Microsoft Kills Key Components of the 'Oslo' Modeling Platform

Microsoft is announcing today that key components of its "Oslo" modeling platform are no longer part of its model-driven development strategy. In the on-going battle of competing data platform technologies at Microsoft, the company is focusing its efforts on the Open Data Protocol (OData) and the Entity Data Model, which underlies the Entity Data Framework and other key technologies.

Announced in October 2007, the Oslo modeling platform consisted of the 'M' modeling language, a "Quadrant" visual designer and a common repository based on SQL Server. The technology was initially targeting developers, according to Microsoft, with an eye towards broadening tools like Quadrant to other roles such as business analysts and IT. Alpha bits of some of the components were first made available at the Professional Developers Conference in October 2008. Oslo was renamed SQL Server Modeling technologies in November 2009. The final community technical preview was released that same month and required Visual Studio 2010/.NET Framework 4 Beta 2.

The Quadrant tool and the repository, part of SQL Server Modeling Services after the name change, are no longer on the roadmap. Microsoft's Don Box, a distinguished engineer and part of the Oslo development team, explained the decision in the Model Citizen blog on MSDN:

"Over the past year, we’ve gotten strong and consistent feedback from partners and customers indicating they prefer a more loosely-coupled approach; specifically, an approach based on a common protocol and data model rather than a common store. The momentum behind the Open Data Protocol (OData) and its underlying data model, Entity Data Model (EDM), shows that customers are acting on this preference."

The end of Oslo is not surprising based on the project's lack of newsworthy developments as it was bounced around from the Connected Services division to the Developer division to the Data Platform team. The delivery vehicle for the technology was never disclosed, although it was expected to surface in the Visual Studio 2010 and SQL Server wave of products.

The "M" textual modeling language, originally described as three languages--MGraph, MGrammar and MSchema -- has survived, for now. Microsoft's Box explained:

"While we used "M" to build the "Oslo" repository and "Quadrant," there has been significant interest both inside and outside of Microsoft in using "M" for other applications. We are continuing our investment in this technology and will share our plans for productization once they are concrete."

The Oslo platform was too complex for the benefits that it offered, said Roger Jennings, principal consultant of Oakleaf Systems, "The Quadrant and 'M' combination never gained any kind of developer mindshare."

More and more people are climbing on the OData bandwagon, which is a very useful and reasonably open protocol, agreed Jennings. A Web protocol under the Open Specification Promise that builds on the Atom Publishing Protocol, OData can apply HTTP and JavaScript Object Notation (JSON), among other technologies, to access data from multiple sources. Microsoft "Dallas", a marketplace for data- and content-subscription services hosted on the Windows Azure platform, is driving some of the developer interest in OData, according to Jennings.

Developers may run into problems with overhead when using OData feeds, however. "XML is known as a high-overhead protocol, but OData takes that to an extreme in some cases," said Jennings, who is testing OData feeds with Microsoft's Dynamic CRM 2011 Online beta, the first version to offer a full-scale OData provider. Jennings blogs about OData explorations, including his experiences with the Dynamic CRM Online beta in his Oakleaf Systems blog.

About the Author

Kathleen Richards is the editor of and executive editor of Visual Studio Magazine.

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