Microsoft Touts Assembly-Line Software Building

By providing templates and frameworks based on domain-specific languages, the company aims to enable developers to build applications for a variety of industries and markets in factory fashion.

Microsoft says it will pursue a software-factories approach to development in upcoming versions of its development toolset—a strategy that some call a potential boon to custom development shops and to the overall domestic software-development market.

Jack Greenfield, a Microsoft Corp. architect and one of the key architects behind the Redmond, Wash., companys Visual Studio Team System (VSTS), said that with its software-factories approach, Microsoft will provide templates and frameworks based on domain-specific languages to enable developers to build applications in an assembly-line fashion. Greenfield said Microsoft plans to provide these so-called factories for a variety of industries and markets.

Andrew Brust, president of Progressive Systems Consulting Inc. in New York, said, "We will definitely look at it, as it provides a great way for custom development shops like ours to provide the value-adds they do right now in a way that might be more palatable to companies that are gun-shy on custom development. The selling points would be lower cost and a high level of customization."

/zimages/3/28571.gifClick here to read about how Microsoft is faring in attracting partners to VSTS.

"I view this type of technology as reinvigorating the market for domestic development," Brust said, adding that "the argument for off-shore outsourcing is that much of the grunt work of application development can be done cheaply and efficiently in lower-priced markets. Meanwhile, if you eliminate the grunt work, the value custom-development firms offer shines through in a readily apparent way."

Calling the software factories "a cool idea," Brust said they could provide "the advantage of ready-to-run functionality packaged as a very specific set of building blocks—almost an API, really. This would avoid the disadvantages of a closed system, while minimizing the reinvention of wheels, if you will."

Moreover, Brust said the concept of software factories is "compatible with the mindset first introduced in VB [Visual Basic] 1.0 more than a decade ago: Spend less time writing plumbing code and more time implementing specific, customized functionality required by your clients.

"The new angle here is that industry- and domain-specific functionality, and not just GUI and other computing features, can be abstracted as plumbing."

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