Thursday, July 29, 2010

First Steps

As hinted to in the previous post, I have resigned my job to, amongst other reasons, try and focus my energy on this venture. I have to admit that I'm still looking around for the next job, as money is limited and I cannot sit indefinitely without an income, but I am hoping to give myself at least a couple of months before I commit to anything else.


I have looked very closely to the online tfs hosters that I could find. Looking at what they offer and at what costs. The mere fact that there are such diverse costing models indicate that this may still be a very young market to tap into.

In addition to that I have been reading A LOT of Microsoft's licensing white papers (something I would not wish on my worst enemy), and the options around licensing Windows infrastructure and TFS self. Buying outright would be too costly, so I have been focusing on the SPLA model and requirements to be able to make use of it.

Anybody... everybody???

I took a chance and contacted Willy-Peter Schaub (a fellow South African) widely known through TFS Rangers (or VS ALM Rangers) initiative, and with his help I was able to be put into contact with Clemri Steyn a Senior Product Manager for Microsoft.

After a bit of discussion he gave me an overview of the steps to be taken to be certified and recognised, hopefully with the goal of being able to establish myself as a accredited hoster.

Obviously in my personal capacity I have no official relationship with Microsoft (yet). So first priority is to get myself in Microsoft "good books" and work on this relationship.

And first on my list is to get the 70-512 exam passed so that I'm a bit closer to achieving the "ALM competency" that will give me some credibility in the market.

Luckily for me this exam was only released just over a month ago, so there is hopefully a limited number of people in South Africa with this accreditation, unfortunately it is still a bit new for any study guides and materials to be available. Looking around the general consensus is that if you have been working with TFS you should be fine, and reading the TFS install and administration guides should give you enough of an overview.

Hhhmmm, if you have gone through those guides before you'll know that it is not something you want to read front to back..

Luckily I don't think that they would go into detail about editing the 2010 build template, something that could be used very effectively as a torture mechanism, I'm sure... Is it too late to say how much respect I have for the people who setup that workflow ?

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Initial Idea

What is all this about...

I am at a stage where I have to evaluate my career growth path. Looking online from my current role, the aspirations are very limited. Like one of the Microsoft "small business sites" indicated you basically have a limited number of options:

  1. On the technical side going into architecture (such as enterprise architecture), or
  2. on the other side going into the more business side of things (PM / analyst) and
  3. almost unanimously they all reckon "or you can always go the start up route".

The start up route is obviously the "nicer" one to consider - being your own boss, working your own hours, doing your own thing.

Hhhmm - easy then to say "take the start up path", but if you do not have a product or concept that will work you're probably going to sit back at this cross road shortly with 1 less option to evaluate.

So lets get some of those ideas ....

Obviously - first requirement is that I need to know something about the industry that the idea originates from. Being in the software industry for over a decade now - this is where I'll be applying my thinking.

The first idea that comes to mind: develop your own super duper application and hope someone will see the benefit and spend money on it (probably the route most taken). Alas, I have worked for one or two companies that took that route not being able to make it (even after getting fairly large clients to buy into the idea).

The problem with this is that the time to market is too long, and I have very limited funds available for this venture. I could get a another job and try to work on it after hours, but I've been in industry long enough to know that coming home after long days at work to try and develop something else - will push this venture out even further..

Next idea: I need to leverage something that is gaining ground in industry, is a unique offering in the current market and will have a much quicker turnaround time to get up and running.

Enter Microsoft's ® Team Foundation Server...

I have been working with TFS since TFS 2005 and have become my (previous) company's "TFS Guy", maintaining their current infrastructure and doing consulting to their clients around TFS and software processes. But being a custom dev shop their focus was on delivering projects (leveraging TFS) , and not TFS as a product though.

During these off site projects and the TFS consulting gigs, I realised that there is a lack of skills around configuration, managing and maintaining TFS (often blaming the product for their lack of understanding) and of coarse a hefty pricetag to correctly license and use the product, yet there is a fairly steady adoption rate.

So if you can change the local mindset of having their own in house infrastructure and get them to adopt a hosted scenario, with possibly better security, configuration and maintenance, there may be some hope after all.

Looking around there are a number of hosters already that seem to have cornered the market abroad, offering a fairly diverse array of services and features, but as every South African knows the exchange rate and time delay in any service request etc, can really put a damper on a South African budget.

So with this in mind I decided to look at pursuing this and seeing if I could in fact make a decent business out of it. I also decided to keep an online diary of sorts to try and gain better community awareness and to document my struggles in the hope that someone else could learn from it and pursue their dream (hopefully in a different field :) )

So let the adventure begin and see if the idea will end up in the toilet or if it will allow me to gain the independence that every employee is in search of.


As a note I'm posting with a fair delay, as to not give to away to much of my intention or the process. I do believe and hope this is a first in South Africa, so I do not want someone to steal this idea before I can get my name and services out there..