As Microsoft Corp. released the first building blocks of its Software Factories project last week, the company laid the groundwork for a new ecosystem of software development.
At the Object-Oriented Programming, Systems, Languages and Applications—or OOPSLA—conference here, Microsoft announced a new framework and tools for building DSLs (domain-specific languages)—the foundation of the companys Software Factories strategy. DSLs, and eventually Software Factories, automate development processes and save time.
Microsoft is hoping that combination will drive Windows deeper into the enterprise, as well as into the data center.
"The ecosystem is the key to this story," said Theresa Lanowitz, an analyst with Gartner Inc., of Stamford, Conn. "Microsofts strength is in the developer community."
Fostering that ecosystem will pay dividends for Microsoft by pushing Windows further into the data center as an enterprise platform.
"Tools and application development is about the platform," said Prashant Sridharan, lead product manager for Microsofts Visual Studio. "Were the Windows company. Windows is not overly penetrated within the data center, and the kinds of applications people are building are in those data centers. And these kinds of tools help larger problem domains have better and closer fidelity with Windows."
Microsoft will attempt to draw from its already-rich ecosystem of ISVs supporting the Microsoft platform to bring them on board as supporters of the Software Factories initiative.
Last week, the Redmond, Wash., software company initiated this process by announcing a set of partners that pledged support for the new technology and expressed plans to deliver DSL designers for their markets, including the following: Borland Software Corp., Kinzan Inc., Nationwide Building Society, Siemens AG and Unisys Corp.
Beyond that, Microsoft sees an opportunity to chip away at IBMs cash cow, the IBM Global Services group, said Jack Greenfield, the Microsoft software architect in charge of the Software Factories concept.
"IBM will throw bodies at a problem, while with Software Factories Microsoft will throw bits," he said.
IBM also has a deep ecosystem built around the Eclipse open-source development platform and its array of ISVs that provide plug-ins for that environment. Officials of the Armonk, N.Y., company are taking Microsofts challenge in stride.
"I think at a certain level this is a reaction to what IBM has been doing for a long time, with what weve been doing with Eclipse and EMF [Eclipse Modeling Framework]," said Sridhar Iyengar, an IBM distinguished engineer and chief technical strategist for IBM Rational. "Its a tool kit to build tools. This is not an accident."
IT managers see the many benefits of the ecosystem approach. "I see a Software Factory as a collection of processes, wizards, designers and frameworks for a specific application domain enabled by DSLs, which allows one to model concepts found in that specific domain or product line," said Eric Robertson, manager of services architecture at MW2 Consulting LLC, of Sunnyvale, Calif. "I think the reason why this DSL concept is now taking off is because of the Web services/ service-oriented architecture phenomena."