Do SharePoint Developers Want a Developer Version of SharePoint?

image First off let me start the disclaimer. I do not work for Microsoft and have no decision making powers in anything that goes into a piece of software. You might call me an "influencer" as we MVPs may suggest things at times (sometimes very verbally) but we don't take a laundry list to Microsoft and make demands of new features. Keep that in mind while you read this post.

One of the biggest complaints a lot of us hear about SharePoint development is the need to build on Windows 2003 server. I still to this day have no idea what the critical dependency on Windows 2003 Server is, but obviously there must be one. Otherwise we would be building solutions on XP and Vista. As an ASP.NET developer, we have a local IIS (5.1) instance available to us for development and with VS2005 there's even a built-in web server for building websites. So forcing developers to use a server for SharePoint development can seem a little harsh, hence all the complaints.

Working on a real server (say a development one in your network) is a no-go, unless you're the only developer on the machine. You just can't do things like hang the worker process or force a iisreset for other developers. That's just not cool. And from a SharePoint perspective, you'll be clobbering each other all the time if you're on a shared server (been there, done that, got the t-shirt).

That leaves virtual development (using either Virtual PC, Virtual Server, or VMWare). This is probably the best choice but it's costly. Setting up the VM requires a significant time  investment to get all your ducks in a row, even more if you want to keep this long term so you're going to have to create some parent-child relationships on VM hierarchies (see AC's post here about this).

Hardware *is* cheap but in the corporate world it's not always cheap that wins. Trying to get network services convinced you're not going to bring down their network with your little VM isn't easy (more t-shirts) and you'll battle issues of software updates, virus protection, licensing, and a host of others. It's a hard battle, but perhaps one worth fighting.

The MVP community is a little splintered on whether or not a Developer Version of SharePoint would be value-add (BizTalk has one, so why not SharePoint?). Some think it's necessary, others would rather have MS focus their efforts elsewhere and live with VM development. Microsoft is listening and going over ideas and approaches to ease the pain here but nothing to tell you from the trenches right now.

So what say you? Would you want a Developer Edition of SharePoint (maybe only WSS so no Excel/InfoPath/BDC services that MOSS offers) that you could install on XP/Vista to local development? Should the efforts be focused on making the Virtual Experience better? Or does none of this matter and all is rosy in the world when it comes to building SharePoint solutions?

Feel free to chime in here. Like I said, I'm not guarantying this is going to get back to Microsoft but some people read my blog (or so they tell me) so you never know.


  • What I understand there is no Vista/XP version of MOSS/WSS because of a lack of testing resources. Any new supported OS means adding a lot of work to the testmatrix.
    So it's probably not a big thing technically speaking, but it just adds a lot of work in the test cycle.

  • Why not set up each developer with their own App Pools? That way, you don't have to reset IIS if you hang a worker process. Just have the developer recycle their App Pool.

  • How about a dev version of the OS, e.g. 'Windows Server 2008 Developer Edition'. It could be pre-configured with all the settings more favorable for workstation usage. It could be cheaper than the real versions, and could only support a few connections, etc. I'm running Windows Server as my desktop (which wouldn't be possible without MSDN because of the cost), but it'd be nice to have it tuned by Microsoft to be a workstation. No need then for any 'dev edition' applications plus we'd be developing right in our target environment.

  • I would dearly love to see the ability for me to deploy WSS onto my Vista 64-bit machine (where I worked sooooo hard to get VS 2005 running) - in fact, there is something like that available at the moment... those of you that have deployed and are running PerformancePoint server's Report Designer application would know it comes with a cut-down version of WSS to deploy & test reports on.

  • Requiring a Windows Server 2003 license to do development is an obstacle to learning or doing a prototype with Sharepoint. If I work at Microsoft, its probably relatively easy to get a virtual server running Windows Server 2003. However if you work at a typical IT shop it can take months and even then it would be setup outside of your normal development desktop used for ASP.NET development.

    Requiring developers to run on Windows Server 2003 reduces the target audience of people who would just start playing around with Sharepoint. Good developers are constantly downloading and trying out new packages and tools. If someone has to run on Windows 2003, a lot of people are not ever going to try Sharepoint and its going to reduce the number of developers who know it - which makes it harder to find them - which will make managers reticent about starting Sharepoint projects because they won't be able to staff them quickly enough.

  • Put me down for making this a requirement. Coming from two contracts where VMs weren't an option made for some creative development scenarios and in one case, the company altered the architecture specifically to allow developers to work locally.

  • Give us an XP edition of VSeWSS.

  • A SharePoint developer edition would be nice but I would rather have tooling support for Visual Studio first.

  • It sounds like there are deep, platform-level reasons for WSS not being supported outside of a Windows Server Environment. Rather than spend time building a developer’s edition, I’d like to see time spent on the development tools side. In particular, I’d like to see some sort of unit testing support for SharePoint Object Model code (which has to run on the server). We’ve all gone through the pain of setting up our development environments; now just help us develop remotely more efficiently.

  • Heck yes. Although I've been a developer for years (and years), I've only been working steadily with sharepoint for the last three months. I love the idea of a developer's version. I can deal with sharepoint designer, but vm's and remoting into servers just don't cut it, when you're trying to do something quickly and have the stupid delayed response to typing.

  • I am having an issue right now where I can't access half of my webpart code due to my vpc breaking it's connection to the network. Stuff like this really irks me. I agree that we need something that will make it easier for us to develop with SharePoint. Maybe they could give us something that will work on XP/Vista that we can develop without killing the production box. Something that will easily publish to the production box. I know people are talking about developing better tools for Visual Studio, but I think we could use something that would work on a normal host environment too. You can only go so far with better tools, since you still need an instance of SharePoint. I see your point and agree with it.

  • From a pure developer standpoint, I think it is obvious that a developer version of WSS/MOSS would be heavily utilized in the SharePoint developer community. What SharePoint developer would _not_ want one? Where do I sign?

  • yes, by making Windows 2008 available in a workstation edition ;-)

  • I think too many lines of code have been written for Sharepoint already. Design and customization using Sharepoint Designer should be enough for 90 %, otherwise you might have chosen the wrong platform for your project. An exception being ofcourse if your business is selling web parts or custom fields.

  • No. Please.
    Whats the big deal with building a dev vm?
    Besides, two different systems = doubt

  • Really all I need is to be able to build the app on my machine and DEPLOY it to a remote server for testing. I don't necessarily require WSS to run on my machine (who needs the overhead) but it certainly would be a step in the right direction.

    Realistically all they would need is a Developers Edition of SharePoint (like MSSQL). It could offer all of the features of MOSS with a limited end user license that installs a web service app or remote connection app that connected with VSeWSS or VS 08 to remotely install solutions and features from your desktop.

    That would do me just fine. We are currently pushing hard to get our Enterprise to use SharePoint as a development platform for a new app being developed so that the information can be available to their entire Entire portals but I have a feeling that once the developers find out the hastles of developing on VMs and remoting they will bauk.

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