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ADO.NET Entity Framework Saga

A vocal group of ADO.NET Entity Framework testers that has issued a "vote of no-confidence" is illuminating a long-standing conflict between a segment of the .NET development community and Redmond. The petition raises a big question: Is there a storm brewing among developers of data-driven applications looking toward the latest iterations of the .NET Framework, or is this just a tempest in a teapot?

Ironically, I got wind of the protest on Tuesday while attending the Data Services World conference in New York, where none other than Michael Pizzo, a principal architect on Microsoft's data programmability team, was giving a session on LINQ, the Entity Framework and ADO.NET Data Services.

In his session, he demonstrated LINQ queries being used against the Entity Framework. "We expect [that] when you're using the Entity Framework and writing applications against the Entity Framework, LINQ will be the primary way you do that," he explained in an interview following his demo.

As for the online petition, Pizzo was unaware of it until I pointed it out to him (it was posted just this week). However, he said the discord comes from what he called a "vocal subgroup." Pizzo said the issues raised are under consideration for a future release.

"While we certainly take them seriously and are planning on addressing many of their concerns, specifically around persistence ignorance in the next release, we have a large number of customers who see value in the Entity Framework as it is in version 1," Pizzo said.

For his part, Tim Mallalieu, a Microsoft product manager, posted a detailed response to the no-confidence vote in his blog.

Not surprisingly, the controversy has generated a lot of buzz. OakLeaf Systems Principal Consultant Roger Jennings pointed out in his own blog that this vocal group is spearheaded by NHibernate proponents.

And today, Jennings pointed to a blog post by Ian Cooper, proponent of LINQ to SQL but an opponent to Entity Framework and a Microsoft MVP, who argued that this is history repeating itself (see circa 2000 when complexities around Enterprise Java Beans surfaced).

"EJBs were an ambitious attempt to support persistence, transactions, events, RPC, etc. in a single component," Cooper wrote in his blog. "While there was an initial rush to adoption, they quickly proved a millstone around the Java communities' neck, because of their complexity. Technologies like Spring and Hibernate emerged as less complex ways of delivering enterprise-class solutions. Many of them were later to be incorporated into drastically revised EJB visions."

Cooper believes the .NET community can learn from that. "Ports of Hibernate and Spring offered the community the chance to avoid the mistakes of the past," he added. "However, seemingly unaware of the lessons of history, the EF team embarked on a project to produce a complex framework, of which persistence is just one aspect, reminiscent of the EJB initiative."

Jennings described Cooper's assessment as a "level-headed critique of the Entity Framework v1."

So what's your take on this? Will this affect the choices you make as you embark on developing new data-driven apps using the Entity Framework and related technologies? Drop me a line at [email protected].

Posted by Jeffrey Schwartz on 06/26/2008

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