Microsoft to developers: Say goodbye to cloud-based dev environment Visual Studio Codespaces

Microsoft has decided to end Visual Studio Codespaces, the rebranded version of Visual Studio Online, and instead will merge it with GitHub’s take on the same product.  

Visual Studio Codespaces (formerly Visual Studio Online) is a cloud-based development environment aimed at making developers more more productive by creating a fully configured development environment in minutes.

The announcement that Visual Studio Codespaces will be “consolidating” into GitHub Codespaces isn’t a surprise given the duplication between the two. 

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Microsoft announced the rebranded product in May at Build 2020 alongside the new GitHub Codespaces, which itself is a take on VS Codespaces. Both products are online companions to Visual Studio and Visual Studio Code (VS Code). 

According to Microsoft, the decision to move Visual Studio Codespaces to GitHub was to reduce confusion between the two near-identical products.  

“After the GitHub-native experience was released, we started hearing that the two distinct experiences were causing confusion amongst our users,” explains Allison Buchholtz-Au, a program manager for Visual Studio Online

“We believe that by consolidating the current Codespaces experiences into one, we can eliminate confusion, simplify the experience for everyone, and make more rapid progress to address customer feedback.”

The shift means Visual Studio Codespaces users will need to move to GitHub Codespaces by February 2021, when the Visual Studio Codespaces offering on Azure will end. 

What’s not clear yet is the pricing for GitHub Codespaces, which is currently in a private beta. In May, along with the rebrand from Visual Studio Online, Microsoft reduced the price of VS Codespaces in the Microsoft Azure cloud. 

Microsoft cut the prices of instances for Visual Studio Codespaces in Azure by more than half their previous prices. For example, the Basic tier with two cores and 4GB of RAM was reduced to to .08 per hour, while the standard offer with four cores and 8GB of RAM on a Linux instance was reduced from about .45 per hour to .17 per hour. The premium tier with eight cores and 16GB of RAM was reduced from .87 to .34. 

Pricing for GitHub Codespaces hasn’t been finalized and there’s no mention of Azure on its website. 

Microsoft’s Buchholtz-Au notes that, from September 4, current Visual Studio Codespaces users can begin transitioning to the GutHub private beta. On November 20, Microsoft will prevent users from creating new plans and Visual Studio Codespaces, though existing ones will live on. At that point new users will only be able to sign up for Codespaces on GitHub. 

The final cut-off date comes on February 17, 2021, when Microsoft will shut the Visual Studio Codespaces portal and “all plans and codespaces remaining in the service will be deleted”.

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As for pricing of GitHub Codespaces, Microsoft explains in an FAQ document that it will provide details later this year when GitHub Codespaces reaches general availability. 

“There is no charge for GitHub Codespaces while it is in limited public beta. Final pricing for GitHub Codespaces will be announced when Codespaces reaches general availability, which is expected later this year,” Microsoft states.  

“There is not a way to move Visual Studio Codespaces over to GitHub Codespaces. You will need to re-create your codespaces once you gain access to the GitHub Codespaces beta,” Microsoft notes. 

Hosting options are yet to be determined for developers who’ve used Visual Studio Codespaces with GitHub rivals like GitLab and BitBucket. 

“While GitHub Codespaces provides an optimized creation experience for GitHub repositories, we are currently iterating on the experience for repositories hosted elsewhere and will keep you updated as plans formalize,” Microsoft says.