Microsoft is making its first foray into enterprise development with the launch of version 6.0 of its Visual Studio tools bundle at the Teched developers' conference in New Orleans.
It has finally added support for developing three-tier applications, several years behind the rest of the market. In doing so, it reaffirmed the now standard mantra that interoperability with other products in a heterogeneous corporate environment is the key to its ambitions.
Paul Gross, vice president of Microsoft?s development tools division, said: ?Visual Studio has been built to address multi-tier applications and to integrate client/server with the Web. Recently, NT has come in for use with the Web and Intranets, and we recognise that Windows is not the only desktop.?
As a result, he continued: ?We?re now enabling Enterprise Workbench to work with third party products so developers can write end-to-end solutions. We want to bring them the rapid application turnaround of Visual Basic, but with support for more complex applications and component development. People want to use technology to react to change, so time to market is a requirement too.?
He admitted that, in the past, the software giant had focused only on the edit, compile and debugging part of the picture, but for version 6.0, Microsoft developers had spent the past 18 months trying to address components, lifecycle support, team development, enterprise database support and distributed application services.
The tools bundle, which includes Visual J++, Visual Foxpro and Visual Interdev, currently in public beta, plus Visual C++ and Visual Basic, in private beta, has now been properly integrated using version 2.0 of the Microsoft repository.
This means developers can swap different components that are built using any of the tools, or compliant third party offerings, in and out of their applications and can store and reuse them more easily. They can also catalogue, index and access them via the newly introduced Visual Component Manager.
But analysts had reservations about the offering. Some said that, while this was Microsoft?s first move to provide users with enterprise tools, it still had work to do on unifying them into a full development, deployment and management framework.
Full modelling tool integration, which is necessary to build complex applications, particularly component based ones, is still not available, they explained.
For example, version 2.0 of the Visual Modeller tool that Microsoft jointly created with Rational has not been integrated with the Visual Interdev Web development tool and does not offer concurrent team development.
On the database side, however, Microsoft has added new schema design tools, not only for version 6.5 and the upcoming 7.0 release of its own SQL Server offering, but also for version 7.3 and 8.0 of Oracle.
Gross explained: ?Visual Basic is the number one development tool for building applications with Oracle. It?s amazing and happened despite any effort we?ve made.?
Other data sources can be accessed via native OLEDB and ODBC drivers that will come in the box and native support for high end applications such as SAP?s R/3 is also planned.
Visual Studio 6.0 is due to ship on 2 September at Microsoft's Developer Days event, but users attending Teched will receive a preliminary version a couple of days after the conference.
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