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Oslo: Microsoft Gets it but Hurry !

by Jean-Jacques Dubray on Nov 06, 2007 |

InfoQ spoke with Brandon Satrom, Enterprise Applications Architect for Compassion International. Brandon recently shared on his blog his analysis of a composite application infrastructure.
 

When we developed a long-term strategy for Composite Applications at my organization, it was obvious that while Microsoft technologies would have a major role to play in many areas of our future-state architecture, there were several vital pieces missing in the Microsoft stack that we would likely need to find elsewhere. I've always felt that we weren't alone in that sentiment, and the Oslo announcement suggests that Microsoft is also well aware of the gaps in their current offerings.

Charles Young comments:

It's true that Microsoft is behind the curve ... [and] has allowed its competitors to win back much of the mind-share through ESB architectures and ever-richer BPM tooling.

Brandon thinks that the Oslo announcement indicates a shift of Microsoft approach to SOA

Though missing in the products themselves, the Composite Applications vision is one that I have seen preached by Microsoft Architects and bloggers like Mike Walker and others who seem to have a good grasp on the long-term potential of composite applications. The good news about the Oslo announcement is that those individuals are no  longer in the minority. 

Brian Loesgen sees more continuity in the announcement:

For developers working with the Microsoft technology stack, using .NET, BizTalk, IIS et al, we have everything we need to create sophisticated distribute applications. However, there are a lot of moving parts... The vision statement for Oslo is: Significantly simplify the effort required to design, build, deploy and manage distributed applications within and across organizations.

This is also in line with what Jean-Marc Prieur (a DSL expert, based in France who leads the DSLfactory.utilities project on CodePlex) expressed in a private conversation:

Oslo in one step forward for Software Factory. Oslo will include a repository and support model relationships.

Arnon Rotem-Gal-Oz notes however that Microsoft's DSL strategy might be shifting:

the press release talks about "model-driven" approach rather than software factories

If people are positive about the direction, the announcement may have generated more questions than answers. Brandon explains:

There are two reasons why I'm a bit skeptical about the Oslo announcement: For starters, I believe that Microsoft's stated vision for Composite Applications is too narrow. While the Software + Services and SOA visions are needed, I believe that the end goal of any Composite Applications strategy should be to gradually enable composition up the stack toward the end-user.

The second reason I am hesitant to praise Microsoft for the Oslo vision is because their announcement is related to technologies which are anywhere from 1 year to 3 years or more away from release. Most of the tool updates are two releases away... Organizations need solutions today, not announcements of solutions coming tomorrow. My organization, for example, cannot wait for a repository to manage models, metadata and services (one of the gaps we knew about in our strategy) when our ability to manage all three is already beyond our control.

This sentiment was echoed by Gavin Clarke who was unimpressed:

Packing as many buzzwords as possible into a single news announcement might prove you're "on message" but won't disguise the fact your strategy lags every major player in town.

One report (PDF) has Oslo at sometime in 2009. That means Microsoft's server and tools will slip even further behind important rivals IBM, Oracle, SAP and even tiny BEA Systems in middleware...

To give you an idea of how attainable all of this is, here are some facts worth considering.
The current Visual Studio release cycle is around three years, and Microsoft has yet to launch Visual Studio 2008 - that's due next year. That puts Visual Studio 10 at some point in 2011. On the .NET Framework, which ships around the same time as Visual Studio, Microsoft is gearing up to release version 3.5 with Visual Studio 2008, meaning you can expect .NET Framework 4 in the same year as Visual Studio 10.

[Microsoft is] behind the land rush of recent years that has seen IBM, Oracle, SAP and BEA either purchase or build their own systems - with varying degrees of success.

Few people commented on the in-the-cloud capabilities announced by Microsoft. This is a real innovation as no other major vendors, including Google, have gone in this direction. Tim Rayburn note:

Software + Services : Microsoft has been promising this is their direction for some time now, and it appears BizTalk Services may be one of the first actual set of services to reach a full commercial release.

Andy Dorman offers his thought on the "Internet Service Bus" which will be easier to use with Oslo:

The real killer app for SOA as a Service is linking together different organizations (the original promise of Web services.) That's difficult right now, thanks to security and interoperability problems, but it gets much easier when both participants have their apps hosted by the same provider. The big question is who this provider will be. If Microsoft isn't careful, it could be Salesforce.com, Google, or even one of the Web 2.0 startups.

Brandon concludes:

The good news is that when SOA and composite applications are done right, vendor lock-in is reduced and organizations can focus on delivering for the business today instead of waiting for the remaining puzzle pieces to fall in place tomorrow.

Brian Loesgen sees the silver lining

These are exciting times. We have a series of technologies (WS-* specs, BizTalk Server R2, WCF/WF/WPF) that are all maturing nicely. The Oslo wave will build on this maturity and has the potential to dramatically improve our productivity and agility.

Tim Rayburn shares his takeaways:

  • If you are a BizTalk developer and you don't know WCF and WF well already, go learn them right away and in that order.
  • Spend some time learning about metadata repositories from the competitors in the market (IBM for instance) so you'll understand what the fuss is about here.

 

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