Microsoft Cloud Authors: Janakiram MSV, Yeshim Deniz, David H Deans, Andreas Grabner, Stackify Blog

Related Topics: Microsoft Cloud

Microsoft Cloud: Article

MSBuild - What It Does and What You Can Expect in the Future

The standard customizable build platform for the .NET Framework

What's New in MSBuild in .NET 3.5
.NET 3.5, which ships with Visual Studio 2008 code named "Orcas" brings one big feature we wanted from the start - support for multiple processors. Although this was a lot of work internally, it's easy for you to get the benefits. To switch on the feature, use the ‘/m' switch on msbuild.exe.

MSBuild parallelizes at the project level. To do this safely, MSBuild has to know which projects depend on the outputs of others. It can figure this out by using the "ProjectReference" items that Visual Studio puts in Visual Basic and C# projects. Before you enable a multiprocessor build, make sure you have declared all your dependencies using this tag so that MSBuild can order the build correctly. "ProjectReference" is an item type understood by the Visual Basic and C# build process we ship: if you have a custom build process you'll need to make sure that you implement something similar, using the MSBuild task.

Multiprocessor support required changes to our logging infrastructure, so if you have a custom logger you may want to read about them. If you use the built-in loggers you'll find we've improved the format with specific attention to diagnosing multiprocessor builds.

Another important new feature in .NET 3.5 is the support for multiple versions of the .NET Framework. MSBuild understands the concept of "Toolsets" defined in the configuration files and registry. These are sets of tasks, targets, and properties that can be switched in as a group. We added this to allow you to switch MSBuild .NET 3.5 between the .NET 3.5 tasks and targets and the tasks and targets that shipped with .NET 2.0. There's also a similar concept of "TargetFrameworkVersion" that lets you build assemblies specifi cally to target the 2.0, 3.0, or 3.5 .NET Framework. Take a look at the MSBuild team blog for more information about these.

A new element was added to the MSBuild file format - ItemDefinitionGroup. Using ItemDefinition-Group, you can specify default values for metadata on all items of an item type. For example, you can specify a default WarningLevel metadata value of "4" on items of type "Compile" item, and in your project fi les selectively override this with a different value.

In MSBuild in .NET 2.0, it wasn't possible to modify or remove items once they were created. To get around this it was necessary to copy items selectively from one item list to another using the CreateItem task, which was hard to read and caused an explosion of item types. A similar problem exists for properties. In .NET 3.5 ItemGroup and PropertyGroup can be used inside Targets, so these special tasks aren't needed anymore. There's also new syntax to remove items selectively from item lists and modify their metadata. In some cases this can make the build process much simpler to write.

You'll also see that you can now access registry keys directly in MSBuild using the new "$(Registry: [email protected])" syntax.

Finally you should see performance improvements in many scenarios even without multiprocessor support enabled. Incremental builds of relatively large projects have gotten signifi cantly faster in many cases.

Internal Adoption
"Dogfooding" is the strange name that Microsoft uses for using its own projects internally. We always try to use our own products extensively, starting well before they ship, to get feedback and fix issues before any customers encounter them. For example, you won't be surprised to learn that Microsoft's e-mail systems are always running on recent internal builds of Exchange Server. Right from the start we knew that "dogfooding" would be a top priority for MSBuild if we wanted to be a first-class build system. Early on we began an effort to convert the build of the Visual Studio product from nmake and build.exe to use msbuild.exe.

Visual Studio and the accompanying tools are written in several million lines of C++, C#, and VB and over the years its makefile-based build process had become dauntingly complex. The process of converting Visual Studio to use MSBuild took part of the team about two years, but as our tools and build process matured our progress got faster and faster.

The payoff was huge: we discovered and fixed numerous bugs and scalability problems, added some features, and learned a great deal - which will be fed right back into MSBuild. Our goal was to prove that MSBuild could scale to any customer project, and we believe we have achieved that.

Future Directions for MSBuild
You're probably wondering what to expect from future versions of MSBuild. Our plans aren't firm, so it's important to know that these aren't commitments, but a list of some of the features we'd like to ship at some point. We'd welcome information about what you'd like to see to help us prioritize our work: e-mail our team at [email protected].
•  Native build support. By far our biggest request. This includes the tasks and targets necessary to build Visual C++ projects on the command line and the Visual Studio support to load and modify them just as you can do today with Visual Basic and C# projects. Of course, we'd want to provide a conversion tool to migrate from today's Visual C++ format to MSBuild syntax projects.
•  Make creating tasks easier. We'd like to make it possible to create tasks without compiling - by writing script or XML directly in the targets file, with strongly typed inputs and outputs just like a regular task. These tasks can then be shared by copying and pasting. Extensible dependency analysis. MSBuild today can compare the timestamps of input and output fi les, but you must specify them explicitly. We'd like to discover these directly, even transitive dependencies. We'd also like to make it possible to plug in different kinds of dependency checking.
•  Improved multiprocessor performance both by speeding up the code path and improving our scheduling. Customers have also asked us to provide the option of automatically distributing builds over multiple machines.
•  Improved tooling around MSBuild. For example, better debugging, visualization, and analysis tools for large builds.
•  Move more project formats over to MSBuild. Visual C++, deployment, and Web projects should be based on MSBuild. Outside of Microsoft, we encourage the vendors of software built on the Microsoft platform to transition their project fi les and build process description if they're interested in the features that MSBuild offers.

We hope this article was a useful overview of where MSBuild is today and our plans for the future. For too long, build has been one of the least glamorous parts of the software development process, but it's our goal to make it exciting and provide developers with big productivity improvements too! We'd love to hear your feedback: we can be reached on the MSBuild forum, which you can reach from http://forums.microsoft.com/MSDN, or on our blog, which you can find at http://blogs.msdn.com/msbuild. If you prefer e-mail, our address is [email protected].

More Stories By Xin Yan

Xin Yan has been a software design engineer at Microsoft for over 7 years. He works on Visual Studio developer tools platform team.

More Stories By Dan Moseley

Dan Moseley is a software developer on the MSBuild and Visual Studio Project team.

Comments (1) View Comments

Share your thoughts on this story.

Add your comment
You must be signed in to add a comment. Sign-in | Register

In accordance with our Comment Policy, we encourage comments that are on topic, relevant and to-the-point. We will remove comments that include profanity, personal attacks, racial slurs, threats of violence, or other inappropriate material that violates our Terms and Conditions, and will block users who make repeated violations. We ask all readers to expect diversity of opinion and to treat one another with dignity and respect.

Most Recent Comments
Paul 11/28/07 04:17:42 PM EST

I enjoyed the article on MSBuild, well written, concise, and interesting. But I was most interested in reading about Batching. In that section, you refer to an example using the Culture metadata, but I don't see the example you're referring to. Am I missing something?

@ThingsExpo Stories
"Cloud Academy is an enterprise training platform for the cloud, specifically public clouds. We offer guided learning experiences on AWS, Azure, Google Cloud and all the surrounding methodologies and technologies that you need to know and your teams need to know in order to leverage the full benefits of the cloud," explained Alex Brower, VP of Marketing at Cloud Academy, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at 21st Cloud Expo, held Oct 31 – Nov 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clar...
In his session at 21st Cloud Expo, Carl J. Levine, Senior Technical Evangelist for NS1, will objectively discuss how DNS is used to solve Digital Transformation challenges in large SaaS applications, CDNs, AdTech platforms, and other demanding use cases. Carl J. Levine is the Senior Technical Evangelist for NS1. A veteran of the Internet Infrastructure space, he has over a decade of experience with startups, networking protocols and Internet infrastructure, combined with the unique ability to it...
"IBM is really all in on blockchain. We take a look at sort of the history of blockchain ledger technologies. It started out with bitcoin, Ethereum, and IBM evaluated these particular blockchain technologies and found they were anonymous and permissionless and that many companies were looking for permissioned blockchain," stated René Bostic, Technical VP of the IBM Cloud Unit in North America, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at 21st Cloud Expo, held Oct 31 – Nov 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Conventi...
Gemini is Yahoo’s native and search advertising platform. To ensure the quality of a complex distributed system that spans multiple products and components and across various desktop websites and mobile app and web experiences – both Yahoo owned and operated and third-party syndication (supply), with complex interaction with more than a billion users and numerous advertisers globally (demand) – it becomes imperative to automate a set of end-to-end tests 24x7 to detect bugs and regression. In th...
Widespread fragmentation is stalling the growth of the IIoT and making it difficult for partners to work together. The number of software platforms, apps, hardware and connectivity standards is creating paralysis among businesses that are afraid of being locked into a solution. EdgeX Foundry is unifying the community around a common IoT edge framework and an ecosystem of interoperable components.
"MobiDev is a software development company and we do complex, custom software development for everybody from entrepreneurs to large enterprises," explained Alan Winters, U.S. Head of Business Development at MobiDev, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at 21st Cloud Expo, held Oct 31 – Nov 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA.
Large industrial manufacturing organizations are adopting the agile principles of cloud software companies. The industrial manufacturing development process has not scaled over time. Now that design CAD teams are geographically distributed, centralizing their work is key. With large multi-gigabyte projects, outdated tools have stifled industrial team agility, time-to-market milestones, and impacted P&L stakeholders.
"Space Monkey by Vivent Smart Home is a product that is a distributed cloud-based edge storage network. Vivent Smart Home, our parent company, is a smart home provider that places a lot of hard drives across homes in North America," explained JT Olds, Director of Engineering, and Brandon Crowfeather, Product Manager, at Vivint Smart Home, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at @ThingsExpo, held Oct 31 – Nov 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA.
"Akvelon is a software development company and we also provide consultancy services to folks who are looking to scale or accelerate their engineering roadmaps," explained Jeremiah Mothersell, Marketing Manager at Akvelon, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at 21st Cloud Expo, held Oct 31 – Nov 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA.
Coca-Cola’s Google powered digital signage system lays the groundwork for a more valuable connection between Coke and its customers. Digital signs pair software with high-resolution displays so that a message can be changed instantly based on what the operator wants to communicate or sell. In their Day 3 Keynote at 21st Cloud Expo, Greg Chambers, Global Group Director, Digital Innovation, Coca-Cola, and Vidya Nagarajan, a Senior Product Manager at Google, discussed how from store operations and ...
"There's plenty of bandwidth out there but it's never in the right place. So what Cedexis does is uses data to work out the best pathways to get data from the origin to the person who wants to get it," explained Simon Jones, Evangelist and Head of Marketing at Cedexis, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at 21st Cloud Expo, held Oct 31 – Nov 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA.
SYS-CON Events announced today that CrowdReviews.com has been named “Media Sponsor” of SYS-CON's 22nd International Cloud Expo, which will take place on June 5–7, 2018, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY. CrowdReviews.com is a transparent online platform for determining which products and services are the best based on the opinion of the crowd. The crowd consists of Internet users that have experienced products and services first-hand and have an interest in letting other potential buye...
SYS-CON Events announced today that Telecom Reseller has been named “Media Sponsor” of SYS-CON's 22nd International Cloud Expo, which will take place on June 5-7, 2018, at the Javits Center in New York, NY. Telecom Reseller reports on Unified Communications, UCaaS, BPaaS for enterprise and SMBs. They report extensively on both customer premises based solutions such as IP-PBX as well as cloud based and hosted platforms.
It is of utmost importance for the future success of WebRTC to ensure that interoperability is operational between web browsers and any WebRTC-compliant client. To be guaranteed as operational and effective, interoperability must be tested extensively by establishing WebRTC data and media connections between different web browsers running on different devices and operating systems. In his session at WebRTC Summit at @ThingsExpo, Dr. Alex Gouaillard, CEO and Founder of CoSMo Software, presented ...
WebRTC is great technology to build your own communication tools. It will be even more exciting experience it with advanced devices, such as a 360 Camera, 360 microphone, and a depth sensor camera. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Masashi Ganeko, a manager at INFOCOM Corporation, introduced two experimental projects from his team and what they learned from them. "Shotoku Tamago" uses the robot audition software HARK to track speakers in 360 video of a remote party. "Virtual Teleport" uses a multip...
A strange thing is happening along the way to the Internet of Things, namely far too many devices to work with and manage. It has become clear that we'll need much higher efficiency user experiences that can allow us to more easily and scalably work with the thousands of devices that will soon be in each of our lives. Enter the conversational interface revolution, combining bots we can literally talk with, gesture to, and even direct with our thoughts, with embedded artificial intelligence, whic...
SYS-CON Events announced today that Evatronix will exhibit at SYS-CON's 21st International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on Oct 31 – Nov 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. Evatronix SA offers comprehensive solutions in the design and implementation of electronic systems, in CAD / CAM deployment, and also is a designer and manufacturer of advanced 3D scanners for professional applications.
Leading companies, from the Global Fortune 500 to the smallest companies, are adopting hybrid cloud as the path to business advantage. Hybrid cloud depends on cloud services and on-premises infrastructure working in unison. Successful implementations require new levels of data mobility, enabled by an automated and seamless flow across on-premises and cloud resources. In his general session at 21st Cloud Expo, Greg Tevis, an IBM Storage Software Technical Strategist and Customer Solution Architec...
To get the most out of their data, successful companies are not focusing on queries and data lakes, they are actively integrating analytics into their operations with a data-first application development approach. Real-time adjustments to improve revenues, reduce costs, or mitigate risk rely on applications that minimize latency on a variety of data sources. In his session at @BigDataExpo, Jack Norris, Senior Vice President, Data and Applications at MapR Technologies, reviewed best practices to ...
An increasing number of companies are creating products that combine data with analytical capabilities. Running interactive queries on Big Data requires complex architectures to store and query data effectively, typically involving data streams, an choosing efficient file format/database and multiple independent systems that are tied together through custom-engineered pipelines. In his session at @BigDataExpo at @ThingsExpo, Tomer Levi, a senior software engineer at Intel’s Advanced Analytics gr...