Microsoft's Oslo: Putting SOA on the Map
Microsoft has unveiled a multi-year, multi-product initiative, code-named "Oslo,"
that reflects a number of its recent enterprise solution strategies. Oslo will
focus on using Microsoft's "top engineering talent to build on the model-driven
and service-enabled principles of Microsoft Dynamic IT and to extend the benefits
of service-oriented architecture (SOA) beyond the firewall," according
to the company.
Microsoft laid out its Dynamic IT strategy in June at its annual Tech Ed conference.
That strategy combines two existing programs: the company's four-year-old Dynamic
Systems Initiative and its two-year-old Application Platform strategy.
The Dynamic Systems Initiative is aimed at unifying hardware, software and
service vendors around a single software architecture. The Application Platform
strategy 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.
The Oslo initiative, announced last week (Oct. 30) at the Redmond, Wash.-based
software maker's annual SOA & Business Process Conference, is basically
a set of technology investments aimed at advancing the company's Software Plus
Services model, says Steve Guggenheimer, general manager of Microsoft's Application
"The Oslo technology effort is part of the work we're doing to bring broad-based
modeling into the fold with services," he explains. "That's the next
wave of investments we're making."
Microsoft's Application Platform
Oslo represents the first in a series of announcements that Microsoft will be
making over the next few weeks about new products and technologies in its Application
Platform portfolio, Guggenheimer says.
"You'll see a method to the madness," he says. "We're pulling
the whole platform forward, piece by piece. You can't do a single release because
they're all independent pieces, but we're working hard to make sure that the
pieces work well together and with other platforms."
Guggenheimer defines 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."
"The Application Platform as Microsoft defines it is not a product,"
explains Neil Macehiter, founder and principle analyst at Macehiter Ward-Dutton.
"Rather, it is a way of packaging and marketing a set of capabilities that
are required to build, deploy and manage applications."
Although the Application Platform pulls together a range of tools and technologies,
it is a decidedly developer-focused bundle.
"We look at the Application Platform through the lens of the developer,"
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."
Guggenheimer characterizes the Oslo initiative as "the vision for the
next generation of our SOA and business process platform," and a "significant
milestone in our strategy and roadmap for SOA and Software Plus Services."
Pulling It All Together
The Oslo investments will go into 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.
"We hear a lot from CIOs, CXOs and partners about helping IT and the dev
shops to be a great partner to the business," he adds. "The bridge
between the business, IT, and app-dev typically is the applications you use
to differentiate your business. So the better job the development and IT groups
can do in creating a platform that's agile, that allows them to map to the business
needs more quickly, that allows new capabilities that help the business differentiate,
the better that relationship is. And it helps that part of the house to be a
great provider for the business, instead of just being considered a cost center."
The concept of an application platform (or application platform suite) is certainly
not new, Guggenheimer admits. Virtually all of Microsoft's biggest competitors
talk about their app platforms. The term was coined by industry analysts, observes
Macehiter, and was rapidly picked up by the Java middleware vendors (BEA and
Oracle) to identify a set of middleware components, typically application servers
and portals, often integrated with BPM capabilities, and positioned as an integrated
Microsoft is jumping on this bandwagon late, Macehiter observes, 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 exploited hosted services (from Microsoft or
others) as fits their requirements. Microsoft is also working hard to ensure
that developers have a simpler job through a common development environment
in Visual Studio."
The impact of Microsoft's Application Platform strategy on developers is likely
to be minimal at first, but down the road, it could well push them to see their
work in a broader context, says Macehiter.
"Developers will continue to work with the same set of capabilities in
the short term," he says. "In the longer term, they will have to start
thinking about the implications of Software Plus Services in terms of the way
they architect their applications. They will also have to deal with some of
the capabilities that are shared across the application platform because of
things like common metadata."