Foley on Microsoft

Microsoft's SOA Strategy: Back to Earth

The skinny on "Oslo."

Last fall, Microsoft took the wraps off its pie-in-the-sky service-oriented architecture (SOA) strategy. Because the Redmondians were so loath to share any details about "Oslo," it was hard to get a grasp on what it really was.

You know a Microsoft strategy isn't fully baked when company officials don't classify the component parts as products or services, but instead refer to them as "technology investments." The Oslo Microsoft unveiled in October 2007 seemed to be slideware, not a set of actual deliverables.

So what is Oslo? Besides being the code name for Microsoft's evolving SOA strategy, Oslo is also a distributed application server that will be a core element of Microsoft's cloud-computing backbone. If you think of the "cloud" as running some kind of a distributed operating system and/or database, Web services becomes the programming model and SOA the "integration architecture" that hold the Software plus Services (S+S) world together. Check out former WebSphere advocate and now-Microsoft architect evangelist Alexander Strauss' blog for a deeper explanation of how SOAs fit in with S+S.

Dropping down from this 50,000-foot view, there are more tangible bits of Microsoft's SOA plans that have leaked out over the past couple of months. We know there's a new programming language, code-named "D" -- for "declarative," I'm assuming -- that will be at the heart of Oslo. D will help non-developers write less code, but still manipulate data.

Word is that D won't be a complete departure. It will be based on Microsoft's eXtensible Application Markup Language (XAML). I bet we'll see a first test build of D by this year's Professional Developers Conference in Los Angeles in October. Microsoft also is readying a complementary editing tool, code-named "Intellipad," that will let developers create content for the Oslo repository under development by Microsoft. Intellipad has been described by some 'Softies as "Emacs.NET."

Last fall, Microsoft Corporate VP of Connected Systems Robert Wahbe foreshadowed where Microsoft was going without divulging any specifics. He said Microsoft was working on a "new tool that spans all business analyst, architect, dev and IT pro domains." Wahbe added that, "Excel is the data and this tool is the model. Excel is an excellent starting point, [but] we need a modeling language that can describe data and behavior or workflow."

I've tracked down a few hints about additional Oslo-related components, above and beyond the BizTalk Server 6, .NET Framework 4, Visual Studio 10 and System Center 5 delivery-vehicle placeholders Microsoft outlined last fall. These hints unfortunately come without any due dates, feature lists or other concrete details. The additional puzzle pieces include:

  • SharePoint Server will likely be roped into this modeling lovefest in some way. Microsoft has said that it will be applying search and indexing to users' data as part of its Oslo vision.

  • The infamous Internet Service Bus -- which won't be constrained to federate only within the enterprise -- that will be at the heart of Oslo will include new messaging features inside the Oslo distributed application server. It will also provide an event publication and subscription service that links to .NET services.

  • Windows itself is going to get a new Web services infusion that will make it a better client in a distributed-applications world.

  • Finally, there's something code-named "Sapphire," which I've heard described as a "native Web services platform" for Windows that Microsoft is hoping to include in Windows 7 (due in 2010).

Are there other SOA elements you'd like to see Microsoft feature in Oslo -- both the application server and the big-picture strategy -- as the company rolls out its next-gen S+S infrastructure?

About the Author

Mary Jo Foley is editor of the ZDNet "All About Microsoft" blog and has been covering Microsoft for about two decades. She has a new book out, Microsoft 2.0 (John Wiley & Sons, May 2008), about what's next for Microsoft in the post-Gates era.

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