Microsoft introduced an umbrella project called Oslo at their SOA and Business Process conference this week. There is very little information available but it seems to have two main components: improving the ability of the Microsoft platform to support SOA-style distributed applications and improving the use of models to develop and manage applications. At first sight there isn’t anything new. The SOA talk is similar to any number of “why SOA” presentations available from dozens of companies. And the modeling aspect is the same story that Microsoft has been pitching with DSI for years. The real news is that the two stories are being linked (at least at the marketing level, which is a starting point) and that the application development people have taken over the application modeling baton from the System Center group.
Over the last few years, I worked with people from System Center on different standards related to DSI, including SML which they see as the heart of the modeling effort. One of the things that kept me skeptical when hearing the DSI pitch, was to see the System Center team making announcement and promises about how SML would be central to the development experience in Visual Studio. I am pretty sure I know who’s the gorilla and who’s the chimp at Microsoft between Visual Studio / .Net Framework on the one hand and System Center on the other. The application model is too central to the developer experience for the Visual Studio group not to own it. It looks like it’s now happening and it’s a good thing.
The only content I could find on Oslo that’s not PR fluff is a report from Directions on Microsoft which mostly talks about incremental improvements to BizTalk. Towards the end, there is a small section about a “repository” that will “provide centralized storage of composite application components”. At that point I can’t help remembering the blog post from David Chappell about why it wouldn’t make sense for Microsoft to support SCA. Through comments in his post as well as a blog post of my own, I followed-up with the assertion that the application component model also plays a very important role for management. And at the risk of sounding self-congratulatory, the Oslo announcement seems vindicate that view. I see that David was a speaker at the Microsoft conference where Oslo was announced and he has very good insights into both the application developement and the systems management efforts at Microsoft. So hopefully he’ll soon have a white paper or a blog entry out to share some insights.
If you’re wondering what this means for the technical work that has been going on under the DSI umbrella so far, you can only read the tea leaves. It could be that the application development people adopted the whole SML/CML technology stack as promoted by their System Center colleagues and are going to use it as is. Or on the other extreme, it could be a complete reset that leads to the creation of a component model that is much less general and much more application-centric. Of course, no matter which one happens (or something in the middle), it will be presented as a perfectly smooth and controlled evolution of the DSI vision (get ready for some nice spin at MMS2008). If you are adopting SML because you expect Microsoft to base its application component model on it, you might want to wait a bit until more details emerge about Oslo. For example, after calling XSD “a schema language that attempts to be a floor wax, dessert topping, and personal lubricant all at the same time” you have to wonder whether Don Box would advocate to use SML (80% of which is XSD) as the most effective metamodel for an application component model…
Let’s end with this quote from the Directions on Microsoft report on Oslo, regarding application integration: “SAP and Oracle are better positioned in that regard, and so their customers will want to investigate these vendors’ composite application platforms along side Microsoft’s”. Can’t disagree with that. A good place to start this investigation would be the upcoming Oracle Open World.