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Market Turmoil Challenges Developers

Financial Services Developer Conference sees mass release of Microsoft OBAs targeted at financial-services firms.

As the turmoil in the financial markets hit a crescendo last month, Windows developers at some of Wall Street's major firms took some time to assess how they could build more transparency into trading and banking systems.

Microsoft used its sixth annual Financial Services Developer Conference in New York to release more than 90 business components for financial-services firms to build applications that integrate the company's various technologies with back-end systems.

The Office Business Applications (OBAs) are pre-built, reusable components designed to use the Office 2007 interfaces to implement common methodologies used in functions such as online banking, insurance claims processing and portfolio management. Microsoft said its Financial Services OBA Component Library is designed to take this business logic using Office on the front-end and BizTalk, SharePoint and SQL Server on the back-end.

In addition to implementing core Web services standards, the Financial Services OBA Component Libraries support industry-specific standards such as the Financial Information eXchange (FIX) protocols for exchanging financial data.

Microsoft also gave a rare demonstration of its modeling platform -- code-named "Oslo" -- for service-oriented architecture (SOA), which is still in the early stages of development. Another emphasis at the two-day conference was the advances Microsoft partners are making in the area of high-performance computing, using various architectures including SOA and distributed caching.

Additional highlights included a walk-through of the new F# functional programming language, and demonstrations of how financial-service firms, banks and insurance companies can use the Silverlight 2.0 beta to start building RIAs.

"There's almost something for everyone," said Joseph Cleaver, platform strategy advisor for Microsoft's financial services business.


In the Spotlight
Despite Microsoft's upbeat tone, developers found their industry in an uncomfortable spotlight after months of turmoil. Some developers lamented the conference was an opportune time to get out of the office for two days to see what technologies might bring added transparency to bankers and help them address a key challenge: risk management.

"There was unusually strong interest in F#," said Jeremy Lehman, former chief software architect for Citigroup's global equities group and now founder of New York-based Radical Analytics.

F# could gain traction with developers in financial services who are looking to build mathematically intensive programs but don't want to get into the minutia of coding those methods, according to Lehman. "You can express mathematical functions quite powerfully," he said.

Early Demos
Todd Bremner, a technology architect who works at Microsoft's Technology Center in Boston, demoed a tool that's part of the Oslo initiative called "Quadrant."

Based on Windows Presentation Foundation (WPF), Quadrant will let developers build requirements into their models and store them in the Oslo repository, which is based on core Microsoft platforms including next-generation releases of System Center 5, Visual Studio 10, BizTalk Server 6 and the .NET 4.0 Framework.

"What we're doing is making a tool to handle things that are uncaptured," Bremner said, in regards to information such as workflow definitions. He emphasized that much of the work is in the early stages of development.

"What I'm showing you right now is only one of the few times this has been shown off to the world," he said. "That tells you how early we are with some of these pieces."

About the Author

Jeffrey Schwartz is editor of Redmond magazine and also covers cloud computing for Virtualization Review's Cloud Report. In addition, he writes the Channeling the Cloud column for Redmond Channel Partner. Follow him on Twitter @JeffreySchwartz.

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