Astoria: Another piece of Microsoft's cloud programming model revealed

On Monday at Mix '07, Microsoft revealed yet another piece of its puzzling cloud-programming puzzle: "Astoria."

On Monday at Mix '07, Microsoft revealed yet another piece of its puzzling cloud-programming puzzle: "Astoria."

Astoria is a set of patterns and infrastructure for Web data services, explained Pablo Castro, technical lead with Microsoft's database group. Castro showed off Microsoft's Astoria work during his session on "Accessing Data Services in the Cloud" on April 30 at the Las Vegas conference.

Astoria as one of a number Microsoft technologies that are designed to allow users to make their data available over the Web via a REST interface and using open formats such as XML, JSON or RDF.

Astoria is built on top of Microsoft's ADO.Net Entity Framework. Developer Division General Manager Scott Guthrie's "layperson's explanation" of the framework (provided at my request): The entity framework allows you to model data in a database. The entity framework is designed to make it easier for developers to model, publish and program against their data over the Web.

Astoria also is one of the growing family of Microsoft Live Labs projects. (Live Labs is a partnership between MSN and Microsoft Research that is tasked with productizing a handful of Microsoft research projects, including PhotoSynth, Deepfish, Seadragon.)

A first Community Technology Preview (CTP) release of Astoria toolkit, consisting of runtime components and sample Visual Studio integration "elements," is available for download from the Astoria team's site.

The Live Labs team also is making available to testers an Astoria online service. That service includes "a number of pre-created sample data-sets exposed as data services." In the not-too-distant future, according to Microsoft, the service also will allow developers the option of creating custom data services "to allow for further experimentation with the technology using custom schemas and custom data."

As Microsoft explains further on the Astoria site:

"Astoria is built using the ADO.NET Entity Framework and a set of services layered on top. This architecture allows the use of this technology to address both the scenario where Microsoft hosts a StaaS service and the scenario where our customers and partners deploy the software in their own organizations and roll their own service offerings on the Microsoft platform."

So how does Astoria fit in with Tesla and Volta -- two other pieces of Microsoft's evolving cloud-programming model? I'm not sure, but I'm almost 100 percent certain these three elements all fit together somehow.

Anyone out there dabbled with Astoria yet?