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Bryon Root on Visual Studio ALM

Now that Team Foundation Server 2012 (TFS 2012) has been released, it is time to start planning and thinking about upgrading. Why, might you ask, do I need to upgrade? The new features alone are reason enough. Here at Northwest Cadence we have had the opportunity to work with TFS 2012 over the last few months. I have to say that I love it!

As I was telling one of my clients why they should move and how the past release compared to the Windows Server versions, I explained it like this.

TFS 2008 was a great improvement and really got the ball rolling with using TFS for Application Lifecycle Management (ALM) practices. It was not fully cook yet and had a number of pitfalls that needed to be addressed. I think of it as a Windows 2003 server version.

TFS 2010 changed everything. The new features got the ALM practices rolling and the Team Builds and Team Manager were new. I like to think of TFS 2010 release as Window server 2008. It changed the platform and made it more stable.

Now TFS 2012 gives us that stable platform and includes all the goodies. I like to think of TFS 2012 as Windows Server 2008 R2. A great stable product with the tools needed to get the job done. Some of the new features for TFS 2012 can be found here.

What does a company need to do to upgrade to TFS 2012? The first thing is Planning, and of course call NWC to help with the upgrade. I have done a few upgrades and there are many things to plan for and a lot of moving parts to make sure everything works after the upgrade or migration is complete. It is not a trivial task!

Bringing the development and QA team down for a few hours can cost a company unforeseen amounts. Not to mention having the director and manager asking if TFS is up yet, while the development team is leaving for the day. You have to trust me on this one; it’s not a lot of fun.

In fact, I had a recent customer that we did a Deployment Planning Service (DPS) for. Mark asked a solid question, “Should I move from Vault product line to TFS 2012?” With his team growing, Mark was looking for a platform to take him to the next phase. You can read Mark Caldwell’s blog post on his 6 year adventure here

The DPS engagement uncovered some of the challenges they might face by migrating. It also uncovered the cost of not migrating. Having an independent review with new eyes is what a company needs to help navigate the unknowns and to point out the benefits of the effort.

Now you have the planning in place and have read everything out there on the web on how to do an upgrade or migration. At best, you will have a 50% confidence that everything will go right. Having done a few upgrades and migrations and knowing the trouble area, I still get nervous when I do them. You can plan for the Known but the Unknowns will get you every time.

This is where experience and having a fantastic team behind you comes in handy. I’m lucky to have a great team here at NWC with a wide skill-set! If anything does go wrong, I can contact the team and get the issue resolved quickly.

The one piece of advises I would tell everyone, is to do a practices upgrade first. Yes, it does take extra time and effort, but it’s well worth it in the end. This is where you will find the unknowns and how much time it will take. Some of our past clients have tried the upgrade on their own and soon found out it was more than they had planned for. You wouldn’t do a release to production without testing your release plan or deployment process… would you?

Team Foundation Server upgrade and migration is a production upgrade and should be treated as such. Some might argue that it’s only source control and development stuff and that it does not affect the production servers. Well, that is wrong! That development stuff, build, deployment, and source control is production value. Think of it like this; if your production environment goes down, I mean completely unrecoverable down, the code that is in source control is what you will need to rebuild your system. Yes, you might have the latest backups, but do you have all the code changes since the full back-up?

Do I recommend that companies upgrade to TFS 2012? In one word, YES!

Does it take some planning and effort like you would any other production upgrade? YES!

Would I call NWC to help with the upgrade and migration? Well of course the answer to this is, YES! It’s good to have a team of experienced people help and stand behind you on an upgrade or migration project like this.

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