How We Do It: Building the Visual Studio Product Line

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Ever wonder how we build Visual Studio and the .NET Framework? I mean literally. You know, the build process that spits out a product at the other end?  Well I sure did and it's not just hitting F5 people Wink. In this interview I sit down with Matt Gertz, frequent VB blogger and also the guy in charge of the builds in Developer Division (he has a long title, but I forget what it is Smiley). He explains how the build and test processes work on a team of two thousand people all on Team Foundation Server. I must say it's pretty darn impressive. Many thanks to Matt for taking time out of his busy schedule to do this interview!

-Beth Massi, Visual Studio Community



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The Discussion

  • User profile image


    Awesome interview.  Just out of curiousity, if everything goes well, how long does it take to build VS from the check-out to compiling to the automated testing, to the those tests stating, "yes, it's this build is good"?

  • User profile image
    Michael Butler

    Thanks for this. A most interesting video that has given me a lot of food for thought on my own build processes. Especially when  it comes to quality control. I've read bits over the years about how Microsoft handle the build process and this has further added to my awe.

    Any recommended reading or links that might give more insights into the build processes used by other Microsoft departments?

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    Logan Young

    Cool to learn how the pros do it.

    I just can't see how I can implement the same concepts at work where the dev team consists of myself and 1 other guy...
    I'd also love to know what source control software the teams at Microsoft are using, because it'd make things much easier at work

  • User profile image

    Very interesting.    I was glad to see there was some commentary on the move to WPF in VS10.   

  • User profile image

    @ChrisStepaniuk:  It takes <1 hour to sync the code, 5-6 hours to build, and then another 6-7 hours to build setup packages for the normal daily layouts.  If we are doing a fully signed build, it takes another 36 hours to get everything signed in our Secret Underground Signing Facility (TM).

    @Michael Butler:  There used to be a published book which discussed building practices at Microsoft, but I think it's at least a decade old and, for the life of me, I can't even remember the title.  Alas, I'm not aware of any other offerings, but I'll ask my counterparts in the other divisions.

    @Logan Young:  Most teams at MS are using something called "Source Depot," which is home-grown.  Eventually, the plan is to transition to TFS across the company.  True, this is definitely enterprise-level stuff that I was discussing with Beth, although at least TFS scales really well down to small-medium businesses as well (in fact, that's where it got its foothold).  Gobs and gobs of branches aren't required, but you might consider them for (for example) forking diffrent versions.

    @ JerryOdom:  Thanks!  WPF is definitely cool -- I haven't been involved with the transition directly (other than coordinating the checkins, though I've certainly appreciated the results.


  • User profile image

    (I should clarify that, if you're an engineer sitting down at the desk, cranking out a build of something you've changed, it's a lot quicker than what I've listed above -- depending on the changes involved, it'd be somewhere between a few minutes and a half-hour for an incremental build.  We don't build incrementally in the official daily drops, though it's something we've been thinking about.)


  • User profile image

    The book may have been "Showstopper:  The Breakneck Race to create Windows NT and the next generation at Microsoft" By G. Pascal Zachary.  It is a good book but it is dated.  Probably closer to 20 years old than 10.  The author has a website at and I think you can order it there.

  • User profile image

    I think the book referrned to is : The Build Master: Microsoft's Software Configuration Management Best Practices 



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