Microsoft is inviting partners to jump on the second beta of a Visual Studio developer tool that lets you deploy your Silverlight applications to Microsoft's Azure cloud.
The company today delivers the latest beta of its planned Visual Studio LightSwitch environment - due for release later this year - which developers can now extend by adding their own plug-ins for expanded functionality.
The beta will be made available to subscribers on MSDN and TechNet first, and follows the first beta in August 2010.
David Mendlen, Microsoft senior director of developer marketing, said: "We are saying ... if you want to build a theme for LightSwitch applications, here are the APIs. If you want to build a data source or control, here are the APIs and here's how to do it."
Among those taking up the challenge is Infragistics, the re-usable component dev tools specialist , which will support LightSwitch in three ways:
- Infragistics is to write wrappers for most of its business controls and data visualization controls so they work with LightSwitch
- It plans screen templates that extend those that'll come with the finished tool and let you do things like a slider bar on top of a numeric entry field
- It plans shells and themes for users to customize the standard VisualStudio shell.
Infragistics does not yet have a release date yet for tools and components for LightSwitch.
Jason Beres, Infragistics vice president of product management, says LightSwitch will appeal to developers and is well suited for building line-of-business apps because the apps it spits out will scale.
LightSwitch uses Microsoft's WCF RIA Services which provides a framework, tools and services to build a client that knows when the middle tier is updated. This is different to a traditional approach, such as WinForms, which produces apps where the presentation and business tier are tightly tied together through the application logic.
Microsoft aims to make it easier to not just build simple, line-of-business apps but to also make such apps fit into an organization's application development and management process. The company is targeting those who build apps using tools such as FileMaker Pro, which are then re-coded down the line by the IT department - wasting time and money.
Development in LightSwitch is done using model-driven tools with apps written using XAML while use of WCF RIA Services makes apps web-ready - hence the ability to deploy to Azure.
On the build side, LightSwtich is an application builder that doesn't use the SQL language - instead it uses a visual query tool. It also uses business data types, not just programmer types, making the process of building an application potentially more accessible to the less technically minded.
In related news Microsoft is giving MSDN subscribers its Visual Studio 2010 Load Test Feature Pack for free - the regular price $4,499 for each pack of virtual servers. The pack lets you stress test applications with 250 virtual users on a local load test run. Mendlen said the price would not be re-imposed, and that this is a permanent change. ®