Dave Campbell Discusses Dallas

Microsoft Technical Fellow Dave Campbell details the Dallas data application. Could it emerge as the first killer app for the cloud?

Microsoft Technical Fellow Dave Campbell is pretty worked up about the freshly-announced Dallas project, the data-centric initiative that hopes to radically reduce the friction involved in discovering, manipulating and analyzing data culled from multiple public and private data sources via the cloud.

"Being able to take those things, pull them all together, and let developers build new experiences is what Dallas is all about," Campbell said during an interview following the keynote.

Campbell gave a demo during the morning keynote that showed how Dallas could be used to search out data accessed via ADO.NET Data Services (code-name Astoria) and to manipulate that data using the Excel PowerPivot component. The demo was accompanied by a video presentation by Federal Chief Technology Officer Vivek Kundra, who talked about how opening access to public data has led to significant innovation in medical research, GPS services and astronomical research. government information and the power of Dallas in that.

Clearly, Dallas has some legs already. And Campbell says Microsoft is getting so many requests to participate in the Dallas effort that the company simply can't keep up with them all.

What's interesting about Dallas is that it's less a typical, PDC-borne platform advancement and more an effort to leverage Microsoft's matured data and Cloud services stack in combination with its peerless corporate sway. In essence, Microsoft has worked to craft a viable syndication and licensing model for private data, enabling organizations to make available for broad consumption data that would otherwise remain locked up in quarterly DVDs or rigid subscription-based packages.

Associated Press On Board
Organizations can either host their data with Microsoft or they can allow Dallas to access data stored on-premise. Todd Martin, vice president of technology development for the Associated Press, says his organization opted for the latter approach. He says Dallas provides an opportunity to expose content from more than 1,500 AP news organizations to the channel of Visual Studio developers.

"The newspapers actually participate in the value of an application that is created by a developer," Martin said during a round table Q&A session. "Developers and information workers have easy access to a content API that is of course very well integrated into their workspace. You have this potential for both the developer and the news publisher to benefit from this collaboration."

To make data available, Dallas provides what Campbell described as "an open catalog and market place for data, both public data and commercial data." By providing easy discovery and search of both subscription and public data sources, Dallas makes it possible for developers to pull together disparate data sources.

"Dallas makes the whole world of data better than the sum of its parts by creating a uniform discovery mechanism for data, a uniform binding and access mechanism for data, a uniform way of exposing trial data sets for developers, a uniform licensing model so data from multiple providers can be easily joined and recombined. By delivering data as a service, our aspiration is that Dallas might catalyze a whole new wave of remixing and experimentation by developers."

At the core of Dallas' potential success, Campbell said, that it arms Visual Studio developers with a standards-based way to access, manipulate and deliver data.

"Dallas has a consistent set of APIs. It's a service interface and a REST-based interface. It produces data in ATOM pub right now. And we've encoded structured data elements within the ATOM pub items so they can be consumed directly by applications," Campbell explained in an interview after the keynote.

"We build a service proxy," Campbell continued. "Part of the magic of Dallas is that it is powered by an underlying service model. So when you go up and start to explore data sets there are actual fields you can restrict on, so if you want to filter it one way or the other. We'll produce a service proxy which you can include in your .NET application to make it very, very easy to consume the data."

Campbell said ADO.NET Data Services (formerly code-named Astoria) is "the protocol that powers this." He said the technology makes it easy for developers to create a service to produce and consume data.

The Cloud's First Killer App?
A lot of focus in the arena of cloud computing has been on finding efficiencies. Moving infrastructure to service providers and enabling highly scalable, virtualized server environments. But with Dallas' clear momentum and its ambitious vision, the question begs. Could this be Windows Azure's killer app?

Campbell thinks it could be.

"I think it is--I would propose it as a killer app for the cloud. And here's the thing. It really does represent how we think about the cloud right now," Campbell said. "This one I had an intuition on. And the response we've gotten from the content owners we've shown it to is just tremendous. So it really has the potential to be something big."

About the Author

Michael Desmond is an editor and writer for 1105 Media's Enterprise Computing Group.

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