, is the ability for organizations to create TFS Team Projects with Git hosted source control (this ability is reportedly planned for on premise TFS support in the next release). This is a fairly exciting development. Having the choice between native TFS version control and Git when creating a team project opens many doors that hitherto were locked shut.


XCode IDE connected to a TFS hosted repository

Eclipse, XCode, Visual Studio and any other IDE that supports Git can now be used to leverage the powerful ALM features TFS provides. As an ALM consultant, that’s the part that excites me the most. Hosting all development efforts in a single environment; an environment that supports all the various technologies in play and being able to track and manage those efforts with agility and transparency is a huge benefit to any organization that provides multiple platform solutions. Even those who don’t, will now have the option to at least evaluate the feasibility of utilizing TFS in development environments not typically associated with a Microsoft project.

The mythical promised land of cross-platform ALM may have just become not so mythical.

The Git – TFS integration will be covered in more detail as well as other topics during the upcoming webcast on using Git with Visual Studio.

To register or to find out more information about the “Introducing the New Git Integration with TFS 2012″ webcast please visit the Northwest Cadence events page.

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