Microsoft's 'Oslo': A Piece of a Big Picture

Microsoft’s ‘Oslo’ initiative advances Software+Services campaign.

Microsoft has unveiled a key piece of its Dynamic IT strategy that it says will extend the benefits of service-oriented architectures (SOAs) beyond the firewall.

The "Oslo" initiative is a combination of technology investments and projects aimed at advancing the company's Software plus Services (S+S) model. "The Oslo technology effort is part of the work we're doing to bring broad-based modeling into the fold with services," says Steve Guggenheimer, general manager of Microsoft's Application Platform business. "That's the next wave of investments we're making."

Microsoft outlined the Oslo project on Oct. 30 at its annual SOA & Business Process Conference. Oslo is a multi-year, multi-product initiative that Microsoft says will focus on using its top engineers to build on the model-driven and services-enabled components of the Dynamic IT strategy (see the news story, "Ties that Bind," June 15).

The strategy, aimed at helping enterprises become more agile, brings together two existing programs: the company's four-year-old Dynamic Systems Initiative and its two-year-old Application Platform strategy. The Application Platform has evolved into a banner under which the company is collecting and integrating all of its developer technologies, including BizTalk Server, SQL Server, Visual Studio and the .NET Framework.

Oslo is also the first of a series of announcements Microsoft will be making this month regarding new products and technologies in its Application Platform portfolio, Guggenheimer says. "We're pulling the whole platform forward, piece by piece," he says.

Oslo technologies will begin to appear in pre-release community technology previews (CTPs) early next year. Those technologies will be blended into the next big Application Platform releases in 2009, Microsoft says.

Guggenheimer describes the Application Platform as a set of technologies for designing, building, managing and scaling composite applications that can span the enterprise and the Internet. "When we think about the Application Platform, we think about a set of connected capabilities," he says, "from the architecture to services to business processes to the data to the development environment, and how all of that connects at the user-experience layer."

Marketecture or Architecture?
So what exactly is it? "The application platform as Microsoft defines it is not a product," says Neil Macehiter, founder and principle analyst at Macehiter Ward-Dutton Ltd. "Rather, it's a way of packaging and marketing a set of capabilities that are required to build, deploy and manage applications."

Adds Ovum analyst Dwight Davis in an e-mail to RDN: "Oslo represents a step forward in clarifying Microsoft's plans for service enablement and process-led, model-driven development, but remains very much an aspirational roadmap at this point. Furthermore, Microsoft risks confusing customers and partners by failing to draw clear lines between its current Oslo vision and the services- and model-driven initiatives that have preceded it, including the Dynamic Systems Initiative and Dynamic IT."

The Application Platform is a decidedly developer-focused bundle, Guggenheimer says. "We haven't included the more IT-led stuff in that portfolio -- the management products, the security products or some of the core Windows Server products. We're aggregating these technologies because the conversation you're typically having around most of these products today with customers and partners is a developer-led conversation. The developer is the glue that holds these things together."

Building Relationships
The Oslo investments will appear in the next versions of BizTalk Server, BizTalk Services, the .NET Framework, Visual Studio and System Center, Guggenheimer says -- all of which are products that come together under the Application Platform umbrella. The company also plans to align the metadata repositories across the server and tools product sets, he says. Microsoft System Center 5, Visual Studio 10 and BizTalk Server 6 will all utilize a repository technology for managing, versioning and deploying models.

The concept of an application platform -- or application platform suite -- was coined by industry analysts, says Macehiter. Java middleware vendors BEA Systems Inc. and Oracle Corp. used the term to identify a set of middleware components -- typically application servers and portals often integrated with BPM capabilities.

Microsoft is jumping on this bandwagon late, Macehiter says, but it's making the leap with both feet.

"What distinguished Microsoft's proposition from the Java application proposition," Macehiter says, "is that the company is also beginning to incorporate aspects of the Software plus Services proposition, for example, around BizTalk Services for messaging, identity and workflow 'in the cloud.' This facilitates inter- and intra-enterprise deployments and allows organizations to partition their solutions to exploit hosted services -- from Microsoft or others." Microsoft also aims to establish a common development environment in Visual Studio.

The impact of Microsoft's Application Platform strategy on developers is likely to be minimal at first. "In the longer term, they'll have to start thinking about the implications of Software plus Services in terms of the way they architect their applications," says Macehiter. "They'll also have to deal with some of the capabilities that are shared across the application platform because of things like common metadata."

About the Author

John K. Waters is a freelance author and journalist based in Silicon Valley. His latest book is The Everything Guide to Social Media. Follow John on Twitter, read his blog on, check out his author page on Amazon, or e-mail him at

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