Licensing and packaging changes for TFS 2015

Brian Harry

Over the past year, we have been working to simplify licensing for Team Foundation Server and make things as straight forward as possible for customers to adopt it. This has included changes like the introduction of the Stakeholder plan for broad access to work items within the organization, simplifications to release management to eliminate per deployment environment billing, reductions in cloud load testing prices and more. You’ll find some previous posts here:

Today I want to tell you about another set of changes we are making that I think will move us yet another step forward. All of these changes will be effective with the TFS 2015 release.

Changes to the TFS CAL

We’ve taken steps to make even more of the Agile Project Management features in TFS 2015 more broadly available and at a lower cost. Many features that were only available if you purchased VS Premium with MSDN, VS Ultimate with MSDN or Test Professional with MSDN are now available in the TFS CAL (which can be purchased separately and is included with VS Pro with MSDN, VS Enterprise with MSDN and Test Professional with MSDN).

  • Agile planning – All backlog management and sprint planning capabilities in TFS 2015 web access are now available to any user with a TFS CAL. This includes hierarchical backlog management. This change is in addition to and does not replace the free stakeholder access that we introduced in TFS 2013 Update 4 that enables access to work items without a CAL but did not include all of the backlog management features.
  • Chart authoring – Chart authoring and the ability to pin/share charts to your project home page is now available in the CAL.
  • Team rooms – Team rooms are now available with a CAL in TFS 2015.
  • Test Hub – With TFS 2015, the web based test experience for executing test cases (for User Acceptance Testing like scenarios) is now available in the TFS CAL.

Test Professional Subscription

We made changes in VS Online and now in TFS 2015 to make web based User Acceptance Testing available to VS Online Basic users and users with a TFS 2015 CAL. We’ve also gotten feedback that people would like to be able to use Test Professional so that they can get the full set of testing capabilities, including lab management, rich data collectors, etc. but be able to subscribe for a period of time, rather than purchase a perpetual license.

Along with the release of TFS 2015, we are adding rights to use the Test Professional Product for users VS Online Advanced users. This will effectively allow you to “rent” Test Professional for $60 per user per month. For now, it will only license you to use Test Professional with your VS Online account, but we are working on changes to enable you to use it with your TFS on-premises server as well.

Visual Studio Online Advanced users can download and install the Visual Studio Test Professional 2015 trial and sign in to unlock this trial (no product key is necessary for active VS Online Advanced users).

Team Explorer

Since 2005, we have provided a stand-alone Team Explorer interface that provides a rich client experience, based on the Visual Studio shell to access TFS (and VS Online). We did this despite having integrated solutions in Visual Studio, Eclipse, etc. primarily for “non-developer” users. Over the past couple of years, we have added more and more of the non-developer capabilities to our web experience. With our 2015 release, we are not going to ship a Team Explorer 2015 stand-alone GUI. You will still have the full Visual Studio (Community, Express, Pro, Enterprise) integrated experience, our Eclipse plugin and our Web experience.

For managing through this transition, you can, of course, continue to use Team Explorer 2013 with TFS 2015, while you evolve your workflow. You can also switch to using the 2015 versions VS Community or VS Express – both of which are free and include all of the Team Explorer functionality. Of course, the functionality is also included in VS Pro and Enterprise.

As we’ve looked at this, the one inconvenience this change introduces that we need to address is non-developer users who want to use our Office integration capabilities. Today, those are most often acquired with Team Explorer and installing VS Express to get them is not really a suitable solution for non-developers (as it includes so many unrelated developer capabilities). As such, in the TFS 2015 Update 1 timeframe, we will create a new installer that has just the Office integration and related components (without the Team Explorer VS shell). Until then, I’d recommend non-developers continue to use Team Explorer 2013.

We believe that over time, this will provide the best experience for users – Developers get TFS and VS Online integrated into their favorite IDE and non-developers have a great web experience and add-ons for their productivity apps without having any form of Visual Studio on their machine.


With the 2015 release, we have decided to make our Power Point based storyboarding tool available for free (it was previously only available in Test Professional with MSDN, VS Premium with MSDN and VS Ultimate with MSDN). For now, we have included it in VS 2015 Community. When the new “Office integration” installer ships in the TFS 2015 Update 1 timeframe, we will include the storyboarding tool there as well to make it even easier to access.

We are also making a bunch of licensing/packaging changes in Visual Studio 2015 that relate to TFS. I’ll cover those here:

  • CodeLens – We’ve moved the CodeLens experience and all of its TFS integration from VS Ultimate into VS Professional and above.
  • Code review – The integrated code review experience in VS Premium and Ultimate is now available in VS Community, VS Pro, VS Pro with MSDN and VS Enterprise with MSDN.
  • My work – The VS integrated “My Work” experience in the Team Explorer tool window in VS Premium and Ultimate has been moved to VS Professional and above.

These changes should make TFS related capabilities in VS available to even more people.


I hope you like the changes.  As always, feedback is welcome.  There are more changes under consideration for the future.  I expect this is a never ending process of tuning where we will make adjustments every year.  We’re constantly watching for any place we can make the experience better.



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