Microsoft, the champion of open data?

Summary:While Internet Explorer 9 may have had the limelight on MIX’s second day, Microsoft also made significant moves towards data accessibility with further announcements around its Open Data Protocol, and the release of the second CTP of its Codename “Dallas” data set marketplace.Asking the questions, “How do you enable many experiences?

While Internet Explorer 9 may have had the limelight on MIX’s second day, Microsoft also made significant moves towards data accessibility with further announcements around its Open Data Protocol, and the release of the second CTP of its Codename “Dallas” data set marketplace.

Asking the questions, “How do you enable many experiences? How do you determine which language and device you support? How do you make your API scalable? And how do you make money?” Microsoft software architect Doug Purdy unveiled more details of the Open Data Protocol (OData). Designed to simplify access to large data sets, OData uses metadata as the basis for a simple filtering and query language that can be used in a simple URL, returning ATOM-formatted XML data that can then be used in a web or desktop application. Other data formats are also supported, including the popular JSON JavaScript format. It's surprisingly easy to use - just add the appropriate filters and commands to the data URL, and Bob is your proverbial male relative.

In a keynote demo Purdy showed how Netflix’s catalogue could be used in web applications, with URL queries delivering metadata to a web browser. Other demonstrations included use of OData in a desktop application through the LINQ XML data functions in .NET, and using visualisation tools in Visual Studio 2010 to explore the structure of an OData schema. Purdy also announced that there would be OData support in the Power Pivot plug-in for Excel 2010, making it part of Microsoft’s suite of business intelligence tools.

Announcing that the OData client would be available under an Apache 2.0 open source license, Purdy noted that “[we] want as many clients on as many platforms as possible. This is the way to get open data for the open web".

Purdy also unveiled 25 additional public and commercial data sets in the second CTP of the Dallas data marketplace, including Navteq and Netflix. Suggesting that Dallas was an ideal source of information for mashup-style applications as it now offered OData feeds, Purdy demonstrated an Windows Phone 7 Series application that mixed Netflix data with Navteq navigation information, UPC barcode lookups and Bing maps. Calling Dallas “the information marketplace for open data”, Purdy announced that information providers would be able to set their own terms and pricing for data access, noting that this is part of “the shift from web applications to web APIs”. Microsoft will be announcing the pricing model at its World Wide Partner Conference in the summer. Purdy indicated that, “[while] There are non-trivial costs; our key goal is not to be an inhibitor of bringing data. The key thing is the marketplace, and the ability to give developers data.” Microsoft will ensure that all data will be available through Dallas for at least twelve months, to ensure continuity of service for subscribers.

Dallas’ data will be available as part of a standard Microsoft volume license, according to Moe Khosravy, Group Manager Codename “Dallas”, “It’ll be ‘Do you want data with that’”. Khostavy also noted that this and OData support in Power Pivot mean that “You will never leave your workflow, mixing private and Dallas data. And it will all be covered by your existing agreement with Microsoft.”

Microsoft championing open data and providing the tools to deliver it? Yes. The Redmond giant may be a supertanker, but it's one that can turn surprisingly quickly...

-- Simon

Topics: Windows

About

Born on the Channel Island of Jersey, Simon moved to the UK to attend the University of Bath where he studied electrical and electronic engineering. Since then a varied career has included being part of the team building the world's first solid state 30KW HF radio transmitter, writing electromagnetic modelling software for railguns, and t... Full Bio

About

Mary Branscombe is a freelance tech journalist. Mary has been a technology writer for nearly two decades, covering everything from early versions of Windows and Office to the first smartphones, the arrival of the web and most things inbetween.

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