Microsoft Releases LightSwitch Beta 2 with Azure Links
The second beta of Microsoft's rapid business application development tool, Visual Studio LightSwitch, was made available for download this week.
Microsoft launched Beta 2 on Tuesday at the company's Developer Tools Partner Summit taking place in Redmond, Wash. According to Dave Mendlen, Microsoft's senior director of developer marketing, a final version of LightSwitch is scheduled for release "later this year."
VS LightSwitch is aimed at business analysts and power users who often create ad hoc business logic in applications like FileMaker Pro or Microsoft Excel and Access. Based on Visual Studio, LightSwitch offers a visual, wizard-driven user interface that lets business users craft true, .NET-based applications with rich data bindings. Unlike ad hoc development, the .NET code produced by LightSwitch can be seamlessly imported into Visual Studio for professional developers to inspect, edit and extend.
According to Mendlen, the new pre-release version of LightSwitch offers two significant new capabilities. "The first is we added Windows Azure publishing, which is now fully integrated," he said.
The new capabilities in LightSwitch Beta 2 bring the tool in line with Microsoft's broad cloud computing strategy. Windows Azure publishing will enable LightSwitch developers to easily deploy their applications to either the desktop or the cloud. Mendlen described the tool as offering "simple and fast" line-of-business application creation "for desktop and cloud."
The second new feature, according to Mendlen, is extensibility. "Anyone with a copy of Visual Studio Pro can, starting with LightSwitch Beta 2, build extensions for LightSwitch," Mendlen said.
LightSwitch Beta 2's support for extensions will certainly appeal to attendees at the Developer Tools Partner Summit, an invitation-only event for Microsoft ecosystem partners that build and market tools for the Microsoft development stack. Mendlen said LightSwitch extensions can include screens, business templates, data sources, business types and controls. He singled out a pair of working LightSwitch extensions as examples: an Infragistics custom shell extension that enables a Windows Phone 7 Metro-like, touch-enabled user interface, and a ComponentOne pivot table control that offers Excel-like data manipulation.
Mendlen said the focus was to build a robust ecosystem of third-party providers around LightSwitch. "Don't go crazy trying to make a pivot table. Just go buy one and you'll have that functionality for you," he said, adding, "We have more extensibility points and more places to monetize than just the traditional control vendor model."
LightSwitch Beta 2 also addresses an incompatibility between LightSwitch Beta 1 -- which was released in August 2010 during the Visual Studio Live! conference in Redmond -- and the recently released VS 2010 Service Pack 1 (SP1). Visual Studio developers who have upgraded to VS 2010 SP1 must upgrade to LightSwitch Beta 2 to work with LightSwitch. Also, LightSwitch Beta 2 will not work with the release-to-manufacturing version of VS 2010.
VS Ultimate Gets Virtual
Also announced at the Developer Tools Partner Summit was a program that gives VS Ultimate Edition license holders free access to unlimited virtual users with Microsoft's load testing tool and agent. Ultimate Edition users will get a license key to generate unlimited users with the VS 2010 Load Test Feature Pack, without having to buy the VS Load Test Virtual User Pack 2010. The Load Test Virtual User Pack normally costs $4499 per pack supporting 1,000 virtual users.
"I saw an estimate from one customer that this could be a million dollars in cost savings for them. It's massive," Mendlen said. "It's free and we're making it available to Ultimate customers forever. If you have Ultimate you get this value."
Michael Desmond is an editor and writer for 1105 Media's Enterprise Computing Group.