'Oslo': Microsoft's Elusive Modeling Strategy

By Darryl K. Taft  |  Posted 2009-08-17 Print this article Print

Microsoft's software modeling technology code-named Oslo appears to be something of a chameleon in that it continues to evolve and change appearance based on its surroundings. Now Oslo has moved in a new direction, or at least the Oslo team is adapting and merging with Microsoft's Data Programmability team. Microsoft promises to share more on Oslo at its Professional Developers Conference in November.

Microsoft's "Oslo" software modeling technology appears to be something of a chameleon in that it continues to evolve and take on different appearances based on its surroundings. Now Oslo has moved in a new direction, or at least the Oslo team is adapting and merging with Microsoft's Data Programmability team.

In a recent blog post, Microsoft engineer Doug Purdy talks about Oslo, which was initially released at Microsoft's SOA and Business Process Conference. At that event, which I attended, Oslo was touted as a technology that would facilitate the adoption of SOA (service-oriented architecture). Nobody said it was only about SOA, but it was made clear that SOA was a key destination for Oslo.

Said Purdy:

Back in September 2007, we announced "Oslo" at the SOA & BP Conference in Redmond. "Oslo" was the name that we gave to a multiyear, multiproduct effort to simplify the application development lifecycle by enhancing .NET, Visual Studio, BizTalk and SQL Server.

However, Purdy added:

As we ran toward PDC 2008, we discovered two important things. First, using the name "Oslo" to talk about a new version of BizTalk, a new tool, a new workflow engine, a new ... really confused customers. Second, it was possible for us to roll out a bunch of "Oslo" technologies in already established ship vehicles rather than creating a separate "Oslo" wave.

Based on this, we made two decisions. We started using the term "Oslo" for only the modeling platform pieces of the overall vision.

Right around the time of this decision, eWEEK did a cover story about Oslo, including interviews with heavy hitters such as Brad Lovering, John Shewchuk and Don Box, all Microsoft distinguished engineers who have been central to Oslo's development.

It was also at this point that Microsoft sharpened the focus of Oslo to be a tool, a language and a repository. The visual tooling for Oslo was known as Quadrant, the language was known as M and the repository, though unnamed, was based on Microsoft SQL Server. This was Microsoft's messaging leading up to the 2008 PDC (Professional Developers Conference), which took place in October 2008.

To continue, Purdy said, "In addition, we would roll out a bunch of technologies in the .NET 4.0 wave. So when you hear about things like WF 4.0, WCF 4.0, 'Dublin,' MEF, the unified XAML [Extensible Application Markup Language] stack-all of those things were part of 'Oslo' at some stage."

Yet, "During the 10 months since the last PDC, it has become increasing clear to us that the modeling platform is aligned in a deep and fundamental way with the data programmability stack (ADO.NET, EF/EDM, [Entity Framework/Entity Data Model] Astoria, etc.)."

Thus the focus of "Oslo" has shifted slightly again, this time to be centered more directly on the database. "The fundamental focal point of 'Oslo' has always been the notion of (meta)data stored within SQL Server or another database," Purdy said.

For this reason Microsoft has decided to merge its Data Programmability team with the Oslo team, Purdy said. The Data Programmability group will focus on EDM, EDM, EF, Astoria, XML, ADO.NET, and tools and designers, and the Oslo group will work on Quadrant, the repository and M, he said.

Purdy said more on this strategy will be revealed at the upcoming PDC in November. He said developers will learn more about how M, EF and EDM align, how Microsoft's Visual Studio tools relate to Quadrant, and how the notion of model-driven software evolves with Microsoft's .NET Framework investments.

This should help to clear up some of the confusion Microsoft caused by shifting the focus of Oslo while keeping the name and the thrust of the project.

Purdy acknowledged the confusion in his post, saying: "The only thing that I feel bad about is that we kept the 'Oslo' name around so long (you will see that change at the next PDC), which has continued to be a confusing point for customers ('I thought Oslo was your new SOA platform.')"

In trying to explain what Oslo is all about, that question has been a recurring theme. So it's good to see Microsoft address this issue. However, Microsoft officials said they had no comment about the future of Oslo beyond what was in Purdy's post. 

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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