Q&A: Burley Kawasaki Lays Out Microsoft's Oslo Initiative

At its fifth annual SOA & Business Process Conference this week, Microsoft laid out from soup to nuts its vision for simplifying the process of designing, building, deploying and managing composite applications across organizations. What appears to be at the heart of this vision is a serious commitment by Redmond to model-driven programming.

This deeper commitment to model-driven programming is part of the Oslo initiative, a series of technical enhancements made over the next few years that will be incorporated into several core products. Oslo's technical "innovations" are also designed to further Microsoft's software-plus-services strategy by supplying extensions to the application platform to help developers bridge on-premise and off-premise projects, according to company officials.

Burley Kawasaki, director of Microsoft's Connected Systems Division, sat down with me to discuss Oslo and its impact on a number of key Microsoft initiatives and products.

Redmond Report: What is Oslo and what are the longer-term strategic goals behind it?
Kawasaki: It is essentially the code name for technical investments we are making that will be delivered across products within our application platform, including Visual Studio, System Center, BizTalk Server, BizTalk Services and the .NET Framework. We are making this investment in order to address some bigger issues. To frame this: It has to do with the clock speed of business increasing and IT being constrained by a number of long-lasting boundaries that prevents them from keeping up with business. There are boundaries between IT and the business because they do not speak the same language or they just work differently.

There are also boundaries across technologies. We still have the alphabet soup of protocols and standards, so how do we connect the different platforms that my applications are built on top of?

Another boundary that is becoming increasingly challenging is how to span across the Web over organizational boundaries. People want to connect with customers or suppliers across the firewall or to take advantage of Software as a Service-type apps. But there are boundaries there that are new in terms of how apps have to be constructed.

How does Oslo further evolve your existing SOA strategies?
There are two key investment areas with Oslo. First, we continue to deeply invest in our SOA platform. So with things like BizTalk Server and BizTalk Services, we really made those the anchor for our SOA investments in order to make it easier to write services and deploy them, not only across a heterogeneous enterprise but also stretching to the cloud, which is what BizTalk Services is targeting. So by deepening investments in both BizTalk Server and Services, Oslo expands the capabilities of our SOA platform. That is the first big bet with Oslo.

And is there a second big bet?
Yes. The second big bet for Oslo is around model-driven development. This will be the anchor for a new generation of application development. It will take model-driven development techniques mainstream and really deliver a faster clock speed to IT that it needs in order to keep up with the pace of business.

Microsoft has talked about model-driven programming before. What will be different this time?
Yes, we have talked about model-driven design for a long time. And the industry has been pursuing this Holy Grail of...sketching out visually an application that automatically generates code.

Largely, I would say, this has been unrealized. The first piece that has not been delivered, I would argue, is these models are only accurate at a very specific moment in time. They are there when you define the model but then they get out of synch because there is some type of handoff where the business person prints it out and hands over the spec to the developer and he has to fill in the gaps. You are guessing around what was meant. People are always bridging the communications gap that exists because of the differences between business and IT. So at some point, the application becomes completely different from what the business side thought it was.

The second piece is people have pursued this dream of model-driven design in silos. You typically have all these models in isolation from each other. Your business analyst might think about how they model requirements or business processes, but an architect thinks about modeling schemas, services contracts, high-level designs. An IT professional might have an entirely different set of models around deployment or health models. And because each of the models is built with different tools or standards, they are all non-unified. The challenge is, as people bring all these together into a composite application, the model breaks down. So you have to have the model not just describe the application, but the model must become the application. So that is something fundamentally unique that we are investing heavily in with Oslo.

How and when will Oslo enhancements get incorporated into some core products?
It starts with the .NET Framework version 4, which is the next version. The framework will continue to enable some of the workflow foundation and communications foundations types of concepts, which are model-driven today, but you will see us further enabling model-driven types of behavior on the framework itself.

The framework will then be expanded and built upon by both BizTalk Server version 6 and BizTalk Services version 1, which will be the first commercial version of our hosted services. BizTalk Server will still be that core foundation for distributed SOA and BPM types of solutions, but you will see it take on the ability to develop, manage and deploy composite apps, as well. So you can create these models to look at what a whole app looks like and be able to run them and execute them on BizTalk Server. BizTalk Services will do some similar things but in the cloud. So you can really create these composite apps that span organizational boundaries. You will see Visual Studio 10 with significant strides in tooling around apps lifecycle management, specifically around model-driven design and composition of services and apps together. It provides some of these types of visualizations and composition techniques that are important, especially for bridging the business and IT together.

Google Going Greener
Google is about to make another huge commitment to sun -- not the technology company, but that big orb in the sky.

Earlier this week at the Conference on Clean Energy held in Boston, a Google executive detailed a few solar-power initiatives that the company is participating in, all aimed at reducing greenhouse gases. For starters, Google intends to produce some 50 megawatts of electricity from renewable forms for its operations by the year 2012.

Robyn Beavers, Google's director of environmental programs, said the company is considering other forms of renewable energy. Some of those include the 1.6 megawatt solar installation headquarters in Mountain View, Calif. Besides solar panels on building roofs, Google has built a carport with solar panels as a roof where people can recharge their hybrid cars.

While she wouldn't comment specifically on other forms of renewable energy Google was looking into, Beavers did said say that all forms of such energy aren't under evaluation, including wind, fuel cells and geothermal.

Beavers said she expects Google's investment in solar power to pay for itself in about seven-and-a-half years. She said the company's consumption from the grid has been knocked down by some 30 percent.

White-Box Futures Looking Dim
It seems that sales of white-box PCs may turn a whiter shade of pale.

According to a report from IDC, the share of white-box computers hasn't changed that much, dropping from a 44 percent share of the worldwide market in 2003 to 37 percent in 2006. However, the white-book market has fallen from an unimpressive 8.5 percent share to a 5.6 percent share over the same period of time. Given the growing popularity of the general laptop systems market -- to the point where laptops are easily the most dominant form factor among PCs -- this isn't good news for white-box manufacturing.

What puts the smaller white-box makers at a disadvantage in the notebook market (thereby making it hard to fight back) is that they count on an oversupply of computer parts that they can snap up at a significant discount. But increasingly, those overly abundant parts are designed for specific, and not generic, notebook models. Mixing and matching components in a notebook is not as easy as doing so with desktop and server systems.

Mailbag: Where To Send the '$100' Laptops, More
Lafe asked yesterday whether sending inexpensive laptops to kids in developing countries is the way to go. Should the focus be on the essentials -- food and shelter -- instead? Here's Chris' take:

Laptops vs. food and shelter -- that's a tough question, but ultimately it's the "give a man a fish and feed him today or teach a man to fish and feed him forever" story. Food and shelter -- and safety -- are daily needs with no end. This little project could actually be completed and may eventually help to break the cycle of ignorance and indifference. There is no revolution like the revolution of the mind.

My question is: Who will provide tech support? If there is no real follow-through, then we've created $200 paperweights. Or boat anchors for those of you who fish...
-Chris

Meanwhile, other readers think the One Laptop Per Child project should set its sights closer to home:

In my opinion, the kids may want a computer, but if they are hungry, who is going to stop them from selling their laptops and using the money for food? Big Silicon's idea is a great one, but the basics should come first.

If they want to help the world, they can start right here at home and provide us with low-cost products. Then, we'll have the money to help others. As to where I would send 10,000 laptops, I would have to say our American public schools.
-Les

How about sending them to needy children in the United States of America? Guess that does not make sense to the powers that be. However, it would be much appreciated by every American who has children in need. Foreign nations are not alone in need. Home first, everyone else second.
-William

On the way to work this morning, I heard on the news that more than 50 percent of children in the southern U.S. states are from families who are living below the poverty level. This is a tragedy in our country. The story went on to express the fear that the education for these youngsters would not prepare them for lives that would be better than they currently have. If I had the money, I would send my 10,000 laptops to the southern U.S. states for the children in these low-income families.
-John

Brett shares the craziest malware e-mail he's come across:

In the "Most Likely To Fool the Unsuspecting" department, I once received an e-mail attachment with the filename "www.someurl.com" (I forget the exact URL it pretended to be). Now, I knew that a .COM file is an executable, but the sheer cleverness of this socially engineered virus was amazing, as it could easily fool a person into believing it was an actual Web site. And, yes, it was a virus that my anti-virus software detected and zapped.
-Brett

And one reader gives us his thoughts on the just-released Apple Leopard -- while another wonders why we even care:

In a perfect world, Leopard would have been released on time in June '07, and would have been paired with the (then) newly released MacBook Pro using the Intel Core 2 Duo Santa Rosa processor as a one-two punch.

Now, the two punches have landed four months apart. That's OK; when your new system comes along in the spring, the new OS will be that much more finely tuned.
-Ken

I'm been thinking for some time now about how odd it is that Redmond magazine talks so much about other stuff. Your lead this week in the Monday Redmond Report is about how much you want a new Mac. That's not why I subscribe to Redmond magazine; I'll buy a Mac magazine if I am interested in that. I want to hear about Microsoft -- the good, the bad, the ugly. I even agree that it is worthwhile to talk about the competition, but at some point you've got to decide whether you are truly focused on Microsoft or whether you want to be a general industry magazine. It's great that it's "independent," but focus.
-Michael

Got something to add? Let us know! Send an e-mail to escannell@redmondmag.com or leave a comment below.

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