The reality of Team System pricing

Some of my fellow CodeBetter bloggers (Brendan and Jeff) have taken up the old “Team System is too expensive” chant again. Here is my reply.


The reason the price doesn’t make sense to you is because you’re not the target market. The target market for Team System is large development groups that are currently using products like ClearCase. Is anyone that is complaining about Team System pricing using ClearCase? I highly doubt it, and if you are using ClearCase, you’re probably excited to pay tens of thousands of dollars less for roughly equivalent functionality.


I was around for the initial install of ClearCase at my previous employer. For ClearCase, which is a configuration management suite and much of which will be available in Team System, the list price is $4,125 for a floating license. You’d need somewhere between 3 to 6 floating licenses per developer. That’s JUST CLEARCASE.


Like Eric Sink said in his excellent comments on the pricing of Team System, MSDN Universal does not mean that you get everything Microsoft sells. That’s just plain wrong. It’s true that is a change, that Microsoft hasn’t managed it very well, and that in general people don’t like change.


Microsoft did relent somewhat and allow current MSDN Universal subscribers to get 1 of the 3 role editions and 5 CALs to the Foundation Server at no additional cost. So for small development shops the incremental cost of getting all 3 editions combined (for 1 person, the other 4 get Premium) AND access to Foundation Server is $1,200.


Let’s put this in perspective. The current list price for MSDN Universal is around $2,800. For access to everything with an upgrade you will pay a total of $4,000.


This works out to an increase of $100 PER MONTH.


Now, if all of the Team Server features are not worth an additional $100 per month to you, then go ahead and be cheap. Use open source software or whatever else. Don’t get me wrong; I love open source software. But if there is something that allows me to bring more value to my clients at an acceptable financial tradeoff, I’m going to do it. If you are a consultant, how does $100 per month compare to your hourly rate?

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11 Responses to The reality of Team System pricing

  1. Hi Darrell,

    “As to getting sidetracked, originally I probably didn’t understand the intent of your post. My bad.”

    I don’t blame you. Half the time I don’t understand my own posts. ;)

    Yeah, my whole point here is that this is like a big wall between me and a tool that may help me, from a company that has always wanted to help developers.

    Now, I have to do all sorts of things, that are a hassle.

    I have to decide what kind of developer I am, and pick a version. This isn’t easy!

    I have to decide whether this is going to be worth me pitching to my bosses. Is it worth the cost? We do have a budget. If I recommend this, will I get the new Red-Gate pakage? Which one would help me more?

    If I do pitch it to them, we’d better use it, otherwise it goes on the heap of other enterpsise-priced unused software around here. Then my reputation is hurt.

    “Ah Brendan, you need to buy another high-priced application? You need how much more ram for your laptop? Geesh, consultants.” – This will get said.

    I don’t know, it was just much easier. I used to be able to say, hey boss, just get me MSDN and I’m off to the races.

  2. Brendan – that is the conundrum, but I guess to say that developers writing quality applications do so regardless of the language or environment. I know the work you are doing, for example, would qualify. And I know its irksome. I for one am trying to figure out how I am going to make the pitch to my boss! :)

    As to getting sidetracked, originally I probably didn’t understand the intent of your post. My bad.

    As for getting things into the hands of developers, I think Microsoft is trying to do that and be more transparent in their development process. But I think this backfired since a whole bunch of people that were not representative of the target market got a hold of this thing and then wondered why it was priced out of their reach.

  3. Hi Don.

    I recommend buying things like ERWin, Veritas, and other enterprise grade, non-ms developer tools all the time. I just bought two new copies of MSDN, so that we could get pieces of this stuff for the best price.

    Because I didn’t have to pay these same prices for the MS tools has always made me feel good about MS…

    Now, you’re saying that Team System isn’t for me, and the small group of developers I work with, because I don’t think that MS should alienate developers like me?

    Hmmm, I’m not easily offended, but if I were, I may take offense to the implications here.

  4. Don Demsak says:

    As someone who has worked on projects using Rational’s products, I totally agree with Darrell. I’ve been saying the same thing, VSTS isn’t meant for the people complaining about the price. VSTS is much cheaper then buying the equiv. Rational Suite, and VSTS is much better (I’ve done the whole XDE and ClearCase thing, and VSTS is light years ahead of it).

  5. Darrell, I agree that better productivity can be well worth the software cost, but if the high cost deters the use in the first place, and developers writing quality code are the key to MS in the Enterprise long term, aren’t they shooting themselves in the foot?

    I also think this discussion is getting sidetracked…

    My argument is really that the whole model has been alienating us as developers and seems to be going in the opposite direction of what is working. I.e. getting software in the hands of hungry developoers through frequently releasing and making new tools available, open source where appropriate, and MSDN subscriptions where each month, we get refreshed with the best new stuff…

    It just seems to be backwards.

    I just don’t see how this model is going to work in the long run, and don’t understand why the direction.

  6. In regards to what Paul is saying, what Team System is offering is an integrated product suite that encompasses an entire development team and full development lifecycle.

    Can you piece the same thing together with free and open source software? Definitely, but my thought is it would take longer to develop and maintain the infrastructure, time and effort which could be better spent satisfying customers.

  7. Steve – they do put a downsized version into the hands of MSDN subscribers. You get any of the role editions PLUS 5 CALs to Foundation Server, which means other people (like PMs, Business Analysts, other people who don’t use Visual Studio) can access Foundation Server.

    If you pay a little more (little compared to the full price, and I don’t think $1200 is that much money amortized over a small team over a whole year, but your mileage may vary) you get the full monty! :)

  8. Brendan,

    But if the money spent results in BETTER PRODUCTIVITY, then it is worth it. You’re looking at it like it provides no additional benefit, or not enough benefit to offset the cost. I addressed that issue in the post: “If all of the Team Server features are not worth an additional $100 per month to you, then [don't use it].”

    Also, what you mean by expensive is really “expensive according to Brendan.” Again, that’s because you are not part of the target market. I think Lexuses are expensive, and guess what? I’m not part of their target market. :)

    Finally, Team Server pricing is FAR BELOW the pricing of its competitor products. So it is like crushing Crystal Reports, but in a different market. It’s a market in which Microsoft has offered very attractive pricing RELATIVE to the full cost for current MSDN Universal subscribers, but maybe not relative to the previous cost of MSDN Universal combined with the mindset of “MSDN Universal gets me everything.” It’s that mindset that is causing all this grief.

  9. Brendan says, “I think the days of overpriced, enterprise software are numbered.”

    The real answer to this statement is whether or not the producers of enterprise software can continue to innovate and add value to their products.

    If Microsoft, or any other software vendor, can produce software in such a way that makes the value of using the commercial product so much more compelling that the cost of using the alternative (either a free piece of software or less expensive), then “free” simply doesn’t make any sense.

    Again, you must also consider the main argument that Darrell makes in his post, that VSTS is targeted more toward large enterprise teams and not solo (or even small team) developers.

  10. Steve Hebert says:

    I think everyone is a potential Team System user – and MSDN has been a tool to get products into the hands of developers who may or may not need each product. If they want to sell it seperately, either put a downsized version into MSDN for individuals to play with or explicitly make it a non-production license.

  11. Darrell,
    I’m a consultant which is exactly why I’m very wary of how much my clients have to pay for stuff like this.

    Sure, it’s only $2000 here and there, but each dollar my client has to pay Microsoft is a dollar they don’t have laying around to pay ME.

    I think the days of overpriced, enterprise software are numbered. MS will crush Crystal with Reporting Services. Because it’s better, cheaper, and developers like it. Why do developers like it? Because we can get it easily, without any confusing, expensive licensing options. This is a good model, and it works. And open source options aren’t far behind. Developers will like these options more.

    Microsoft with the team system pricing is going in the other direction. Why they would be alienating so many developers with by jumping on the bandwagon of other pricy developer tools, is frankly, beyond my comprehension.

    Your argument seems to be “Everyone else is doing it, it’s the status quo.” Do you really think that’s a good argument?

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