Microsoft today announced "Oslo," the codename for technologies aimed at simplifying application development and making SOA accessible to all. According to Microsoft, Oslo will have as big an impact on development as Visual Basic had in 1991 in that it will enable the full range of end users to build their own applications that can run on the desktop, on the server or in the network cloud.
Mashup technologies already allow some self-service development, but Oslo is much more ambitious, aimed at all kinds of business applications. It replaces traditional code with a BPM-style model, which is interpreted by a new runtime. BPM models are already created by business analysts who aren't programmers, so Microsoft hopes the technology will make development much more accessible.
The vision sounds compelling, but right now it's vaporware. Microsoft stresses that rather than a single product, Oslo is a set of technologies that will eventually be embedded in the next releases of five products, and the company hasn't even decided what they'll be called. All it will say about availability is that beta releases for all five are due at some point in calendar year 2008. Their working titles are:
- .NET Framework 4. This will presumably include an interpreter or runtime environment for the new model-based apps.
- BizTalk Server 6. The next release of Microsoft's BPM and SOA orchestration product, this is its primary development tool aimed at non-developers.
- Visual Studio 10. This looks likely to include additional functionality for building more complex apps, as well as combining models with code. Microsoft claims that using this internally has enabled its developers to do 90% less coding.
- System Center 5. Microsoft's IT management system will include a repository for model-driven applications that's shared with BizTalk and Visual Studio.
- BizTalk Services 1. This is Microsoft's upcoming SOA-as-a-service offering. A public alpha release of this is already available at BizTalk Labs, though it doesn't yet include Oslo.