Recently I’ve been digging in to the features of Microsoft’s Visual Studio LightSwitch 2011 in the interest of developing robust internal interfaces for data management. In the past we’ve always built web based interfaces to access and administer our proprietary systems. Those applications have always taken a great deal of time to develop and maintain. With the introduction of LightSwitch, that has changed.
After reading some documentation, blog posts and other material on building apps in LightSwitch, I started my own project and began to hash out the data sources, queries and screens that make up a LightSwitch application. After only a few hours (mostly spent wrapping my head around the LightSwitch development paradigm) I had a fully functional, secure and accessible application to help manage our Advertisers, Campaigns and Orders. I call it the MobileLeads Campaign Manager. It has already been deployed to production and is in use by our staff.
One really nice feature is the ease of deploying updates to the application. After the first round of usability testing I was given a request to add a Status field to Campaigns. All I had to do was add the field to the table in the database (we started with a DB but you can build your database within LightSwitch), update the data source and update the screens for which the field should be present. Piece of cake! Deploying the updates to the production server was as easy as publishing the application within Visual Studio. It handles any data schema migrations for you (some restrictions apply). You can choose to deploy as a stand-alone desktop application, an n-tier web application or on Windows Azure. I’ll bet it’s even easy to switch between the options.
I’ve barely scratched the surface so far but I’m very pleased with what I’ve seen. As the MobileLeads Campaign Manager evolves I’m sure I’ll get to experience all the many rich features, customizability and extensibility that LightSwitch has to offer.