More Microsoft 'Oslo' modeling details fall into place

While Microsoft isn't planning to provide testers with "Oslo" code until late October, the company did finally start putting some real meat on its software-modeling bones at the TechEd Developers Conference in Orlando this week.
Written by Mary Jo Foley, Senior Contributing Editor

While Microsoft isn't planning to provide testers with "Oslo" code until late October, the company did finally start putting some real meat on its software-modeling bones at the TechEd Developers Conference in Orlando this week.

Until this week, Microsoft would say next-to-nothing about Oslo. Until the TechEd conference, company officials were describing Oslo as the company's service-oriented-application strategy and family of "technology investments." But at this week's show, officials dropped the SOA terminology and started talking turkey about actual Oslo deliverables.

At the start of the week, Microsoft officials committed to providing a first Community Technology Preview (CTP) test release of three main Oslo components: a new modeling language (the still-under-wraps "D"), new development tools and a shared repository. The company is planning to make these available at its Professional Developers Conference in late October.

But there is a lot more to Oslo than these three pieces. On June 5, David Chappell, Principal of Chappell & Associates, outlined Microsoft's Oslo vision in far more depth during a presentation at TechEd.

Chappell told his standing-room-only audience that Oslo is an initiative that will affect almost all of Microsoft's constituencies: Business analysts, architects, developers and IT pros.

Chappell said Micorsoft is planning to deliver Oslo in a series of waves, and has a number of different development efforts happening in parallel. Like Microsoft officials, Chappell didn't talk dates for any of these deliverables, however.

But Chappell did say that Microsoft will roll out first a new release of its .Net Framework (codenamed ".Net 4"), a new release of Windows Workflow Foundation and a new version of Visual Studio (codenamed "Visual Studio 10"). Next, Microsoft will deliver the aforementioned repository, a new Visual Editor tool (which I believe is the "Intellipad" product, which Microsoft officials have described as "Emacs for .Net"), and a new process server, which will be targeted initially at hosting Windows Workflow and/or Windows Communciation Foundation-specific applications only. Finally, Microsoft will roll out a more complete version of its process server, which will be more of a true lifecycle management product and will add support for BizTalk Server as a host.

The new language that Microsoft is readying as part of Oslo is a "schema language," Chappell said. (Chappell was careful to avoid using codenames, but I'm pretty sure this is "D.")

"Schemas in the repository can be defined using this language, but they don't have to be," Chappell said. Developers can still use any other tools with which they'd be comfortable to create schemas instead. Because the new language will generate SQL, and the repository can be accessed using standard SQL, no special languages will be required.

Microsoft is planning to ship a set of predefined schemas within the repository, but customers and software vendors will be able to add their own. However, the forthcoming repository won't be the only place that Microsoft customers will be expected to store information; Team Foundation Server and System Center Operations Manager will still maintain their own independent stores. The repository will be federated wtih these other stores -- eventually -- he said.

The Visual Editor (aka which Chappell said later is not"Intellipad" -- my bad) will allow developers to see the content inside of the repository -- everything from monitoring, to operations, to individual processes, requirements, roles and service-level agreements. It will support standard Business Process Modeling Notation (BPMN), Chappell said. (So how does Intellipad fit in here? Now I'm not quite sure....)

A new version of Windows Workflow will help modelers assemble activities from inside the repository. A new version of the Workflow Designer tool that will plug into Visual Studio will help customers expose and/or consume Oslo services. The next version of the tool will include a new type of designer, a flow chart, which will make designing Workflow-centric applications more simple and visual, Chappell said. Additionally, other Microsoft and non-Microsoft tools will be able to pull information and data into and out of the repository, as the repository "can spit out or take in workflow definitions as XAML," he said. The next versions of Visual Studio, System Center tools, Visio and others will all be part of the Oslo picture, as well, Chappell said.

Chappell concluded his presentation by offering a roadmap for BizTalk Server -- something Microsoft officials have tried their best to avoid doing. BizTalk Server Release (R) 3, due in the first half of 2009, will add support for Windows Server 2008, UDDI and a handful of other features. The BizTalk 6 release (no date available) will be the one where BizTalk Server becomes a host and can load applications from the repository, Chappell said.

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