Microsoft is reinventing its ALM solution around DevOps, and at Build 2015 it revealed a number of initiatives designed to increase its market share. The most dramatic change is the inclusion of application performance management, Microsoft Application Insights, as an out-of-the-box ALM feature. Ovum has always included APM as part of the lifecycle in ALM, and Microsoft is making this a reality by instrumenting every new Visual Studio solution with monitoring capabilities that can be picked up by the Application Insights analytics dashboard. The DevOps-inspired release-management and continuous-deployment capability now supports Azure VMs, Chef Recipes, and Docker on Linux. Application Insights has a DevOps dimension in enhancing end-user, production feedback to support evidence-based agile development and guiding backlog priorities. Fierce market competition combined with a Microsoft that wants to capture developer mindshare across all platforms is driving these initiatives.
APM in ALM
Application Insights is designed to support developers as the key stakeholders to give them immediate diagnostic information in classical APM use scenarios to very quickly remediate to root cause, and also to inform agile backlog decision-making with evidence from release to production. Microsoft completed the integration of the recently acquired HockeyApp technology, which brings IOS and Android crash analytics support. The pricing is highly aggressive. Microsoft expects the vast majority of developers to pay nothing or very little for the service. With data usage the primary pricing criterion, it is successful apps (Java, Windows, iOS, Android) that will generate the main revenue.
The APM market has seen a lot of disruption in recent years, with new solutions that have reduced the price barrier of entry, making APM affordable to a wider set of stakeholders. Microsoft’s move will further disrupt this market by providing developers with an ALM solution that properly includes the production. DevOps has made the production and maintenance phase of the developer lifecycle of prime relevance and importance because it is where the business gains value.
Unit testing gets a boost
Managing unit tests is a chore, so Microsoft’s answer is to auto-generate a minimum set of unit tests that give a wide degree of code coverage, and if the code changes then a simple click will auto-generate a new set of unit tests.
A number of other improvements raise the competitiveness of Visual Studio. The CodeLens feature gives developers information on all who touched which line of code and when, and enables them to discover about unit tests that exist for their code, review their code's history to find out what happened to their code, and review changes before they are merged into their code, so they can better understand how changes in other branches might affect their code. A redesigned electronic kanban board gives teams flexibility in mixing and matching Scrum and kanban. Some of these enhancements can be found in competitor solutions, so this is Visual Studio in catch-up mode, but together all the enhancements reported here continue to make Visual Studio a formidable coding environment.
Michael Azoff, Principal Analyst, IT Infrastructure Solutions