UML Designers have been removed; Layer Designer now supports live architectural analysis

Jean-Marc Prieur

We are removing the UML designers from Visual Studio “15” Enterprise. Removing a feature is always a hard decision, but we want to ensure that our resources are invested in features that deliver the most customer value.  Our reasons are twofold:

  1. On examining telemetry data, we found that the designers were being used by very few customers, and this was confirmed when we consulted with our sales and technical support teams.
  2. We were also faced with investing significant engineering resource to react to changes happening in the Visual Studio core for this release.

If you are a significant user of the UML designers, you can continue to use Visual Studio 2015 or earlier versions, whilst you decide on an alternative tool for your UML needs.
However, we continue to support visualizing of the architecture of .NET and C++ code through code maps, and for this release have made some significant improvements to Layer (dependency) validation. On interviewing customers about Technical Debt, architectural debt, in particular unwanted dependencies, surfaces as being a significant pain point. Since 2010, Visual Studio Ultimate, now Enterprise, has included the Layer Designer, which allows desired dependencies in .NET code to be specified and validated. However, validation only happens at build time and errors only surface at the method level, not at the lines of code which are actually violating the declared dependencies. In this release, we have rewritten layer validation to use the .NET Compiler Platform (“Roslyn”), which allows architecture validation to happen in real-time, as you type, as well as on build, and also means that reported errors are treated in the user experience like any other code analysis error. This means that developers are less likely to write code that introduces unwanted dependencies, as they will be alerted in the editor as they type. Moving to Roslyn, also makes it possible to create a plugin for SonarQube allowing layer validation errors to be reported with other technical debt during continuous integration and code review via pull requests, using the SonarQube build tasks integrated with Visual Studio Team Services. The plugin is on our near term backlog.

If you haven’t tried the Layer Designer before, we encourage you to give it a try. More detail on how to use it is available Live architecture dependency validation in Visual Studio ’15’ Preview 5. And please provide feedback not only on the experience, but also other rules you would like to see implemented.


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