What's new in the TFS Release Candidate?

Since posting about the upcoming TFS Release Candidate, I’ve received numerous requests to describe the changes since Beta3. While I can’t possibly remember or report everything that’s changed, I have been able to pull together a reasonable summary of the biggest changes:

Bug fixes: Oh my goodness…we’ve found and fixed a ton of bugs. This release is substantially more reliable, stable and performant than Beta3. If for no other reason than this, you should plan to upgrade to the RC.

Friendly name support for Work Items: We heard from many customers that using network account names to assign work items was problematic for their company since many IT departments assign people cryptic combinations of numbers and letters making it difficult to assign work items to coworkers (“Who’s GFT546?”). So, we made a switch to use the Active Directory ‘friendly name’ instead which seems to work much better.

Improved SharePoint configuration during install: our #1 issue during installation is ensuring that SharePoint is correctly configured for proper use by TFS. To improve this situation, we have altered the way we interface with the SharePoint installation and admin tools…instead of calling the command line tools to do the work, we utilize the SharePoint object model which gives us a finer grain level of control and feedback. We’ve taken the most common reported installation issues around SharePoint and used them as test cases to ensure that the experience installing RC will be much better.

Improved error detection within Setup: while I’m talking about install, I should also mention that we’ve kept track of the other issues that customers encounter during setup and have, wherever possible, put checks into our system health checks to detect for the most common pitfalls. Installing on a Domain Controller is now completely blocked because of the security and configuration challenges that configuration has presented to our early adopters (install in a workgroup configuration instead).

Workgroup / Trial editions: We introduced code to allow us, based on the product ID that’s entered during installation, to throttle the capabilities of TFS. This allows us to provide Workgroup (5 users only) or Trial (180 days only) editions of our product. The RC will use the Trial edition key so it’ll run for only 180 days.

Move SQL Reporting Services to the Application Tier: Because Reporting Services requires IIS to be present and many companies do not allow IIS and SQL to run on the same server, we moved Reporting Services off the data tier in dual server deployments (no change for single server installs).

Upgrade utility: We’ve done a lot of work on our upgrade scripts to allow migration of data from Beta3 refresh to both the Release Candidate and the final build of TFS. These scripts will also help migrate your data from the RC to the final bits to allow customers to “go live” with this release. We have detailed specs on these tools on the Team Foundation blog.

Reports: The improvements to the reporting system are too many to summarize here…just know that we’ve done a lot of work in this area and if you’re a consumer of the TFS data warehouse, you’re going to like the changes we’ve made with the release candidate.

Admin tools: Same goes for our admin tools. While I wouldn’t claim that we’ve got state of the art admin tools, we’ve put a lot of work into these recently and as such are now able to provide better user management as well as server migrations (moving between servers, changing from single -> dual server, from workgroup -> domain, etc).

Portal: We’ve reduced the number of reports on the main page and cleaned up the overall look of the default portal.

CMMI Methodology: we’ve done a bunch of work to bring the CMMI process template up to shipping quality by fixing bugs in the work item templates and reports. We think they’re now ready for prime time.

Whew…I’m sure I forgot a few key changes since Beta3 (and I’m equally sure I’ll hear about them from the respective teams) but I think this list gives you an overall impression of the sorts of things we’ve been doing since October when we shipped Beta3. I’m really excited to get these changes out to you and hear how they work for you.