Oslo Refined: New Approach to Modeling Is Key Feature

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It seems we're finally getting a real look at what Oslo is. And, as far as I can tell, it's largely about the modeling - making it easier, opening up the process to non-developers, and using models in a very SOA way.

Steven Martin of Microsoft's CSD Product Management blogged this week that he and Robert Wahbe are on tour, promoting Oslo to the press and development community.

You can tell it, too. Beginning Friday, Oslo was all over the trade press. If you remember, when we first heard of Oslo, it was supposed to be Microsoft's take on SOA. Of course, my question then and now was: What the heck does that mean?

Things change during the development process -- and this seems to me to be especially true for Microsoft, (just an observation, not a judgment). When I spoke with Microsoft's Burley Kawasaki, director of Product Management in the Connected Systems Division, in January of this year, he focused more on modeling and services.

Then, in July, Martin elaborated on Oslo and modeling, speaking about Microsoft's vision at the Microsoft Worldwide Partner Conference.

Now, as Martin explained it on his post, Oslo is comprised of three technologies:

  1. A new language. Microsoft has codenamed it "M" and its purpose is to help "people create and use textual domain-specific languages (DSLs) and data models."
  2. A relational repository, which makes models available to tool and platform components. This, of course, sounds very similar to what happens with SOA services.
  3. A tool that helps developers and non-developers define and use models in a visual manner. The codename for the tool is "Quadrant," and there's much talk about it opening up development for non-developers. This tool is closer to the look and feel of an Office application, according to this report from Joe McKendrick.

As I said, there's a lot of coverage about Oslo this week, but McKendrick did the best job of capturing what's changed and how it relates back to SOA. McKendrick's information comes from Brian Loesgen, principal consultant with Neudesic, who recently spoke about Oslo at the International SOA Symposium in Amsterdam.


Loesgen explained that the term "Oslo" originally referred to an entire wave of new Microsoft technologies. The term's been whittled down since -- which, really, needed to happen because most people were pretty confused by Microsoft's original usage of the term.


Now, Oslo refers to the modeling platform and "other pieces of the overall vision have migrated into the next version of the .NET framework, Visual Studio and the capabilities that Microsoft Dublin will add to the Windows Server application server," McKendrick reported.


As for Oslo and SOA, the big news is the modeling tool, which McKendrick noted is "intended to enable non-technical people to be able to do SOA modeling."


That sounds great -- but before you get too excited, you should know that Microsoft sees the tool more as for someone who's an occasional software developer, by which he means someone who can do complicated Excel macros or Access database programs, according to this CIO-Today article.


That piece also includes more information about modeling, why it's important, how IBM has used it to date, and what Microsoft hopes to achieve with its modeling tool.


InfoWorld also focused on the modeling, although it begins with a discussion of Oslo and Microsoft's DSL (Domain Specific Languages).


In that article, Gartner analyst Nick Gall gives his feedback about Oslo. He sounded impressed, saying Microsoft has "definitely raised the bar" but he also called Oslo's approach to modeling "ambitious."


As for integration, there are a few bits of news. According to the InfoWorld article, there's a small integration problem Microsoft hasn't yet solved:

"Microsoft is attacking the two core issues of modeling: translating from models into executable code and the functional aspect of an application, in which functional models must accommodate nonfunctional aspects of an application such as security and systems management, Gall said. Microsoft has not yet completed the integration with nonfunctional models, he said."

As you'd expect, Microsoft hasn't neglected integrating with its existing products, and promises Oslo will integrate with and enhance tools such as Visual Studio Team System and System Center, eWeek reports. Microsoft is also pledging to now support the UML (unified modeling language), although the eWeek piece seemed a bit skeptical about whether Microsoft meant it.