Microsoft's Distributed Destination: Oslo

Microsoft's Oslo tools and language platform is poised to push the company past .NET and into the cloud.

When John Shewchuk, Robert Wahbe and Brad Lovering met for grilled steaks at Lovering's Seattle-area home in 2000, lutkefisk (Norway's most famous dish) might have been more appropriate. After all, that meeting paved the way for Oslo, Microsoft's new distributed computing/modeling platform, which the company will unwrap next month at its Professional Developers Conference.

At that seminal meeting, the trio had no idea how far their idea would carry them, but they did realize they were making a big bet that could take Microsoft beyond the .NET era and deeply into Web services, SOA (service-oriented architecture), software modeling and cloud computing. In short, the trio was looking to advance Microsoft's play in the world of distributed computing.

"Advance" may be putting it mildly. The trio thrust Microsoft into a decadelong effort to emerge as a driving force in the world of distributed computing and to push Microsoft's core enterprise technologies to become prominent in both on-premises environments and what we now refer to as "the cloud." Back then, only a select few were talking about "on demand" or "utility computing," with Microsoft notably absent from the picture.

Lovering and Shewchuk are both Microsoft technical fellows-Microsoft's top technical honor-in the company's Connected Systems Division. Lovering is leading Microsoft's effort to implement a software modeling strategy, and Shewchuk is working to service-enable some of Microsoft's core technology.

Read more here about the origins of Oslo.

But back in 2000, the two had existed almost at odds as leaders of different Microsoft development tools teams. Leading up to the creation of .NET, they had offered different approaches to achieving the .NET goal before coming to agreement on what should be done. That ability to effectively hash things out brought Shewchuk and Lovering together to begin to discuss an effort that would be even broader than .NET.

When Shewchuk and Lovering embarked on what Lovering refers to as a "careerlong" move to make a "big bet" on the future of the company, they knew that, despite the clich??«, they needed a "fearless leader" to run the project.

Shewchuk said he immediately thought of Wahbe, now corporate VP of CSD, who had worked for Shewchuk previously at Microsoft. Perhaps presciently, when Wahbe interviewed with Shewchuk for that earlier job, Wahbe revealed his high expectations. "I asked him, -What job do you want?'" Shewchuk said. "And he said, -Well, I wouldn't mind having yours.' I told him, -Dude, you're not going to get my job!'"

Shewchuk set up a meeting between himself, Lovering and Wahbe. The meeting took place in a courtyard on the Microsoft campus outside Building 42. That meeting then led to the fateful dinner at Lovering's home, where more details of Microsoft's quest to become a key force in distributed computing emerged.