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The Microsoft OBA Framework

by James Vastbinder on Jun 11, 2007 |

Lately Microsoft has been touting a new way to build composite applications that will connect back end Line of Business applications to the front office via Microsoft Office using the acronym, "OBA". OBA stands for Office Business Applications which Microsoft intends as a new framework for developers and ISVs to build applications utilizing Microsoft Office as the entry point.

The intended sweet spot for OBA is within the Lines of Business within the greater Enterprise cloud and will capitalize on the large number of Microsoft Office licenses that have been sold world-wide.

The OBA framework supports Office versions 2003 forward and is accessed via the following integration points:

      - Microsoft Office SharePoint Server (provides a convenient end-to-end Web framework)

      - Open XML (at the document level)

      - Microsoft Office Extensible UI capabilities 

      - Via SharePoint on the server side

      - Via Word, Excel, InfoPath with VSTO

      - MOSS 2007 Business Data Catalog (BDC)

      - Microsoft Enterprise Search

      - Windows Workflow (which shipped in Windows Vista, Office 2007 and the .NET Framework 3.0)

      - Microsoft Dynamics

While this may seem an OZ like scenario to the Microsoft fold, others feel OBA is too little too late. Ephraim Schwartz of InfoWorld wrote:

"Microsoft is trying to say that Office is relevant and that it can become a development platform that can integrate and operate with other vertical applications to create something new. Microsoft hopes that one plus one will equal three."

Ephraim goes on to explain why:

"I think Microsoft is reading the market wrong. OBAs remind me of the old school EAI, enterprise application integration technology while the entire world is moving to an SOA architecture. Mashups can do the same thing and over time I think even the most staid of enterprises will not wait for Microsoft to launch its next OBA RAP solution."

This debate is beginning to heat up with the recent Eweek slideshow titled: "Why Microsoft Ultimately Will Triumph Over Google (and Vice Versa)".

What are your thoughts? Who wins in the clash between Rich Client and Thin Client when building composite applications?

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in some ways it just makes sense by Floyd Marinescu

I think using Office as an application client just makes good sense in many areas. Often the business users are already using Office (especially Excel), so letting them stick to their apps of comfort and integrating them into a backend of any technology using the tools MS provided just make sense.

Re: in some ways it just makes sense by Brandon Satrom

I agree that is does seem to make good sense. Ephraim seems to forget that just "doing SOA" doesn't provide UI's to end-users. He does mention mashups, but I think I agree with Microsoft in their assertion that users would love to use Office apps to perform their work... they already do for that matter. I think Microsoft has a good vision in positioning OBA's as a new "Productivity Tier" of applications which enable the fluid nature of knowledge work.

But in other ways it looks dangerous by Rodrigo Salinas

Specially now when we are seeing alternative technologies to Microsoft Office System. I have the hope that Google (or any other company) will impose a real alternative to Excel and Word. Just by doing that, by offering an alternative, we have to ask ourselves if we want to invest our time and efforts making a proprietary system to grow, instead of support architectures more independents and interoperables. I would really prefer open standards that allow me to interchange the front-end tools I (or my clients) use.

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