Last week was a bit of a slow one. We got the site "mostly" up , had a few issues registering the domain and actually getting the domain pointing to the site. (Note to self - make sure that the people you get to register the domain allows the routing or pointing with the registration and does not require you to subscribe to a hosting package.)
I decided to use Google Sites for the initial incarnation of the site - Why : cause it is cheap and easy, giving some decent templates to work with!
In order for me to have a routed domain I needed to take a hosting package from the hoster that I'm planning on using (which was fortunately not a big deal as I needed the email etc to create a profile based on the company and not around me personally). So I opted for the cheapest one (about R20 per month). This package does include space and a site builder but I already have the google site up and configured so I'm using that for the time being, in addition to a fairly decent mail / mail routing package.
The site: I'm by no means a graphic designer or anything, so this site is purely to get a presence out there. When time and income allows I can always change and "re-invent" it as needed.
I spent time this morning registering my company so it is now officially a Microsoft Registered Partner.I still need to spend time on the details surrounding my information and registration (hopefully that still has impact towards credibility). Now the problem is to get the certified partner status, as for that I need 2 MCP's and 3 customer referrals, bit of an issue for a (so far) one man show.
Now I'm waiting for the TFS Exam transcript to show on my mcp profile, activating the MCTS, so I can get closer to the ALM Competency.
We have decided to focus on consulting around TFS and ALM processes, but clearly drawing attention to the hosted services that is in the pipe-line. If I get consulting gig's I can always sell the hosted option to a more receptive client. One of the options that I would consider is outsourced management of the TFS environment that could bridge the gap between a fully hosted solution and just consulting once-off.
So this week it is finalising the site and start getting that out in the open using some PPC style advertising on some local IT sites.
Got the reply from Grant (see previous post) and he highlights that firstly they used TFS 2008 (this was back in 2007) and it was a huge infrastructure overhead to accommodate the hosting story with TFS 2008 as you could not share instances due to security concerns etc etc - luckily with TFS 2010 that was address in a way making use of collections.
And then the mindset of people and the willingness to have you IP (source code) reside in the cloud. This is one that I'm going to struggle with but hopefully with the huge emphasis on cloud these days that mindset is being chiseled away.
Today I was doing some reading up on TFS in general. I then remembered about Grant Holiday. If you don't know him then you obviously do not take this TFS thing serious :). Why he is of such keen interest to me is that he helped start up one of the first hosted TFS services (in Australia), then went to work for Microsoft - still actively involved in TFS.
The first post on his blog really make my heart drop. Basically it stated that TFSNow (the hosted TFS company that he was involved in) no longer offers TFS as a hosted service.
That is not what I would have liked to hear. Why would one of the first companies to market no longer offer the service.
I dropped him a mail and anxiously await some insight into this....
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.
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 ?
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:
On the technical side going into architecture (such as enterprise architecture), or
on the other side going into the more business side of things (PM / analyst) and
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..