3 Oct 2009


Its time for you to consider replacing SourceSafe

Microsoft’s Visual SourceSafe product has been around for ages. In fact its been 15 years since Microsoft acquired it from One Tree Software back in 1994. Since that time there have been several releases of what is one of the most commonly used source control products on the planet.

Over the years SourceSafe has had its fair share of detractors and I hear terms like “Visual SortaSafe” being bandied about from time to time. To be fair it couldn’t have gained the market share and popularity it has without reason. Sometimes the reasons for success can be outstanding innovation, price or just the fact it is the easiest to setup and use at the time.

In my day to day work I come across quite a few customers who still use SourceSafe as their source control product. Their rationale is that it is doing the job and the alternatives, at least from Microsoft, are too difficult to setup and too costly to get started with for small teams.

So why are you still using SourceSafe?

Microsoft’s source control tool of choice offers *a lot* more than just source control. Team Foundation Server is a market leading integrated Application Lifecycle Management (ALM) suite. So if this is so much better why aren’t all teams moving from SourceSafe to TFS? Let’s face it, The Chaos Report from the Standish Group shows that we have a terrible report card when it comes to delivering successful software development projects. Wouldn’t you want to give your projects the best chance of success by adopting a tool that provides so much more than just source control? Of course you would, but there seems to be two main issues.

Issue 1 – TFS is too hard to setup

For small teams with limited resources, it is often difficult to find the time to learn how to install and configure TFS correctly. From the outset, TFS has not been an easy product to install and get configured correctly. A quick search of the Internet reveals a long list of install issues which is certain to put teams off.

Issue 2 – Entry cost of small teams

There are two perceptions here that I need to dispel. Number 1, TFS Server is an expensive product and Number 2, SourceSafe is free so we’ll keep using it. Firstly, here in Australia the absolute worst price I can find is less than AUD$4,000 for TFS 2008. Remember that an organisation will likely only need one copy of this, it includes the license for SQL Server and you’re likely going to pay a lot less than this amount if you shop around. You’ll also need to buy a Client Access License (CAL) for each user, assuming you’re not planning on using one of the team specific versions of Visual Studio. Remember there is also a free* version of TFS called TFS Workgroup Edition. (* Limited to 5 users and free only with team editions that are licensed with MSDN Premium subscriptions)

SourceSafe is not free, again a quick search of an Australian software retailer lists SourceSafe 2005 as having a retail price of AUD$1041. Remember that is JUST for source control.

Some GREAT News!

So why am I bringing up this topic? (You know there’s a reason right)

Microsoft have announced the existence of a new installation option for the upcoming TFS2010 release. Microsoft Technical fellow, Brian Harry, has written a great blog post entitled “TFS 2010 for SourceSafe users” in which he describes a new “Basic” installation option for TFS 2010 which addresses issue 1 above. He even walks through the entire installation in screenshots to show just how easy the installation will be in this “Basic” configuration.

A couple of other key things he points out in his blog post include;

  • TFS 21010 can be installed on a Domain Controller (Personal favourite for building demo boxes)
  • TFS 2010 can be installed on client OSes – Vista & Win7 Home Premium or above. (Great for very small teams, for eval purposes and for demos)
  • TFS 2010 can be installed on both 32bit and 64bit operating systems (Enough said)

Unfortunately Microsoft are not ready to release pricing and packaging details for the TFS 2010 “Basic” version yet, but let’s hope it goes a long way to addressing issue 2 above.

  • Kevin

    Maybe its time to consider something outside of the Microsoft world for your source control needs… git.
    Simply awesome.

  • RE: Its time for you to consider replacing SourceSafe

    Brian Harry on Thinking about the future of TFS installation Anthony Borton on Its time for you to consider