# Tuesday, March 8, 2016

We recently had an issue where we were seeing different behaviour being exhibited by two different Visual Studio Team Services accounts when testing SenseAdapt.  We closely compared the settings of the two accounts and wondered if it could have been down to them being hosted in different datacentres.

If you have a look at Microsoft Azure - Services by Region, you can see that VSTS accounts will be in one of four regions:

  • North Central US (Illinois)
  • South Central US (Texas)
  • West Europe (Holland)
  • Australia East (NSW)




If you’re in the UK like us then you might expect your account to be stored in West Europe but if you created your account before the end of October 2014 (when VSTS was added to W.Europe) then it is likely that it is in one of the 2 US regions.

To check, you can navigate to your account settings by clicking on the gear icon at the top right of your web access or stick an _admin at the end of your account url.



Click on the Settings tab or navigate to the url:



In the settings you should see your Azure Region listed (you can see that mine is North Central US)

At the time of writing you cannot change this region setting yourself so to do so you will have to contact Cloud Services Assisted Support.  However, according to UserVoice: Change Visual Studio Online account region, Microsoft are working on a self-service process as of Feb 2016 so keep an eye out for this changing.


Richard Erwin


Tuesday, March 8, 2016 12:02:02 PM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #    Comments [0]

# Wednesday, January 27, 2016

RippleRock are developing an awesome tool for providing realtime, actionable visualisations of your project data.  If you’re wondering why your backlog is such a mess, want to understand how you could improve your Agile/Lean development process or simply want to predict when your project will end, then you should check out SenseAdapt.

SenseAdapt works with Team Foundation Server and Visual Studio Team Services (keep an eye out for a preview on the new VSTS Marketplace soon) and we’re experimenting with a Jira version too.

To develop SenseAdapt, we use our own project data, so SenseAdapt is helping us to improve and adapt the process we use to develop SenseAdapt!

The problem is that we need real data in both VSTS and TFS and as we recently consolidated a VSTS project into our on-premise TFS 2015, we wanted a one-way sync of Work Items between the two systems.

There are options of course:

I wanted something implemented quickly and cheaply so that’s why yesterday I installed the TFS Integration Tools.  If you have ever used TIT (they really should have thought about that acronym) then you’ll know that they are……er, interesting?

Last released in March 2012, they know nothing of TFS 2013/2015 and VSO/VSTS was the TFS Service Preview back then.  My installation was on Windows Server 2012 R2 with SQL Server 2014 Standard SP1 and TFS 2015 RTM (No update 1 on this instance for testing purposes)

I knew that I needed to install the TFS 2012 Team Explorer so that the Integration Tools could talk to my server using the older object model.

I also knew there was a problem with this setup that needed a little registry change.  The error you will see is:

“This tool requires the TFS client object model.  Please install Team Explorer 2008, Team Explorer 2010, or Team Explorer Dev11 and run setup again”

An old blog post by Willy Peter Schaub shows that the easiest way to fix this is to paste the following into a .txt file, rename to .reg, and double click.

Windows Registry Editor Version 5.00
[HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Wow6432Node\Microsoft\VisualStudio\11.0\InstalledProducts\Team System Tools for Developers]

I was off and running now so I kicked off the install that I’ve done many times in the past and selected to include the TFS Integration Service


For the database server name, i just put a ‘.’ as I was going to use the default instance (SQL 2014 Standard)


Unsurprisingly, something went wrong but I aborted the install without really paying attention, assuming I messed something up.

So I started the installation again, paying more attention this time but I received a different error:


Database Error: Cannot read TFS Integration Tools database version number

It turns out that the failed installation had created the database Tfs_IntegrationPlatform but had not cleaned it up again during rollback.  That helpful message meant that I needed to go into SQL Management Studio and delete the database.

We were off again and everything seemed good until the error message that I received originally showed up again.


Error -2147217900: failed to execute SQL string, error detail: Valid values of the database compatibility level are 100, 110, or 120., SQL key: CreateDatabaseScript SQL string: EXECUTE sp_dbcmptlevel [Tfs_IntegrationPlatform], 90;

This one was trickier.  There was an ooooold forum post by Bill Essary at Microsoft saying that they were aware of the issue but didn’t have a fix as yet.  A few others suggested that the problem went away when they retried the install.  After the 3rd time, I accepted it wasn’t going away.

Making an educated guess, i assumed that the integration tools were not compatible with SQL 2014 so I decided to install a named instance of SQL 2012 Standard SP3 on the same server.

Passing in .\INTEGRATION as the database server\instance meant we were finally installed!

Onto the next problem


I created a new configuration and selected Team Foundation Server\WorkItemTracking.xml as my template.


I didn’t bother reading the docs as I was still sceptical that this was going to work so I just chose Custom workflow, ContinuousAutomatic frequency, Unidirectional direction.


Next, I chose my on-premise TFS 2015 server as the Left Source and my VSTS account as the Right Source.


I had forgotten that the account running the Sync/Migration had to be in the Service Accounts Group.  On-premise you have to use tfssecurity.exe to add your account to that group but I suddenly thought, “there’s no way VSTS will let me do that”, so I expected it to be game over.


I tried:

tfssecurity.exe /g+ “Team Foundation Service Accounts” n:my@emailaccount.com /server:https://myaccount.visualstudio.com

and unsurprisingly got

The requested operation is not allowed


Kind of obvious as VSTS is not going to allow me to be a Team Foundation Admin or Service account so I had one last stab:

tfssecurity.exe /g+ “Project Collection Service Accounts” n:my@emailaccount.com /collection:https://myaccount.visualstudio.com/defaultcollection


Amazingly, that was successful


I repeated the process for my on-premise server and I was off.

Now, the tools are installed and running but as usual, it has thrown a hissy fit on the first pass.


Application Error: 0 : A failure occurred while trying to load the C:\Program Files (x86)\Microsoft Team Foundation Server Integration Tools\Plugins\Tfs2008WITAdapter.dll Plugin:
System.Reflection.ReflectionTypeLoadException: Unable to load one or more of the requested types. Retrieve the LoaderExceptions property for more information.


Application Error: 0 : A failure occurred while trying to load the C:\Program Files (x86)\Microsoft Team Foundation Server Integration Tools\Plugins\Tfs2010WITAdapter.dll Plugin:
System.Reflection.ReflectionTypeLoadException: Unable to load one or more of the requested types. Retrieve the LoaderExceptions property for more information.


Application Critical: 0 : [27/01/2016 19:07:38] System.InvalidOperationException: Specified element is already the logical child of another element. Disconnect it first.

After all that, those errors looked like they could be terminal but I found an article that states that removing any files with 2008 or 2010 in the name from the following folder:

C:\Program Files (x86)\Microsoft Team Foundation Server Integration Tools\Plugins

will allow the Integration Tools to progress.

Great source for all things Integration Platform: TOC: TFS Integration Tools Blog Posts and Reference Sites

And we’re off and running with 1-way sync between TFS 2015 and Visual Studio Team Services!





Wednesday, January 27, 2016 7:31:03 PM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #    Comments [0]

# Wednesday, January 6, 2016

One of my clients recently moved to Visual Studio Team Services (formerly Visual Studio Online/VSO) and decided to share an account already in use by another part of the company. 

Their developers were mainly licensed with MSDN and so were able to hop straight on there and start working but the ScrumMasters, Product Owners and testers were not and they wanted to know how they should license those non-developer users.

I realised that a lot had changed since the last time I looked at the VSO licensing so it’s worth a quick blog in case others were bumping into the same issue

Free Users

When you create a Visual Studio Team Services account (myaccount.visualstudio.com) you get 5 free users.  This means that if you’re creating the account for some personal dev project, you could invite 4 friends to contribute and nobody needs any licenses for anything!  Go and grab Visual Studio Code or Visual Studio Community for free and get stuck in to coding/building.  Grab the Office Plug-in and your “Product Owner” can hook the backlog and other queries into Excel (you need an office license obviously!).

The free users are “Basic” users - we’ll talk more about this later.

My client had joined an existing account so when they navigated to:


all the free users had been assigned so we needed to add some other types.

MSDN Users

Anyone with an MSDN subscription (Enterprise\Professional\Test Professional\Platforms) has an included Client Access License (CAL) that can be used with on-premise Team Foundation Server and/or cloud hosted Visual Studio Team Services. 

You can be added to any number of VSTS accounts at the Basic level  so I can be on my personal account, the RippleRock account and client accounts)


Free Stakeholder licenses are great, as the name suggests they were added to allow anyone who has an interest or a say in the project to view project information without the need to buy them a license.  If they simply want to add some things to the bottom of the backlog for consideration by the Team/Product Owner, or view project progress, then great, hook up as many as makes sense and away they go.

However, many teams will think, “my ScrumMaster doesn’t need a license as they’re not writing code”, or “my PO doesn’t need a license as they only want to work with the backlog”, but that generally isn’t the case.

There is a good comparison of Stakeholders and Basic Users here:

Visual Studio Team Services Feature Matrix

In summary, Stakeholders:

  • Can view, create, edit and query (most) Work Items via the web client
  • Cannot access Work Item Queries from Excel
  • Have limited functionality on backlogs and boards (crucially the cannot re-order items which is pretty critical for PO/SM)
  • Have no access to version control/builds
  • Cannot be project administrators

Additional Users

Prior to VSO/VSTS, if you needed to license a non-MSDN user for TFS, you simply bought a Client Access License (CAL) for TFS. 

CALs were not very expensive but they could be bought with or without Software Assurance and one problem was that users often bought the license only (without SA) which meant it was tied to a specific version of TFS.  This meant that when the team wanted to upgrade to the latest version of TFS, it could become a more costly procedure as new CALs had to be purchased.

With VSTS, you can still buy a CAL but it is usually significantly cheaper and more flexible to add users through VSTS (which also allows them to access both on-premise and cloud hosted) and pay monthly for what you need.

You need to set up payment on your account and choose how many users you need.

Pay for users accessing your account

Pricing f0r additional users is pretty reasonable.  Remember, the first 5 users are free, so if you need 10 users it will cost about £20 per month (each user over 5 is approximately £4, or more accurately $6).  If you need 15 users then it’s about £48 per month in total.

First 5 users: FREE
Users 6 through 10: $6 each
Users 11 through 100: $8 each
Users 101 through 1000: $4 each
Users 1001 and above: $2 each

At the time of writing, if you have an Enterprise Agreement, then all additional users are only $4 per month which makes it about 23 Basic users for only 50 quid a month!

For more details and a handy calculator, see:

 Visual Studio Team Services Pricing

That covers Basic users but what about VSO Professional or VSO Advanced licenses?

In short, they’re gone!

Brian Harry covered this in his blog in September:

September pricing and licensing changes

Now, you simply provision a Basic user and then purchase add-ons for any additional functionality that they need.  At the time of writing this additional functionality is limited to Test Manager (that used to be included with the Advanced license) but the new marketplace will mean that much more will be available in the future.

Test Manager

While we’re at it, where’s Team Explorer 2015?

It’s gone too!  The main reason people installed Team Explorer was to get the incredibly useful Excel integration but there will be no Team Explorer for Visual Studio 2015.

You can install the free Visual Studio Express or Visual Studio Community to get your Team Explorer or you can continue to use Team Explorer for Microsoft Visual Studio 2013 which will happily connect to VSTS/TFS 2015.

If you simply want the Excel integration then you can grab the new TFS Office plug-in

More information: TFS Office Integration Installer

Download: Microsoft Team Foundation Server Office Integration 2015 Update 1


As always, the Visual Studio 2015 Licensing White Paper usually has any information you need and is also handy if you’re having trouble sleeping.




Wednesday, January 6, 2016 1:21:47 PM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #    Comments [0]

# Thursday, December 17, 2015

Last month Microsoft finally put the new VSTS (formerly VSO) Release Management into public preview.  If you haven’t checked it out yet then just navigate to your Team Project and you should see a new top level menu option – Release*


The asterisk means that it is still in preview.

We’ve been using this for a while in our own internal development while it was in private preview and we think our clients are going to love it.

At the minute, this web based UI is VSTS only and it didn’t make it into TFS 2015 Update 1 so fingers crossed for Update 2.  If you want to read more about upcoming features for VSTS and TFS then check out the Visual Studio Team Services Features Timeline.

VSTS Release Management can target both on-premise machines and cloud based VMs or Websites so you’ll probably want to hook up your MSDN Azure subscription to VSTS if you haven’t already.

Navigate to the admin page for your Team Project by clicking the gear icon and then select the Services tab.  The url will be something like this:



Add a New Service Endpoint and select Azure


Then you will need your MSDN Azure subscription details to complete this so grab your subscription ID, subscription name and management certificate by downloading your publish settings:


Copy everything between the quotes:


and paste it into the new Azure Connection dialog.  Give the connection a name to help you recognise it in case there are multiple Azure connections associated with the project.


Click OK and your account should be ready to deploy.


Now when I create my Azure Web App Deployment, my Azure Subscription will be available in the drop down





Thursday, December 17, 2015 5:47:11 PM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #    Comments [0]