After spending a year in beta, Microsoft has opened up their Team Foundation Service to the public. Team Foundation Service is an Application Lifecycle Management tool (also known as ALM) designed to manage all stages of software development. It provides source code version control, unit testing, even a cloud-hosted build service. It offers integration with Visual Studio and Eclipse and can even be used to develop for non-Microsoft platforms. Complete backups on “three physically-distinct servers” are made every day, with incremental backups made every hour.
Team Foundation Service appears to be a cloud-based version of the similarly named (confusingly so, in my opinion) Team Foundation Server. Team Foundation Server (also known as TFS) is a server-based management tool that seems to inspire strong opinions. Many people really like it while others despise it. It is also quite expensive and involves the additional complications of setting up a server and the hassles that go along with server management.
What makes Microsoft Team Foundation Service especially interesting is that it is free for teams with up to five people. Teams with over five people can use the service now for free, but will have to switch to a paid plan starting in 2013. But it will apparently still remain free for teams with up to five people. (Another choice for small teams is Team Foundation Server Express, a server-based solution which is also free for teams of up to five people.)
With Team Foundation Service, Microsoft appears to be targeting GitHub and other similar services that offer project management features such as version control, issue tracking, and wikis. GitHub is free for open source projects and has paid plans for other types of projects.
Microsoft’s free plan allows for up to five users and unlimited projects. There is no requirement that those projects be open source, even on the free plan. They are clearly betting that many companies which are already paying for development servers will be willing to eventually shift management responsibilities onto Microsoft. With free signup, it’s a pretty low risk way of giving it a try.