Microsoft delivers updates on OData, Houston, Dallas

Microsoft is making available new toolkits for a number of developer-focused technologies, including the OData protocol and its "Dallas" data-as-a-service offering. Company officials also talked up a new Silverlight control for cloud database developers, codenamed Houston, at the Mix conference on March 16.
Written by Mary Jo Foley, Senior Contributing Editor

Microsoft is making available new toolkits for a number of developer-focused technologies, including the OData protocol and its "Dallas" data-as-a-service offering.

Company officials announced at the Mix 10 conference that Microsoft is making available for download on March 16 a second Community Technology Preview (CTP) of Dallas which adds support for 25 new data sets. The company also made available an OData SDK for download today, and committed to delivering a preview of another related technology, codenamed "Houston," later this spring.

OData, the Open Data Protocol, is Microsoft's alternative to Google's GData. If you've heard Microsoft use the codename "Astoria" or talk about ADO.Net Data Services in the past, these two codenames are now under the larger OData umbrella. Microsoft defines OData as a protocol that builds on top of HTTP, Atom Publishing Protocol (AtomPub) and JSON "to provide access to information from a variety of applications, services, and stores." Microsoft is building OData support into a number of its products, including SharePoint Server 2010, Excel 2010, Dallas, its Dynamics products, and its MediaRoom IPTV offerings.

The OData SDK, announced today, bundles Microsoft's various OData clients -- for Java, PHP, PalmOS, .Net, and (as of today), the iPhone -- into a single package. Microsoft officials also said during today's Mix keynote that Microsoft is open-sourcing the .Net OData client, under an Apache license.

Dallas is a new service built on top of Windows Azure and SQL Azure that will provide users with access to free and paid collections of public and commercial data sets that they can use in developing applications. The datasets are available via Microsoft’s PinPoint partner/ISV site. Microsoft is planning another Dallas CTP in the next couple of months and plans to announce Dallas pricing at the Worldwide Partner Conference in July, officials said.

Houston is a browser-based Silverlight control that allows developers to interact withSQL Azure directly. Houston allows for the rapid creation of tables, views, procedures, and is targeted at those wanting to do rapid database development in the cloud. Microsoft first demonstrated Dallas and Houston at the Professional Developers Conference 2009 late last year.

Update: Here's some more information about OData that I learned from a meeting I had at Mix with Microsoft Software Architect Doug Purdy:

* Microsoft used the Mix conference this week to introduce its OData concepts and technologies to Web designers and developers. Previously, Microsoft had focused on enterprise users and developers when explaining its OData strategy. Microsoft announced today that Netflix would be making movie data available via OData -- one of the first consumer-focused sets of data that are being exposed via that protocol.

* There are scenarios where users/developers might want to "mash up" consumer and enterprise data exposed via OData, Purdy said. He cited, as an example, a company that might want to get advertising and subscription data from Twitter or Facebook, as an example.

* Around the time of the November PDC, Microsoft realized "we needed to decouple the (OData) protocol from our implementation," Purdy said. Microsoft is currently evaluating whether to take OData to a standards body, like IETF or W3C, to make OData an "official" standard, or whether it will continue to champion the protocol as a de facto standard.

* Purdy said he's had continual discussions with Google about OData and when/whether Google and MIcrosoft might join forces to open up more data using this kind of protocol.

* What's the connection between OData and SQL Azure? Today, Microsoft announced it is making available some time this week an OData service for SQL Azure. In addition, the existing Azure Table Storage service already exposes all of its data as OData, Purdy said.

* There's a lot more about OData on the www.odata.org site.

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