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Microsoft dev tools to add Linux-style source code versioning

Git support coming to VS2012, Team Foundation Server

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Microsoft's developer tools division has taken another step closer to the open source community, with the announcement that both Team Foundation Server and Visual Studio will soon incorporate support for decentralized source code version control using Git.

Microsoft Technical Fellow Brian Harry announced the new tools at the company's third annual ALM (application lifecycle management) Summit at its Redmond campus on Wednesday, then followed up with a detailed blog post explaining the decision.

"Centralized version control is going to be around for a long time," Harry wrote. "It's a model that still works for a very large number of customers and we're very happy with the solution we have. However, DVCS [decentralized version control systems], starting with roots in the OSS community, has grown steadily in popularity."

Git is probably the most widely used DVCS today, although devotees of its rival Mercurial might argue the point. Originally invented by Linus Torvalds to help him manage Linux kernel development, Git quickly gained a strong following, in part thanks to the popular free source code-hosting site, GitHub.

Harry says Microsoft made the decision to add DVCS support to Team Foundation Server more than a year ago, and that it didn't take long to settle on support for Git as the right way to go.

"Git hasn't been as friendly for Windows developers as on other platforms. By building on Git, we can take all the time we might spend just 'catching up' and spend that effort on something where we can add more distinctive value. Choosing Git just made sense," Harry wrote.

Microsoft's Git plans take a two-pronged approach, with support coming for Git clients and servers alike. On the client side, Redmond is developing a Visual Studio extension that allows developers to access Git repositories from within the IDE, as well as create and manage repositories on the local hard drive.

A Community Technology Preview of this extension was made available for download on Wednesday, and the final version is expected to ship with the next version of Visual Studio, dubbed VS.Next. The plug-in will not work with Visual Studio 2010 or earlier, Harry said, though he noted that it would come bundled with all future versions of the IDE, including the free Express editions.

On the server side, the next version of Team Foundation Server will allow administrators to create and host Git repositories, in addition to the traditional Team Foundation Version Control repositories. No date has been announced for when that version will ship, but the Git features are already available to users of Microsoft's hosted Team Foundation Service, beginning on Wednesday.

Harry stressed that Microsoft's decision to get aboard the Git train in no way constituted an attack on open source, and that Redmond's implementation of Git would be fully compatible with any existing Git repositories or tools.

"This is not about lock in – It's about providing a good and interoperable Git capability," Harry wrote.

Developers who would like to get started with Microsoft's Git tools via Team Foundation Service – or who just want to see how the process will work once the final product ships – can consult the online documentation available here or watch a brief video tutorial here. ®

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