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LightSwitch Farm: A Story In The Not So Distant Future

(This is a fictional story set not too far in the future)

Mary sits in the waiting room of the automobile parts wholesaler company. She reflects how the first day at this job feels different than her first day on past jobs. This time she knows exactly what to expect as far as the technology.

Her new supervisor escorts her to her cubicle after retrieving her from the lobby. As they walk past her co-workers he introducers her. They are passing through what Mary has now started calling the “LightSwitch Farm”.

A LightSwitch Farm is a  virtual assembly line of Visual Studio LightSwitch applications. It has now become quite common for a 4 person team to juggle nearly a hundred LightSwitch applications at the same time. As she meets each of her co-workers, she sees the familiar 4-step organization:

  1. Maintenance -  This person is usually a junior developer. This person assists the business units in maintaining their own LightSwitch apps. These users are usually comfortable creating complex Excel worksheets, and usually export LightSwitch data to Excel for final manipulation. It is not uncommon for them to create and use a LightSwitch application in one day. To support them, a developer is usually required to create a WCF RIA Service that can preform a function such as retrieving external data.
  2. Requirements – This developer gathers requirements for LightSwitch applications that the IT department will maintain. Gathering requirements for a LightSwitch application takes just as long as any other application. Some teams skip this step and it is the main cause of a bad LightSwitch application.
  3. App Builders – These are really the ‘Architects’, but development in LightSwitch is so fast, the architects actually build the LightSwitch apps. Most LightSwitch apps require only one programmer.
  4. Custom Controls – This is Mary’s new job. This is at the ‘top of the heap’ and the place to be if you really want to make money. Every LightSwitch application that needs a special UI goes to this person. To get this job you have to demonstrate that you can create exceptional controls.

A Typical Day

It is Mary’s 2nd hour on the job. She gets straight to work because with LightSwitch, you already know or you don’t.

Her first task is to add a custom control to a LightSwitch app. However, she will first add a few lookup tables where they had previously been hard coded pick lists. This her most common fix to a LightSwitch app that was created by a non-programmer (this should have been caught earlier, but this sort of thing does not run into a wall until you try using custom controls).

She spends most of the day creating a WCF RIA service to read from the accounting application (LightSwitch works fine once you get the data INTO it). She then creates a Silverlight control that will display graphs of a customers billing and past orders, and allow the limits on all to be adjusted while seeing the changes of that adjustment on the clients required level of business (needed for the customer service people when they are on the phone with the customer).

It’s All About The Money

As Mary gathers her things at the end of the day, she looks around and reflects on what was accomplished that day. Nearly 20 co-workers visited her group with questions and feature requests. Except for her custom control project, nothing took more than an hour to complete. Many requests were completed by implementing LightSwitch plug-ins.

It feels a bit like the ‘Dot Com Boom’ that she remembers. Money is everywhere, and each day there is more money to be made. The market is flooded with LightSwitch plug-ins, Custom Shells, Themes, and Control Extensions.

The big players were in from the start, but when the 16 year old kid made the papers after he made $100,000 in 30 days after reading a Michael Washington E-Book and making a LightSwitch plug-in, she knew two things would happen, Michael Washington would raise the price of his E-Books and the ‘plug-in wars’ would go full steam... but that is another chapter of the story…

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