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Microsoft FIRES devs into the CLOUD with Visual Studio Online

Hosted services accompany Visual Studio 2013 launch

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Timed to coincide with the general availability of Visual Studio 2013 and .Net 4.5.1, Microsoft has launched Visual Studio Online, a new, hosted offering designed for web and application developers.

"Visual Studio Online is a set of services that run in the cloud on Windows Azure," Microsoft developer division corporate VP "Soma" Somasegar told El Reg in a briefing last week. "They work hand in hand with Visual Studio to both enable you as a team to do agile development and for you to be able to deliver your applications in an agile way."

Some of the services have been previously available as part of Redmond's Team Foundation Service offering, while others are brand new as of Wednesday's launch.

For example, as with Team Foundation Service, Visual Studio Online offers hosted source code version control, based on either Team Foundation Version Control or the Git protocol.

Visual Studio Online builds on that capability, however, by also offering a Hosted Build Service that developers can use to compile and link their software in the cloud. Subscribers at all levels get 60 minutes of build time per month free, with additional time priced at $0.05 per minute.

There's also an Elastic Load Test Service that takes advantage of Windows Azure's ability to quickly spin up virtual machines to simulate user load on online applications. This service requires a Visual Studio Ultimate subscription, but subscribers get 15,000 minutes of virtual user time per month free and each minute thereafter is $0.002.

Another new feature is "Monaco," a web-based code-editing environment that allows developers to modify their HTML, CSS, and JavaScript source from any modern browser. Microsoft tells us this technology is already at work in a couple of other products, such as SkyDrive, but developers will now be able to use it to edit their projects on Windows Azure Websites.

Finally, the Application Insights service is designed to gather live telemetry data about online applications – such as usage, performance, exception, and crash data – and deliver it to developers in an actionable form, regardless of whether the application is written in .Net or Java.

"Let's say your application is crashing," Somasegar explained. "We want to capture the crash dump as a log and automatically populate a work item with that log so that you can both understand the crash and have the data necessary to debug and understand what went wrong."

As of Wednesday, most of the Visual Studio Online services are being made available as public previews. In the case of Application Insights, the preview is also restricted to a limited number of developers who sign up for it, so if you're interested, you may want to move fast.

As for how to access the services, customers have a number of options. At the Basic subscription level, Visual Studio Online is completely free for small teams of up to five users, with additional users priced at $20 per month. Customers at this level gain access to the new services, plus basic collaboration features such as agile planning tools, work item tracking, and discussions.

At the Professional level, each user costs $45 per month, up to a maximum of 10 users per account, and each user also gets a license to the Visual Studio Professional IDE.

At the Advanced level, each user costs $60 per month, but users gain access to additional features beyond the Basic level ones, including work item chart authoring, team rooms, and agile portfolio management.

Forget all of those prices for now, though, because Microsoft is offering all of the Visual Studio Online services at 50 per cent off "until further notice," as an introductory offer. (Redmond says it will give 30 days' notice before the prices go back up again.)

Customers with Team Foundation Service accounts that were registered before November 13 will also be grandfathered into Visual Studio Online and will get some free "early adopter" benefits – including unlimited users, an upgrade to the maximum service level, unlimited Cloud Build, and 15,000 minutes of Elastic Load Testing per month – through February 11, 2014.

But subscribing directly isn't even the only way to access Visual Studio Online. MSDN subscribers will now have the online services included with their subscriptions, with Visual Studio Ultimate, Premium, Test Professional, and Platforms MSDN subscribers gaining additional web test case management capabilities on top of the Advanced level Visual Studio Online features.

Further pricing and availability information is available at the Visual Studio Online homepage, here.

In addition to integrating Visual Studio Online with Visual Studio 2013 – which, we remind you, formally launched on Wednesday, although it's been available via MSDN since October – Microsoft has also issued a fourth update to Visual Studio 2012 that makes the older version compatible with the new online services, as well as delivering the usual assortment of fixes and improvements.

As part of its Visual Studio 2013 launch event, Microsoft is streaming a variety of tutorials explaining the features of the new IDE release and Visual Studio Online throughout the day. In addition, Somasegar will be answering questions in a Reddit AMA beginning at 10am Pacific time. ®

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