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Microsoft Ending Team Foundation Support in SharePoint

Microsoft is taking steps to wind down support for its Team Foundation Server (TFS) product when it's used with SharePoint Server, the company announced Tuesday.

TFS is a developer solution provides resources such as project management and application lifecycle management. It's typically installed on Windows Server or Windows client operating systems, and can be used with SharePoint Server in premises-based environments to collaborate on development projects.

Microsoft, however, appears bent more toward putting its future support efforts behind its cloud-enabled model, as represented by the use of Visual Studio Team Services (the service-enabled TFS alternative) and SharePoint Online.

TFS has been used with SharePoint Server since TFS' "inception in 2005," explained Gregg Boer, a principal program manager at Microsoft, in the announcement. However, given Microsoft's current SharePoint development trends, "the existing integration simply could not be brought into the future," he said, regarding Microsoft's deprecation plans for TFS integration with SharePoint.

Instead of continuing its traditional support for TFS with SharePoint, Microsoft plans to move toward a "loosely coupled model using public APIs and extensibility frameworks," Boer added. Its plans, though, come with lots of nuances for organizations to consider.

Iffy Support for TFS Integration
First of all, the most recent version, TFS 2017, currently does not have support for the most recent SharePoint version, namely SharePoint Server 2016. TFS 2017 just supports SharePoint Server 2013 and SharePoint Server 2010, according to Microsoft's requirements document.

The next release of TFS also won't include a SharePoint extension, Boer noted. And while Boer promised that existing SharePoint integrations with TFS will "continue to work," Microsoft will be "rethinking our integration," he added ambiguously.

However, Boer was specific about three feature changes that will be coming to organizations running TFS with SharePoint.

Three Feature Deprecations
One feature that won't be supported in the near future will be the option to create a SharePoint site when "creating a team project." That option will be going away for those using TFS with SharePoint, although Boer didn't indicate when the change would take effect. Instead, it'll be up to SharePoint "customers" to create SharePoint sites (administrators have to enable that capability for their end users). Boer also pointed out that end users alternatively can use Microsoft Teams, which automatically creates a shared SharePoint site, and that Microsoft Teams is already integrated with "both TFS and VSTS [Visual Studio Team Services]."

A second feature losing support with TFS and SharePoint integration is WebParts on "classic" SharePoint sites. It won't be supported, although Boer didn't indicate a timeline for its deprecation. Instead, he suggested organizations could use team "dashboards," which are supported by both TFS and VSTS. Microsoft's roadmap plans also include eventually providing "ways of displaying TFS Dashboards on SharePoint pages" or on a SharePoint site, but Boer didn't indicate when those capabilities would arrive.

TFS dashboards "will meet most of your reporting needs," Boer contended, but organizations will also have Power BI as a resource.

"We are actively working on a plan that allows you to load TFS data into Power BI," Boer stated, without specifying when those plans might gel. "Once you create a Power BI chart, you will be able to display that Power BI chart on a TFS Dashboard or a SharePoint page."

The third feature associated with TFS and SharePoint integrations that will be going away is the "Documents pane within Team Explorer." The Documents Pane gets created with a team project and is used for managing document libraries, but it'll be going away at some unspecified time. Instead, Boer pointed users toward the "OneDrive for Business sync client," which permits access to "any SharePoint document library."

Partial Support for Excel Charts
Microsoft plans to continue its support for the use of Excel Reports when used with TFS and SharePoint to pull data. Boer said that "going forward, Excel Charts will continue to work." However, he noted some manual steps will be needed to make them work.

"We will no longer automatically deploy and configure the Excel charts when creating the SharePoint site," Boer noted, without provide a timeline for that change. "You will need to upload and configure them manually -- like you would for any other charts you want to include on SharePoint."

SharePoint 2016 Upgrade Preview
Organizations committed to TFS and thinking of moving to SharePoint Server 2016 just don't have the TFS support right now, as previously noted. However, Boer said that Microsoft has created a "private preview" of a migration solution from SharePoint Server 2013 to SharePoint 2016 that "ensures your TFS SharePoint sites display properly, while disabling the existing integration."

Organizations have to contact Microsoft at the e-mail address provided by Boer to get this preview.

Office 365 News
Microsoft on Friday announced that the Office 365 Groups feature will now support groups created with "up to 100 owners." Previously the limit was up to 10 owners. This new capability is currently rolling out to Office 365 tenancies and "is now supported in Azure Active Directory, Office Admin Portal, and Exchange Admin Center, with support in OWA [Outlook Web App] rolling out soon." The change will remove a similar ownership limitation associated with Distribution Lists users.

Office 365 Groups are now getting unique "mailNickname" identifiers within a tenant, Microsoft announced last week. They're getting a portion of the SMTP address to make the group names unique. It's an Azure Active Directory improvement to avoid potential "collisions" should group names get synchronized with Active Directory on premises, Microsoft explained.

Microsoft also announced last week that Yammer messages are getting the ability to use animated GIFs. In addition, Microsoft is testing the ability to display the typing activity of message recipients in conversational threads. Another item under consideration is a broadcast to users when new Yammer users participate. Microsoft is also testing the ability "to move [Yammer] conversations to relevant groups."

About the Author

Kurt Mackie is senior news producer for the 1105 Enterprise Computing Group.