By Darryl K. Taft
Considered late to the service-oriented architecture game, Microsoft is making its plans, if not its presence, known in a big way.
The company plans to make SOA more accessible and useful to customers by no less than changing the very premise of business application modeling, it said during its fifth annual SOA and business process conference here.
Microsoft said that it will begin offering enhanced SOA features and capabilities by extending current Microsoft products in five key areas: server, services, framework, tools and repository.
But much of the core technology that will make up its SOA strategy, code-named “Oslo,” has not been released yet, and some critics assert that Microsoft’s proprietary approach introduces inherent limitations to how far customers can extend their use of SOA.
SOA allows software developers to reuse existing code to create new applications, thus saving companies time and money. Microsoft wants to extend those benefits across the enterprise, and even beyond a company’s firewall, by building on the model-driven and service-enabled principles of Microsoft Dynamic IT.
According to Steven Martin, director of product management, connected systems division, Oslo also aims to change modeling from a paradigm wherein models describe the application to a paradigm where models are the application.
“Models have to become the applications,” he said. “We think that the premise of modeling tools is just fundamentally flawed,” he said.
So Microsoft is unifying its model-driven development tools, WCF (Windows Communication Foundation) and WF (Windows Workflow Foundation) to “try to unify the approach to modeling,” he said.
Martin said the approach will both democratize the use of modeling and facilitate Microsoft’s software-plus-services strategy.
“We’re not going to be satisfied until any two people in any company can collaborate on a solution and deploy it to the cloud,” Martin said.
Innovations from Oslo should also further Microsoft’s software-plus-services efforts by providing extensions to the application platform to help developers bridge the gap between on-premise and off-premise projects.
In a meeting with eWEEK, Microsoft architect John Shewchuck demonstrated “the world’s first federated access control system” to show how Web services can be used to allow applications to interoperate across their companies’ respective firewalls. “Everything is policy driven,” he said.
The company also plans to release advances in model-driven development from WCF and WF with its .Net Framework 4 release. Tools support will come through new technology planned for Visual Studio 10 intended to make strides in end-to-end application lifecycle management through new tools for model-driven design of distributed applications. The company also intends to make investments in aligning the metadata repositories across the Server and Tools product sets.
The company also demonstrated an upcoming community technology preview of Microsoft BizTalk Services, featuring additional support for interoperability, Web 2.0 services, identity standards and workflow in the cloud.
Microsoft BizTalk Server 6 will continue to provide a core foundation for distributed and highly scalable SOA and BPM solutions, and deliver the capability to develop, manage and deploy composite applications.
Microsoft System Center 5, Visual Studio 10 and BizTalk Server 6 will utilize a repository technology for managing, versioning and deploying models.
Microsoft is not providing exact time frames for when technologies such as .Net Framework 4 and Visual Studio 10 will ship. But the .Net Framework 3.5 has yet to ship.
Jason Bloomberg, an analyst with ZapThink LLC, said Microsoft is on the right track with Oslo’s model-driven approach to application creation. By unifying the application creation approach across different products following a model-driven approach, they are taking advantage of some key SOA best practices, he said.
But he lambasted the company’s proprietary approach as being inappropriate for enterprise customers. “The Oslo story is fundamentally not standards-based—the modeling format and repository interfaces are all proprietary,” Bloomberg said. “So while Microsoft is heading in the right direction, Oslo is fundamentally not appropriate for enterprise SOA efforts. Instead, they have chosen to focus on the value proposition to their core Microsoft customer base, while leaving the much greater enterprise opportunity on the table.”