Focus on the What

By Darryl K. Taft  |  Posted 2008-02-05 Print this article Print

In his Lang. NET talk, Box emphasized the company's need to focus more on declarative programming.

In declarative programming, the developer focuses on the "what" rather than the "how" of a process. A program is declarative if it describes what something is like, rather than how to create it. Better yet, in a typical procedural program, the developer writes instructions to tell the computer how to do certain tasks, while in declarative programs the developers instruct the computer specifically on what results result they seek.

Box said Microsoft has two primary goals with its modeling initiative: to enable developers to write less code and to better understand their software.

Microsoft Chairman Bill Gates has long been a proponent of modeling, publicly stating Microsoft's intent to provide greater support for modeling as early as 2003. Box said that at a recent off-site meeting he attended with Microsoft senior managers Gates listed modeling among his top initiatives for the company going forward. When Box asked Gates which among the several initiatives was his favorite, Gates said modeling was most important because developers should have to write less code.

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Box said the modeling approach Microsoft is working on has various elements. A key element is to increase the "data to code ratio" in the Microsoft platform. "This is not some 1980s CASE [Computer-Aided Software Engineering] play where we're doing round-tripping between your UML [Unified Modeling Language]-although we'll probably do some of that. But really what we're talking about is making the platform just work this way so that the thing that's on the hard disk and runs is more data than it is code."

Microsoft is working to help users apply more data processing machinery to data, he said, particularly because most systems have capacity they do not use. He indicated that search and indexing technology could be used to prepare data for modeling scenarios.

Despite being presented with breakthroughs in declarative programming, Box said Gates' first question on most every new declarative technology put before him is: "Can I write PowerPoint in it?"

Box said he wrote his Lang. NET presentation in Microsoft declarative technology including XAML (Extensible Application Markup Language) to give an indication of where the company is going toward applying ease of use into the company's tooling.

"It would be great to have an XAML-based schema language with run-time support for it," he said.

Darryl K. Taft covers the development tools and developer-related issues beat from his office in Baltimore. He has more than 10 years of experience in the business and is always looking for the next scoop. Taft is a member of the Association for Computing Machinery (ACM) and was named 'one of the most active middleware reporters in the world' by The Middleware Co. He also has his own card in the 'Who's Who in Enterprise Java' deck.

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