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Microsoft Answers “Top 10 Questions on Data”

by Abel Avram on Jul 07, 2010 |

Microsoft has answered what they call “Top Ten Questions on Data”, explaining what has happened or it is going to happen to Oslo, ADO.NET Data Services, WCF, LINQ to SQL, T-SQL and other technologies.

Oslo

According to Microsoft, the “Oslo” code name is no longer used for the group of technologies it represented, but “Microsoft is still committed to their development”. The current name is SQL Server Modeling CTP, and it will be incorporated into SQL Server because its affinity, especially Quadrant and Repository – now called SQL Server Modeling Services -, with SQL-related technologies.

Microsoft also explains the relationship between SQL Server Modeling and .NET: it makes it easier for developers to create model-driven applications.

ADO.NET Data Services and .NET RIA Services

ADO.NET Data Services has become WCF Data Services while .NET RIA Services now is WCF RIA Services. The purpose was to make WCF a “’one stop shop’ for building services and n-tier applications”, and ADO.NET Data Services and .NET RIA Services complement WCF in creating such applications.

LINQ to SQL

After noticing that LINQ to SQL’s development continued in .NET 4.0, Microsoft acknowledges that:

We do, however, expect that the bulk of our overall investment will be in the Entity Framework, as this framework is built around the Entity Data Model (EDM). EDM represents a key strategic direction for Microsoft that spans many of our products, including SQL Server, .NET, and Visual Studio.

The message is clear: LINQ to SQL is not to be considered when making plans for the future.

“M” Language

Microsoft has an ambiguous position on this. Firstly, they say M will be incorporated into SQL Server as the other Oslo technologies:

As for the code name “M” modeling language, it’s important to understand that SQL Server is a much broader product than just its core engine—it contains many other services and tools. The “M” language and its associated tools will become part of that collection and thus be available to software that uses the SQL Server product (in its broadest definition).

Later, they say:

Microsoft is also presently aligning “M” with the Entity Data Model as used by the Entity Framework and Data Services. This will result in one common data model with two alternate representations: CSDL, the current XML-based language for the Entity Data Model that’s best suited for interoperability, and “M”, which is better suited for programmers.

It is not very clear which way M will go. Perhaps, M will be included in SQL Server but it will be transformed in order to be aligned with the Entity Data Model.

“M” vs. T-SQL

Since M is not a released product, Microsoft advices on using T-SQL for now, but that is going to change in the future:

Once “M” ships, the goal is to use “M” to describe a problem domain in a higher-level of abstraction. Then, “M” can be translated into T-SQL, C# or other formats, enabling further optimizations in the native target runtime.

WCF Data Services

Microsoft emphasizes some of the new WCF Data Services features already present in .NET 4.0 and VS 2010:

  • Data Binding
  • Row Count
  • Feed Customization
  • Server Driven Paging
  • Enhanced BLOB Support
  • New "Data Service Provider" Interface for Custom Provider Writers
  • Projections

ADO.NET Entity Framework

The most important features for ADO.NET Entity Framework are:

  • Foreign Keys
  • POCO Support
  • Lazy Loading on by Default in new Models
  • EntityDataSource support for Query Extenders and POCO
  • Support for Binary Keys
  • ObjectMaterialized event
  • Object Services API improvements to enable N-Tier and Self Tracking Entities
  • Improvements to the generated SQL
  • Navigation Property Management
  • Improved Database Generation
  • New Extensibility APIs
  • Generation of Complex Types from Stored Procedures
  • Greatly Improved Facet Management
  • LINQ to Entities improvements

Microsoft also explains what is Quadrant – “a tool for viewing, querying, and editing data in a SQL database with a variety of built-in viewers such as tree, list, table, and master/detail”, and what is the Open Data Protocol (OData), a topic covered by InfoQ in the past.

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LINQ to SQL is not to be considered when making plans for the future. by Stefan Wenig

I don't think that this message is so clear. L2S is a good LINQ query engine for SQL server with a leightweight ORM. If that's all you need, it's going to be easier to use than EF. That's its strength, so it wouldn't make any sense to cram more features into it.

Same message as the last 10 years by Francois Ward

In my opinion, the message on the data strategy is still the same it has been all along.

The server is great and will get better. .NET is great and will get better. The data access strategies are great, but Microsoft will continue to change its mind so often as to make them a huge moving target, thus even if some are the best thing since sliced bread, you cannot use them because you can't even have the slightest expectation of what Microsoft will shoot at tomorrow.

Take datasets for example. The idea behind them is absolutely great, and while many don't realize it (because no one uses them right =P), the are in many way revolutionary. They were a new way of thinking at the time though, so obviously there's a bunch of design mistakes in them. It could be fixed, but will it? Nope. New data access strategy from the ground up, with marginal effort on datasets (LINQ to Dataset). 10 years of development on Datasets could have kept them current, removed their shortcoming, etc. R.I.P datasets.

All these techs will go the same way. So while i love the Entity Framework (well, since 4.0 anyway), LINQ to SQL, ADO.NET Data services, and all of them...I can't build a lasting solution on them.

It seems MS will never recognize efforts from open source community. by monser corp

When there has been NUnit/xUnit, they invented stupid mstest; when there has been NAnt, they invented stupid msbuild; when there has been NHibernate, they invented EF.

Re: It seems MS will never recognize efforts from open source community. by Francois Ward

to be fair, they're changing a bit. See: JQuery.

Entity Framework, IMO, is mostly a reaction to all the MS shops that will not use a data access solution if its not Microsoft branded. NHibernate doesn't help since the learning curve and iffy documentation really stings (we use NHibernate and I -love- it, but it has some serious issues). LLBLGEN doesn't have that issue, but it isn't free :)

NAnt doesn't have the following Ant does, so I can see where MSBuild comes from. But they're slowly pulling a "Dataset" stunt on that one: TFS Build 2010 is Windows Workflow Foundation based (it does use MSBuild, but its delegated to the back, like it is in Visual Studio, and a lot of people don't even realize its there...)

DbLinq - open source cross-DB LINQ to SQL replacement by Max Strini

The Mono community is working on an API-compatible LINQ to SQL replacement: code.google.com/p/dblinq2007/

looks like it's not really production ready yet, but is still under active development. This may be a way forward for LINQ to SQL users if MSFT abandons their implementation.

Re: LINQ to SQL is not to be considered when making plans for the future. by Mike Gale

There are a lot of developers who will howl in rage at this suggestion.

There was a famous petition from the Beta developers of Linq to EF, that basically said "use is sparingly and with caution". There were a bunch of issues, including that it's canonical / Least-Common-Denominator approach to the "intermediate" query language (suits everthing from SQL server, to XML and beyond) resulted in unnecessary bad performance. It's still online.

Some developers become advocates for L2EF others abandon it early and some have even converted to L2EF then gone back to L2S for performance reasons.

I don't have an up-to-date re-analysis of everything since .NET 4 was released but this isn't clear cut at all. L2S got updated for .NET 4 so reports of it's death are greatly exaggerated.

Then there's things like Plinqo. In that (and other products) third parties have taken L2S and added functionality that MS didn't. It might cost a bit more but there's an ardent band of smart people out there supporting L2S. Some corporations depend on it. Death is unlikely any time soon!

Just give it a try with something like LinqPad to give you a quick, thoroughly satisfying development experience. You'll see why Matt Warren's creation might just be here to stay. (And then Mono is seeking to emulate his long and sophisticated processing pipeline too. Taking this great implementation to a wider audience.)

(Of course if you want performance you need profiling and quite likely T-SQL / M / Whatever. You can integrate that into the LINQy things without throwing it all away. Thereby taking a possible performance dog and turning it into a performant solution, if that's what you need!)

Lastly the fact that L2S only does SQL Server, is not intrinsic in the design. It's a political / funding decision. (Matt has good posts about how you can plug your own data provider into this sort of thing.)

Re: LINQ to SQL is not to be considered when making plans for the future. by Stefan Wenig

I was not saying L2S would die, quite to the contrary: It has found it's spot, but it's not likely to aggregate many new features as that would put it in competition with EF. Which would definately be a bad thing, because then nobody would dare to bet their money on either one, assuming that eventually one will win and one will die.

If you don't like EF, fine, neither do I. There are good alternatives out there, ranging from DbLinq to NHibernate in the free world, plus a whole range of commercial ones.

The main problem of L2S is its dependence on MS SQL Server. The way things are going today, I'm surprised it hasn't been packaged with SQL server. Not that it would make any difference at that point.

Re: LINQ to SQL is not to be considered when making plans for the future. by Kristofer Andersson

There's of course also Matt Warren's open-source-followup: IQToolkit...

iqtoolkit.codeplex.com/
blogs.msdn.com/b/mattwar/

Re: It seems MS will never recognize efforts from open source community. by Kevin McFarlane

MS have said that a reason why they provide alternatives to open source implementations is that many of their customers will not consider a technology at all unless Microsoft provides it. I work as a contract developer and I have certainly encountered this attitude at some client sites.

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