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Microsoft Visual Studio 2022 ups the 'dev' in DevOps

Microsoft's Visual Studio 2022 will provide devs with 64-bit performance, better accessibility, improved collaboration with Live Share and a new UI for the Mac.

Microsoft's vision for its Visual Studio 2022 IDE is to provide a faster, more lightweight code editor to help developers build modern apps for the cloud and to provide DevOps capabilities right inside the tool.

The upcoming Visual Studio 2022 will provide repositories that describe common patterns used in today's apps, said Amanda Silver, corporate vice president of product in Microsoft's developer division, in a blog post.

Amanda Silver, corporate vice president of product in Microsoft's developer divisionAmanda Silver

"These repositories are made up of opinionated code showing these patterns in action, infrastructure-as-code assets to provision the Azure resources, and prebuilt GitHub workflows and actions setting you up with a complete CI/CD solution when you first create a project," Silver said. "Plus, the required development environment will be defined in the repository so that you can start coding and debugging right away."

Moreover, Microsoft's Visual Studio 2022 is providing enhanced support for Git and GitHub to help developers commit code, send pull requests and merge branches. The IDE also features built-in logic and checkpoints to guide developers through the merge and review process.

The DevOps support in Visual Studio 2022 shows Microsoft's commitment to DevOps and continuous delivery as the standard approach to software engineering moving forward, said Mark Driver, an analyst at Gartner.

"DevOps success is always a combination of people -- skills, process and technology," he said. "This is one way to make sure the technology pillar is solid to support process and skills as they mature among dev teams."

Meanwhile, because Silver's post did not explicitly say the new IDE would support Microsoft's Azure DevOps service, several developers criticized that decision in comments to the post.

However, Pratik Nadagouda, a program manager on the Visual Studio IDE team, jumped into the comments and said it is not true that support for Azure DevOps has been eliminated.

"We continue to support our devs and scenarios using Azure DevOps," he said. "It already has and will continue to have great Git integration in VS."

Microsoft solving problems it created

Microsoft's DevOps support in the IDE is a good way to help developers navigate the complexity of cloud-native provider services, said Eric Newcomer, CTO at WSO2. A Google search shows the number of Azure services at 6,000, which is a lot of functionality for a developer to digest.

"Microsoft is helping to deal with the complexity they created through this explosion of Azure services by defining opinionated code paths and flows to make it easier to consume and use the services," he said. "However, the trick -- as with any abstraction -- is understanding the impact on computing resources of the abstractions you choose to use."

The fact that they have a couple plays here in GitHub also shows the continued migration from Azure DevOps to GitHub as their team collaborative DevOps platform.
Thomas MurphyAnalyst, Gartner

Microsoft has a history of focusing on repeatable scenarios for mass adoption, which sometimes abstract the impact on the underlying computing infrastructure resources, he said.

"Developers may choose a pattern or a flow because of its ease of use but end up with a performance problem they couldn't see because of it," Newcomer said. "In short, success will depend on the quality of Microsoft's opinions, and not only the ease of use, but also the ease of understanding what is happening at the level of executing code."

The addition of pattern-oriented and prebuilt assets seems like a bit of a reprise of the traditional Microsoft playbook, namely to make it easy for people to take advantage of Microsoft operating system functionality, which helped drive dominance of Windows and Office, Gartner analyst Thomas Murphy said.

However, now the OS is the cloud and cloud services on Azure, he said.

"Microsoft needs better tooling like this to catch up to some of what Google and Amazon do, but this will also put them ahead in that both of those providers don't really have a cohesive developer IDE lead experience like this," Murphy said. "This will especially be true where many legacy Microsoft Windows shops are still migrating existing developers to cloud development."

Moreover, "the fact that they have a couple plays here in GitHub also shows the continued migration from Azure DevOps to GitHub as their team collaborative DevOps platform," he added.

Product shaped by developer input

Visual Studio 2022 has been basically crowd sourced, as Silver indicated that Microsoft remains close to its developer base, listening closely to what developers have said in surveys, direct feedback to the company and information from customer studies.

Microsoft has probably worked more hand in hand with its developer base on this release than ever before, said Holger Mueller, an analyst at Constellation Research in Cupertino, Calif.

"It makes sense to work closely with the engaged users to deliver a tool suite of their liking," Mueller said. "On the good housekeeping side, it is good to see Visual Studio going 64-bit, avoiding memory restrictions of the past 32-bit platform. Of course, Microsoft has enhanced support for Azure, but has not forgotten about .Net and has also improved C++ support, a departure from past C#-only plans."

Meanwhile, better collaboration, insights into productivity and diagnostics are key during pandemic times, but in general help advance developer velocity -- more and higher-quality code in less time, with fewer headaches, Mueller said.

Better collaboration for writing, reviewing code

Microsoft also enhanced the popular Live Share feature in Visual Studio 2022, which enables developers to collaborate with each other through exchanging ideas, pair programming and reviewing code.

"In Visual Studio 2022, Live Share will introduce integrated text chat so that you can have quick conversations about your code without any context switches," Silver said. "You'll have options to schedule recurring sessions that reuse the same link, simplifying collaboration with your frequent contacts. To better support Live Share within organizations, we'll also introduce session policies that define any compliance requirements for collaboration -- such as should read/write terminals be shareable."

The ability to quickly collaborate with frequent contacts is key, said Todd Williams, vice president of technology at Genuitec in Flower Mound, Texas. These planned 2022 features for Live Share are a great move to simplify repetitive sessions and bring its capabilities closer to the SaaS Teams support present in Genuitec's CodeTogether tool, which competes with Live Share.

"Enhancements to focus on team-centric needs will be warmly received by companies tied to the Microsoft stack and are a necessity across all remote collaboration products," Williams said.

Meanwhile, the ability for developers to work together remotely on code and do code reviews is a solid benefit.

"Anything they do to aid a developer feeling confident about the code review process is great," Gartner's Murphy said. Still, "as companies bring in practices like this it can be challenging for a developer to have his or her code reviewed by a peer and you can see a slow down if they feel like they need to get it all perfect first."

64-bit, accessibility and more

Visual Studio 2022 will be 64-bit and no longer limited to 4 GB of memory in the main devenv.exe process. And while it's a 64-bit tool, Visual Studio 2022 will still support building 32-bit apps.

"With a 64-bit Visual Studio on Windows, you can open, edit, run and debug even the biggest and most complex solutions without running out of memory," Silver said. "Here's to no more out-of-memory exceptions."

Microsoft also added new features to help developers build accessible apps. Visual Studio 2022 integrates with Accessibility Insights to detect accessibility issues early on. It also features Cascadia Code, a new fixed-width font for better readability and ligature support. And there are updated icons for better clarity, legibility and contrast.

It is important to address accessibility early in the development process, said Brent Stewart, an analyst at Gartner.

"Digital accessibility is very important at all stages of the design/development process, including in the beginning of a completely new product and at the beginning of a given build," he said. "It should be a standard nonfunctional requirement and must be considered -- specifically during UX design, content design, presentation layer code and quality assurance."

AI influence and developer productivity

Other new features in Visual Studio 2022 include updates to the IDE's C++ support, enhanced diagnostics and debugging, and enhancements to the AI IntelliCode engine in the IDE.

Microsoft describes IntelliCode as a set of AI-assisted capabilities that improve developer productivity with features such as contextual IntelliSense, inference and enforcement for code styles, and focused reviews for your pull requests.

By adding AI to the mix, developer productivity has been heightened over the past decade.

"We're moving well past just code completion and code suggestions to things that borrow from low-code/no-code tools, including customized reusable blocks and flows and templates that use AI-based systems to suggest entire code flows based on what the system believes the developer is intending to do," said Ronald Schmelzer, an analyst at Cognilytica in Ellicott City, Md. "These tools are really for enhancing the productivity of already knowledgeable developers and not a replacement for developer skill."

Other key features in the new release of the IDE include new personalization tools, enhanced code search and moving Visual Studio for Mac to the native macOS UI.

Beyond such new features, the most exciting aspects of this forthcoming release may revolve around how people work together within Visual Studio.

"New, real-time collaboration via Live Share, coupled with intelligent daily workflow management via IntelliCode and deeper integration with Git and GitHub turns Visual Studio 2022 into a development platform that better reflects the world we live in, a world where open collaboration at scale has become a necessity," said Brad Shimmin, an analyst at Omdia in Longmeadow, Mass.

A preview of Visual Studio 2022 will be available later this year.

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