Microsoft bridging relational, object, XML data models

Microsoft Research has had 7,000 downloads of its Comega programming technology, which is intended to bridge the gap between relational, object, and XML data models.

Comega is described by Microsoft as a strongly hyped, data-oriented programming language to bridge semi-structured hierarchical data (XML), relational data (SQL) and the .Net CTS (Common Type System). Additionally, Comega extends C# with asynchronous concurrency abstractions.

"What we're interested in is making it easier for people to write some of the typical applications that people are writing nowadays," which are data-intensive and distribute data, said Gavin Bierman, researcher at Microsoft Research in Cambridge, U.K. Historically, developers have had to deal with different data models that involve SQL for databases, semi-structured data in XML or HTML, and object-orientation in a programming language such as C#, he said.

Boosting support for XML and making it easier to write concurrent code for distributed applications are two of the goals of the project, according to Bierman.

Microsoft .Net users offered promising views of Comega, with the caveat that the technology still needs to mature. While taking a wait-and-see stance on Comega, Sahil Malik, a .Net consultant at the National Cancer Institute, called the technology an attempt to address the problem of dealing with the multiple data models and their different methods of representation.

"What Comega tries doing is basically [bridging] the gap," Malik said.

"It's got to change a lot but it's a step in the right direction," said Malik, citing issues related to the lack of maturity of the Comega architecture.

Comega tackles the issue of having to write repetitive code based on Microsoft's ADO (ActiveX Data Objects) .Net technology, said consultant Ernie Booth, president of the Nexlen consultancy.

"ADO.Net is great but it's a lot of repetitive code that you have to write again and again, and Comega provides a direct way to put SQL queries in your code base without the repetitive code," Booth said.

Product plans for Comega are unclear, Bierman said. "Our main objective as researchers is to try new and cool things."

An update to Comega planned for late this year or early in 2006 is expected to add support for generics, which enables developers to set parameters on classes by type, making code faster, according to Bierman.

The free Comega compiler, which plugs into Visual Studio, is available from Microsoft Research at http://www.research.microsoft.com/research/downloads/default.aspx.

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Paul Krill

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