Microsoft has found a home for its “Oslo” modeling technology-in the SQL Server database family.
The project code-named Oslo is Microsoft’s ambitious data modeling initiative that consists of three parts: a modeling language known as “M,” a modeling tool known as “Quadrant” and a repository. These components will now become part of the SQL Server family and will be available in a new Community Technology Preview (CTP) that will become available at the Microsoft Professional Developers Conference, which runs Nov. 17-19 in Los Angeles.
Meanwhile, on Nov. 10 at the VS Connections conference in Las Vegas, Microsoft announced the transition from Oslo to SQL Server Modeling, which will replace the Oslo name.
In a blog post, Douglas Purdy, a Microsoft software architect working on the technology, said:
““The components of the SQL Server Modeling CTP are:’M’ is a highly productive, developer friendly, textual language for defining schemas, queries, values, functions and DSLs [domain-specific languages] for SQL Server databases’Quadrant’ is a customizable tool for interacting with large datasets stored in SQL Server databases’Repository’ is a SQL Server role for the secure sharing of models between applications and systems.”We will announce the official names for these components as we land them, but the key thing is that all of these components are now part of SQL Server and will ship with a future release of that product.”“
In an interview with eWEEK, Purdy said, “We want to eliminate the database as a friction point for developers; we want to get developers to love the database. We want to do for the database what the industry has done for user interface frameworks and the middle tier. You’ve seen the .NET tools and Java tools. We want to deliver tools of that same level of technology and apply them to the database.”
Microsoft initially announced Oslo at its Service Oriented Architecture and Business Processing Conference in 2007. “We were trying to find ways to make application development for composite applications easier,” Purdy said.
The “M” modeling language produces T-SQL. “The good thing about this is that T-SQL can be difficult and we think ‘M’ brings a more modern language to the database,” Purdy said. Oslo was built from the ground up to be a tool for interacting with data, he added.
Burley Kawasaki, director of developer platform product management at Microsoft, said the company is moving away from its PDC 2008 vision and into PDC 2009, which will be more about delivering on that vision. “We’re going to be talking about how we will deliver this stuff in actual bits. It will be part of the SQL Server information platform-to help developers get data out of SQL Server and to store models in SQL Server.”
Purdy said Microsoft technologies such as SharePoint, System Center, Active Directory and Visual Studio will be able to leverage the Oslo technology.
“You can write down models with ‘M’ and embed them in your Visual Studio environment,” Purdy said. “I can write a model in ‘M,’ get a database from that and get .NET classes that allow me to program against that data using the Entity Framework. The way we want people to start programming on the platform is through the Oslo technologies.”
Kawasaki explained that Microsoft had to first make sure it “pre-wired” the Oslo technology for application into a Microsoft platform technology for it to be real. “It’s like if we had done the CLR [Common Language Runtime] and delivered it on its own. … It had to have a place to go.”
Nick Gall, an analyst with Gartner, said, “I think of it as finding a home for Oslo. It’s been a project that has to land with some shipping product. Having it land with SQL Server is a logical step for it.”
Microsoft has merged the team that was working on Oslo with the company’s data programmability team, Purdy said.
Landing in SQL Server is a logical step for the Oslo technology, but it is a bit of a distance from the vision Microsoft initially set forth for the technology. Microsoft initially spoke of Oslo as a super-duper modeling technology that could automatically generate programs from models and spit them out.
“It’s a smaller step than the grand plan for data modeling they initially talked about,” Gall said. “That’s not going to be a near-term part of the product offering. With a grand vision you have to take one step at a time. Like the OMG’s [Object Management Group] grand modeling design never really came to fruition, this is not going to be a push-button modeling platform. But what this looks like to me is a universal shredder.”
Gall explained that a “shredder” is a tool to take X M L documents and make the consumable in a relational database. “It’s a way of mapping the treelike structure of X M L to the rows and columns of SQL,” he said.
Moreover, Gall said Microsoft has taken all of the Unified Modeling Language (UML) and written transformation rules in the “M” grammar. “So now they can map any UML document into a SQL Server database. And you can do all sorts of analytics on that,” he said.
For his part, Gall said that in addition to Microsoft technologies such as SharePoint and others leveraging the Oslo, or SQL Server Modeling, technology, he sees opportunities for using the Oslo technology with the Microsoft ADO.NET Data Services technology, which was known by the code name “Astoria.”
“I’ve always been a huge fan of Astoria, which is the RESTful [Representational State Transfer] front end to the relational capability,” Gall said. “Now with Oslo you can take virtually any kind of data model and then expose it RESTfully-without having to do a lot of laborious ‘RESTifying’ of the process.”
Meanwhile, in his blog post, Purdy said:
““Another thing we learned was that most of the customers that we wanted to leverage the modeling platform were already using SQL Server as their ‘repository.’ Take an application like SharePoint. It is already model-driven. It already stores its application definition in a database. Dynamics is the same way. Windows Azure is the same way. System Center is the same way. What we didn’t have was a common language, tools or models that spanned all of these applications, although they were all leveraging the same database runtime. The simplest path to get all of these customers sharing a common modeling platform seemed obvious.”Lastly, we learned that the folks on the SQL Server team were hearing the need for additional mechanisms to make the database more approachable to developers. Developers did not want use three different languages to build their database applications (T-SQL, a .NET language and an X M L mapping file). Developers wanted new tools that let them deal with the truly massive amount of data they need to handle on a daily basis. Developers wanted to radically simplify their interactions with the database, with a straightforward way of writing down data and getting an application as quickly as possible.” “