Microsoft's 'Oslo' Loses a Leader, Plows On

Despite losing a key strategist for its Oslo effort, Microsoft preps a preview release for October.

ORLANDO, Fla. - Despite losing one of its technical visionaries, Microsoft's "Oslo" strategy to implement software modeling across an array of Microsoft key technology platforms remains on track and is due to have a public unveiling next quarter.

Microsoft officials at the company's TechEd Developer 2008 conference here said the company will deliver a community technology preview of the modeling technology codenamed "Oslo" at the Microsoft Professional Developers Conference (PDC) in October in Los Angeles.

In his keynote speech at TechEd on June 3, Microsoft Chairman Bill Gates said the company would deliver a CTP of Oslo at the PDC and that the mainstreaming of software modeling has "been a long time coming in the industry."

However, Microsoft's continued march to harness modeling across its software properties will have to continue without Donald Ferguson, who Microsoft hired to help lead the technical strategy for the Oslo effort. Ferguson delivered a keynote at Microsoft's SOA & Business Process Conference last October and detailed some of his plans for what "Oslo" would become. Yet Ferguson, who joined Microsoft from IBM, where he had been known as "the Father of WebSphere" and last served as chief architect for IBM's Software Group, quietly left Microsoft in March and is now working at CA. A Microsoft spokesperson said Ferguson left under amicable terms and for personal reasons, but that his contribution to the Oslo vision remains intact and Microsoft is moving ahead with it.

Robert Wahbe, corporate vice president of Microsoft's Connected Systems Division, has amassed a team of domain experts, including the co-founders of Colusa Software, the startup he formed in 1994, to implement Oslo. Microsoft acquired Colusa in 1996.

Gates spoke further about the Microsoft modeling effort in a Q&A session following his keynote. "The modeling world is fairly disparate today, even at Microsoft," he said. "But by bringing these things together we can do new things," he said of the various components of Oslo.

Steve Martin, director of Microsoft's Connected Systems Division, said "Oslo will be a variety of things to unify Microsoft's modeling across the stack, and it will allow us to take advantage of technologies like UML [Unified Modeling Language], as well as BPM [Business Process Modeling] and BPEL [Business Process Execution Language] or any modeling language."

Martin added that "we have a generic modeling language we're also providing as part of Oslo."

Martin also said that Oslo is a big advance over the CASE (Computer-Aided Software Engineering) tools of several years ago because with CASE there were diagrams and a translation layer. Yet with Oslo "there's no translation layer -- you're seeing the visual representation of what that code is," he said. "The models don't represent the apps; the models are the apps."

Oslo also helps to unify the implementation of modeling across lots of different roles in the development and overall IT organization, including operations, Martin said.

Moreover, a key piece of what Microsoft will be delivering with Oslo is a universal repository.

"This is very, very key and it's one of the technologies we'll provide with the CTP," Martin said. And the repository will not only be for Microsoft to use but also will be available for independent software vendors to use, he said.