ADO.NET Entity Framework Beta Testers Stage No-Confidence Vote

Hundreds of dissatisfied testers of Microsoft's ADO.NET Entity Framework V1, which is still in beta, are staging a protest against the software giant by expressing what they call a "vote of no confidence" in the technology.

The beta testers posted their complaint online this week. "While Microsoft's announcement of its intention to provide framework support for entity architectures was received with enthusiasm, the Entity Framework itself has consistently proved to be cause for significant concern," according to the posting, which solicits signatures from like-minded developers.

As of Wednesday, June 25, more than 260 have signed the petition, a number of whom are Microsoft Most Valuable Professionals (MVPs). The complaint states that the ADO.NET Entity Framework puts an "inordinate focus [on] the data aspect of entities leads to degraded entity architectures; excess code [is] needed to deal with lack of lazy loading; [the] shared, canonical model contradicts software best practices; [a] lack of persistence ignorance causes business logic to be harder to read, write, and modify, causing development and maintenance costs to increase at an exaggerated rate; [and] excessive merge conflicts with source control in team environments."

OakLeaf Systems Principal Consultant Roger Jennings said in his blog that the vocal group is spearheaded by NHibernate proponents. "Three of the signatories, Jeremy D. Miller, Scott Bellware, James Kovacs, and Dave Laribee are among the seven Microsoft MVPs who ' took apart' Danny Simmons and others on the ADO.NET team at the MVP Global Summit in Seattle on March 14, 2007 and taught them NHibernate. Ayende Rahien, a.k.a. Oren Eini, a primary contributor to NHibernate, the best-known EF competitor, is another MVP involved in last year's controversy who signed the petition," Jennings wrote.

Microsoft Entity Framework Program Manager Tim Mallalieu, responded in a blog posting to the issues. "The choices on these features were heavily considered, but we had to deal with the tension between trying to add more features verses trying to stay true to our initial goal which was to lay the core foundation for a multiple-release strategy for building out a broader data platform offering," he wrote.

The timing of the group's complaint was telling. Mallalieu said his team this week has began work on the next version of ADO.NET Entity Framework V2.0 and SQL Server. "We are determined to address this particular developer community in earnest while still furthering the investment in the overall data platform," he said. ADO.NET Entity Framework V1 is part of the Visual Studio 2008 Service Pack 1 and .NET 3.5 SP1 betas, expected to RTM later this year.

Ironically, Michael Pizzo, a principal architect in Microsoft's data programmability team, gave a talk yesterday at the Data Services World conference in New York to discuss the ADO.NET Entity Framework and LINQ. When asked by this reporter after the session about the complaint, Pizzo said he was learning about it for the first time.

Nonetheless, Pizzo said he was aware of the discord. "The concerns we have heard are from a very vocal subgroup," Pizzo said. "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.

Jennings is among that group. He said in his blog: "On the whole I consider the 'No Confidence Manifesto' to be doctrinaire and an example of attempts to enforce 'political correctness' in software architecture. I'd wager that EF would perform more than adequately in 80 percent or more of the applications that require O/RM tools."

Indeed several SQL Server 2008 testers said they have not spent a lot of time testing the ADO.NET Entity Data Framework. Among them is Leonard Lobel, a principal consultant at New York-based Twentysix New York, who is writing the book Programming Microsoft SQL Server 2008 (Microsoft Press). "One thing is clear from both the community complaints and Microsoft's response: Entity Framework is a v1 product that may not yet be ready for industrial use,” Lobel commented in an e-mail.

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.