Radio TFS Episode – Chatting about Lab Management

I had a good time yesterday with Greg & Martin chatting about Lab Management in the latest episode of Radio TFS.  If you don’t subscribe to the Radio TFS podcast series, I would definitely recommend it.  They are roughly 30-minute episodes and are an easy listen that you can fit into your weekly routine.

Download Radio TFS Episode

Radio TFS Logo

Let me know if you have any questions about any of the topics we discussed during the episode!

Ed Blankenship

In this episode we chat with Ed Blankenship about his new job at Microsoft as a program manager on the Test & Lab Management product team.

Before recently joining Microsoft, Ed was a Microsoft MVP for TFS and Visual Studio ALM in which he has been involved & using since the very beginning of the products nearly seven years ago. He worked as the Practice Technical Lead for the ALM/TFS Consulting Practice as Imaginet (formerly Notion Solutions). Ed was also voted as the Visual Studio ALM & Team Foundation Server MVP of the Year for 2010 by his group of peers in the MVP Community.

He is also an author of the Wrox Professional Team Foundation Server 2012 and TFS 2010 books. You can follow Ed via is blog at or via twitter @edblankenship

Links from the show:

For feedback contact or call +1 425 233-8379.

Visual Studio 2012 and TFS 2012 Official Release Timeframe Announced

Jason Zander, the Corporate Vice President for Visual Studio, has tweeted that the Visual Studio 2012 will release to manufacturing (RTM) in early August which is the same time that Windows 8 will RTM as announced at the Microsoft Worldwide Partner’s Conference.


The Visual Studio 2012 release includes all of the individual components of the Visual Studio family including:

  • .NET 4.5
  • Visual Studio 2012 Ultimate, Premium, Test Professional, and Professional
  • Team Foundation Server 2012
  • Microsoft Test Manager 2012
  • Lab Management components of Visual Studio, Microsoft Test Manager, and TFS
  • Feedback Client
  • Visual Studio Agents

It’s just around the corner now!  If you haven’t had a chance to Go-Live on the 2012 release, then start making plans to get upgraded at RTM!  Remember, if you don’t feel like setting up TFS 2012 internally, you can always use the Microsoft hosted version of TFS available at:


Ed Blankenship

Purple to Blue – Joining Visual Studio ALM Product Team at Microsoft for Lab Management

I have decided to take a position as Program Manager at Microsoft to work on the Lab Management scenarios on the Visual Studio Testing & Lab Management team.  This product team owns Microsoft Test Manager (which you can acquire in many editions including Visual Studio Test Professional, Visual Studio Premium, and Visual Studio Ultimate) as well as the testing & Lab Management scenarios of Team Foundation Server.  Today is my first day at Microsoft and will be attending New Employee Orientation (NEO).

If you are not familiar with Lab Management, in a word – it is awesome for development and test teams.  You can provision developer & test environments for use as you need them with tight integration back into the rest of Visual Studio and Team Foundation Server.  It is a feature of Team Foundation Server and you likely have all of the licenses that you need if you have MSDN subscriptions!  That means no additional license costs to take advantage of this functionality as opposed to some other solutions on the market.

Here is a high-level diagram of how it works and I have a slide deck from my 4-hour end to end Testing Workshop which includes a section on Lab Management and how it fits into the overall picture available here:!23778 

Lab Management Diagram in Visual Studio and Team Foundation Server

FYI – For those that may not understand the reference, I previously had a purple Microsoft badge (or a b-dash) as a Microsoft MVP and Microsoft Partner working closely with the product team.  One receives a blue badge whenever they start on as a full-time employee.

Microsoft MVP

MVP_Horizontal_FullColorHaving been part of the Visual Studio ALM & TFS Microsoft MVP group for the last five years, I can honestly say that it is the best group of ALM colleagues in the world.  They have been awesome to work with and I’m really excited about continuing to work with this same group.  Each one of my MVP colleagues brings something different to the table but the one thing in common is that everyone has been an awesome advocate for customers of TFS and Visual Studio ALM products around the world.  There is a deep interest in making things succeed and I know that I am better for it having been a part of the group.


Imaginet Logo

Microsoft Partner of the Year 2011 - Application Lifecycle Management (ALM)I have enjoyed my time at Imaginet (and formerly Notion Solutions) as the ALM Practice Technical Lead along with Dave McKinstry.  It’s all because of all of the great people that I have worked with.  Last year, Imaginet was honored with the Microsoft Partner of the Year award for Application Lifecycle Management.  It was just a formal indication about how awesome the ALM group of colleagues is to work with but it is something I already knew.

I am extremely fortunate to have been able to reach so many Visual Studio ALM & TFS customers while I have have been in my consulting role.  I am excited about taking that front-line experience and using it to drive further improvements into the product line.  Lately, I have been leading our Build Center of Excellence (CoE) team as well and have learned a lot about providing builds as a service and virtual environments (Lab Management) as a service to internal engineering teams for customers.  The team is doing some amazing stuff!

TechEd North America 2012

After my New Employee Orientation, my first trip as a Visual Studio ALM Program Manager is heading down to Orlando this year to work as a Microsoft booth staff member at TechEd North America 2012!  I had already been planning to work at the booth as a Microsoft MVP.  I won’t be speaking like I did last year with Christophe but that makes it less stressful for me!  Smile  I would love to meet up with you so please come by and we can talk about the product.  I’m looking forward to hearing about what’s working really well and what doesn’t work very well for your team.  I will be staffing the booth quite a bit over the week but feel free to get in touch with me if you would like my schedule closer to the event!


Take care!

Ed Blankenship

Lab Management Deploy TFS Build Process Process Template for Physical Environments

imageWith the Lab Management features of Visual Studio 2010 and Team Foundation Server 2010, you can create a build definition that deploys a build to a virtual environment being managed by Lab Management.   However, it doesn’t work if you have setup a physical environment that is being managed by Lab Management.

FYI – If you don’t have servers to host Hyper-V machines you can create “physical environments” and register them for use with Lab Management.  This allows testers to run tests and collect information coming from those physical environments just as they would from the virtual environments.  This is a good intermediate step for those organizations wanting to take advantage of Lab Management, haven’t invested in the virtual infrastructure necessary, and want to leverage existing physical environments (like QA, DEV, Staging, etc.).

Darshan, from the Lab Management product team at Microsoft, released a new build process template (XAML) file that adds limited support for deploying to physical environments and is similar to the standard deploy build process template available out of the box.  However, there are some shortcomings in that implementation including not being as rich of an experience since it doesn’t use a custom designer.

Not a problem… Colin Dembovsky who is one of our newer ALM/TFS Consultants at Notion Solutions helping customers in South Africa has put together a Lab Management deploy build process template for physical environments that attempts to address those shortcomings and provides for a rich experience that is similar to the experience that is used for deploying to virtual environments.

Check it out!


Ed Blankenship

Raffle for Two MSDN Subscriptions with Visual Studio 2010 Ultimate at Charleston Bar Camp

Charleston Bar Camp Logo

Earlier this year following the Visual Studio 2010 release, I got a great package from Microsoft (MVP Program and Visual Studio Product Team) that included some complimentary Visual Studio 2010 Ultimate with MSDN Subscription activation cards to give away.  I hadn’t found the right opportunity but this Saturday I will be attending (and have submitted a session proposal) the Charleston Bar Camp.  This should be a very interesting experience since it will be my first bar camp.  Anyhow, I have been looking for ways to contribute and foster our local software development community in Charleston and decided I would like to give two MSDN subscriptions out during the event.

What is Included?

Two winners will receive a prize package that contains:

Professional Application Lifecycle Management with Visual Studio 2010 Book Cover

One (1) copy of Professional Application Lifecycle Management with Visual Studio 2010 by Wrox



One (1) MSDN Subscription with Visual Studio 2010 Ultimate (Not for Resale) Includes:

· Team Foundation Server 2010

· SQL Server 2008 R2

· Windows 7

· Windows Server 2008 R2

· Office 2010

· Office 2011 for Mac

· One-year of updates

Professional Team Foundation Server 2010 Book Cover

One (1) copy of Professional Team Foundation Server 2010 by Wrox

(When Released)



 Total Retail Value for Prize Packages: $24,007.96


Option 1 - Lab Management Session Attendees

Attendees to the Virtual Lab Management with Team Foundation Server 2010 session (if selected and scheduled) will have an opportunity to win one of the prize packages. Bring a business card with your name, company/occupation, city, e-mail address, and Twitter account. One lucky winner will be selected from the submitted business cards after the session has completed.


Option 2 - All Bar Camp Charleston Attendees

On the back of this page, write your “pitch” for why you think you should win one of the prize packages and what you would do with it if you were to win. The best pitch, as determined by the judge(s) will be selected to win the prize package. Bonus points are given for impactful local projects, giving back to the local developer community, or volunteering time & talents for a local non-profit organization.


Good luck!

Download Flyer


MSDN Subscriptions donated by the Microsoft MVP Program, Visual Studio Product Team, and...


Ed Blankenship

Microsoft MVP of the Year, Visual Studio ALM
Co-Author, Professional Team Foundation Server 2010 by Wrox


Application Lifecycle Management & Team Foundation Server Consultant
Notion Solutions

Twitter: @EdBlankenship


Microsoft’s Islands in the Stream

There is a great article in the August 1, 2010 edition of the SD Times by Dave Worthington (@dcworthington) about the Visual Studio 2010 ALM tools including Team Foundation Server 2010.  It’s titled Microsoft’s islands in the stream.”  Some really great colleagues in the ALM community have been interviewed and provided some pretty honest feedback from what we have been seeing over the last year or so.  Check it out!


Ed Blankenship

Lab Management Released and Included with MSDN Subscriptions

This is some really exciting news for customers of Visual Studio 2010 and Team Foundation Server 2010!  Today, Microsoft has announced that customers who have purchased Visual Studio 2010 Ultimate with MSDN or Visual Studio 2010 Test Professional with MSDN now receive the Lab Management capabilities for Team Foundation Server!  That means no per-processor licensing fees for your physical host servers that will be hosting your virtual machines!

Earlier this year, I passed on Lab Management news that indicated that it would cost $1,599 per processor (retail.)  Microsoft has listened to the feedback and has also made it a “feature” in the Visual Studio family instead of a completely separate product.

Microsoft has also announced an update to the Lab Management functionality in the different products to bring it to full RTM/RTW status.  You’ll recall that when Visual Studio 2010 released earlier this year that the Lab Management features ended up still being released in a “Release Candidate” status.  The product team has spent the last few months gathering feedback and include updates to improve performance throughout the product.  The “patch” will be available later this month.  I highly recommend updating to the latest version by installing the patch as soon as it becomes available.

When it is released, you will see the following “extra” installation media become available in your MSDN Subscriber Download listings:

  • System Center Virtual Machine Manager* (SCVMM)
  • Visual Studio 2010 Agents

*A grant of “limited use” rights for SCVMM are included.  This means that you can only use SCVMM for your Visual Studio 2010 Lab Management test lab.

This is a great move for customers.  Creating a virtual lab management can be an expensive endeavor for business.  I recall visiting customers who have spent tens of thousands of dollars on competing products like VMWare Lab Manager.  This is really bringing virtual lab management to everyone!

If you are curious about more information, see Brian Harry’s announcement.


Ed Blankenship

Book Review for Wrox Professional Application Lifecycle Management with Visual Studio 2010

During the first week of April, a little package was sitting on my front porch with the first book to be released on the Visual Studio 2010 release that deals with the new Application Lifecycle Management (ALM) features.  For those of you who don’t know, this essentially means the former “Team System” line of products as we were exposed to it in the 2005 and 2008 releases.  Although the entire Visual Studio suite of products is considered something that helps you with ALM, the book primarily focused on Visual Studio 2010 Ultimate, Visual Studio 2010 Premium, Visual Studio 2010 Test Professional, Visual Studio 2010 Lab Management, and Team Foundation Server 2010.  During the Introduction, I even appreciated how the authors discussed about “where Team System went.”  It’s the best explanation of the branding change that I’ve seen to date.

I was extremely excited to start immediately reading the book.  Even though I have been closely involved with the 2010 release as a Microsoft MVP, when I started to read this book my goal was to be exposed deeper in the feature set being introduced in the 2010 release.

At the time of writing this blog post, the book was selling for $34.64 at Amazon.  The suggested retail price is $54.99.  It is currently #7 in the Software Development books category!


If you are new to the ALM features in Visual Studio, I felt this book really offered you the ability to get the high-level overview of all of those features.  It’s essentially similar to a “survey” course that you would have taken in college.   It’s 696 pages that ends up going through all of the Visual Studio client and server features at just the right level of detail. There were even some areas that I felt that I learned more about and hadn’t been exposed to heavily in the past.

The architecture features were something that I had hoped to learn the most from.  They have just never been something that I dived into great detail during the 2010 release cycle.   All of the new UML diagrams that are available including the new architecture features like Use Case, Activity, Sequence, Component, Class, Dependency, and Layer Diagrams.  There was a also a great introduction to the Architecture Explorer.

The testing features have really been what has made up a majority of the Visual Studio 2010 release and the book definitely reflects that.  Going through the testing features, I really felt like I understood the end to end story.  It felt very rounded out!  These chapters are where I picked up a majority of the nuggets of information.  I can’t tell you how many times I said “wow, I didn’t know you could do that.”  I also feel like this is a great place to pick up some introductory knowledge about how Visual Studio Team Lab Management fits into the ALM story.  I also kept thinking how great this book would be for the testers on your team that are new to the Microsoft testing platform and Team Foundation Server.

There are so many changes to TFS, I can’t even begin to start describing them.  Thankfully, the book did a great job.  Especially with the revamp of Team Build to use Windows Workflow Foundation.  You can even download the Team Build chapter from the book for free here:  Team Foundation Build.  Other than automated builds, you’ll get a good pass by all of the rest of the new TFS 2010 features and architecture/topology changes.

There was a whole chapter dedicated to debugging with IntelliTrace!  That’s awesome.  I’m very much a fan of IntelliTrace and think that will truly change the way you develop.


I have been hoping to have a book available out there that really only discusses TFS.  The book definitely has a few chapters available on TFS and spends a good amount of time but that discussion is not the nitty gritty that I think some readers out there are really looking for.  With that said, I don’t think this book was positioned for the “TFS Administrator” exclusively.  Again, I really think this is a survey-level review of the entire ALM stack of features for Visual Studio.  That doesn’t allow you to go into the depths of any particular product.  There currently isn’t a book available for TFS 2010 with the level of detail that I am sure some readers out there are hoping for.  We’ll see what happens in the months to come…

My next criticism isn’t so much for the content of the book as what is media choices are available.  I own a Kindle DX and I imagine a few other techies in the world have some type of eBook reader as well.  I was hoping to have a CD that contained a DRM-free PDF that I could copy over to my Kindle DX whenever I’m traveling and need a quick resource for reference.  Wrox certainly does allow you to get a PDF of books but you have to order them separately even if you had purchased the hard copy.

Finally, the only other thing that I noticed was in that chapter about IntelliTrace (see above) there wasn’t a mention of Symbol & Source Server.  I couldn’t believe it.  There is definitely a discussion later in the book about Team Build’s integration with Symbol & Source server but I was hoping to have seen some more detail in the IntelliTrace chapter about the importance of having them setup for your organization.  You’ll want to put two and two together.


Now that I’m finished scrounging from the bottom of the barrel to find some criticisms… :)

My Recommendation

Hands down, get this book.  I think it’s well worth it.   I know each of the authors and it really looks like they put a tremendous amount of effort into writing the book.  The topics are really presented well and at the right level of detail for someone really wanting a crash course in all of the Visual Studio ALM features.  I can’t even tell you how many new nuggets of information that I ran across of things that I didn’t even realize were in the product.

It certainly gets my stamp of approval! :)  Kudos to the authors.


Very respectfully,

Ed Blankenship

Microsoft MVP of the Year, Visual Studio ALM and Team Foundation Server

News Update on Team Lab Management with TFS 2010

Just got some news about Team Lab Management in TFS 2010 hot off the press:

Q: How will support work for customers who are already using Lab Management with the Go-Live License in Beta 2 or RC?

A: We will continue to support customers that have already gone live with Lab Management 2010 pre-release go-live licenses.


Q: What are the pricing details for Lab Management 2010?

A: Suggested FPP retail price for Visual Studio Lab Management 2010 is US$1599. Of course, the majority of customers are likely to qualify for a lower price point based on volume licensing discounts. Lab Management 2010 will be priced per physical processor (each processor of each lab server must be licensed for Visual Studio Lab Management 2010). Visual Studio 2010 Ultimate or Visual Studio Test Professional 2010 is required to manage lab environments.


Q: Have we changed our shipping plans for the general availability of Lab Management 2010?

A: Quality has always been and remains a top priority for Visual Studio. Being definitive about RTM dates is always very difficult and doubly so for brand new v1 products. For this reason, until we are very close, we generally only forecast release timeframes rather than specific dates. While it’s true, early on, we had hoped to release the new Lab Management product at the same time as the rest of Visual Studio 2010. It became clear through the Beta cycle that it was taking a bit longer to get sufficient, detailed feedback. Excitement has been very high but there’s also a huge amount of new value in the 2010 wave; we made the decision that it was better for Lab Management to ship a little later in the 2010 wave if that means we can incorporate additional feedback to ensure it’s the terrific product everyone wants it to be. 


Remember, customers can deploy it with a supported pre-release go-live license!  If customers have any feedback during the pre-release process, please send that to the product group using Microsoft Connect.


About Visual Studio Lab Management 2010

Visual Studio Lab Management 2010 is a new offering in the Visual Studio 2010 release wave. Lab Management 2010 enables teams to configure and manage a virtual lab environment. Lab Management works with System Center Virtual Machine Manager for enabling teams to create environment templates, provision ring-fenced environments, and checkpoint those environments. Using Lab Management, you can accelerate setup, tear down and restoration of complex virtual environments to a known state for test execution and build automation. It extends build automation by automating virtual machine provisioning, build deployment and build verification in an integrated manner. It also enables testers to file rich bugs with links to environment checkpoints that developers can use to recreate complex environments, effectively reducing wasted time and resources in your development and test life cycle. Those checkpoints can be attached to bugs filed using the Microsoft Test Manager enabling the person fixing the bug to open the environment right to the appropriate point in the application flow.


Related Links

· Visual Studio Lab Management Team Blog

· Visual Studio Team Test Blog

· Microsoft Virtualization VHD Test Drive Program


Ed Blankenship