Microsoft Embraces Modeling

The UML-based architecture Microsoft is developing for Visual Studio .Net promises to make development easier, but some wonder whether it will it cause a splintering of the modeling community.

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Microsoft Corp. is taking steps to embrace and extend another standard development technology, this time in the modeling arena.

The Redmond, Wash., company is developing its own model-driven architecture for a future release of its Visual Studio .Net development environment. The new architecture will be based on the UML (Unified Modeling Language) standard, sources said.

Chief Software Architect and Chairman Bill Gates has publicly described the companys goals to add support for model-driven development to Microsoft products leading up to the release of the companys "Longhorn" operating system, expected in 2005.

UML is a standard modeling language for documenting data and processes in software systems. Rational Software Corp., now a part of IBM, led the development of the standard.

The UML-based framework promises to make development easier, but it could also invite trouble. Previous attempts to extend technologies have led to splintering of developer camps. Microsoft is still locked in a legal battle with Sun Microsystems Inc. over Java that began in 1997.

However, some observers see Microsoft taking a more inclusive approach with UML, as the company has done with XML—adhering to the standard specification but adding extensions that make applications built with Microsoft technology run best on Microsoft platforms.

The last thing that the modeling community needs as it seeks adoption of UML 2.0 is splintering, said a source who requested anonymity. "They have absolutely nothing to gain by doing their own UML language," he said.

The Microsoft modeling language variation is expected to be delivered in the "Orcas" version of Visual Studio .Net, which is scheduled to ship with Longhorn. The next version of Visual Studio .Net is code-named Whidbey and will be distributed in beta at Microsofts Professional Developers Conference in October. An initial version of Microsofts modeling technology will appear in Whidbey.

Next page: Microsoft takes "leap forward" with Whitehorse.