Microsoft eyes game-changer for application development

The Oslo modeling-based platform is raising some questions

With its ambitious Oslo software modeling platform, Microsoft seeks a new application development paradigm that raises the level of abstraction. But the effort has brought up questions about whether Oslo crowds the modeling landscape and whether Microsoft can achieve its lofty goals.

Microsoft describes Oslo as a code name for a modeling platform consisting of three components: the Quadrant tool to help define and interact with models visually, a relational repository that holds the models, and a declarative language code-named "M" for building textual domain-specific languages. Microsoft plans on releasing a preview version of Oslo in late October at the Microsoft Professional Developers Conference in Los Angeles.

A goal of Oslo has been to enable application models themselves to become the applications. At varying times, Oslo has been described as a platform for composite applications and SOA, as well as a technology allowing greater levels of agility in the software development process. Oslo lets more people participate in application development and can be used to build any type of application, according to Microsoft.

"Oslo allows you to model things in higher-level ways. It allows you to rapidly assemble things," says Burley Kawasaki, director of product management in the Microsoft Connected Systems Division. Similar to a mashup, Oslo will help developers assemble applications in Lego block-like fashion, Kawasaki says.

Through Oslo, Microsoft intends for developers to spend more time on business intent and less on application plumbing. Currently, developers spend 80 percent of their time on infrastructure and lower-level details and 20 percent of their time on business intent. "We want to flip that," Kawasaki says.

What will Oslo do for developers?

A Microsoft business partner lauded Oslo as a game-changer for composite applications. "Everybody's been building these composite applications but with tools and approaches that really weren't designed with composite apps in mind," says Ed Horst, vice president of marketing and strategy at AmberPoint, which offers a SOA management platform.

Oslo hides a lot of complexity from the development process, Horst says. "If you use conventional tools and conventional languages, the developer has to be quite aware that they're going to deploy this in a distributed environment," he says. "In Oslo, that's not true." The declarative language in Oslo was "built with this kind of distributed nature in mind, which again is a big breakthrough," he adds.

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