Archive for the ‘Microsoft’ Category

More on Oslo

In the latest BriefingsDirect SOA Insights Edition, Dana Gardner, Jim Kobielus, Neil Macehiter, and Joe McKendrick discussed, among other things, Microsoft’s recent announcements. The conversation started very similar to some of my own comments on the subject with this sense of deja vu. Neil Macehiter made a great point, however, that shows that this isn’t simply a rehash of model-driven architecture. He stated:

…they are actually encompassing management into this modeling framework, and they’re planning to support some standards around things like the service modeling language (SML), which will allow the transition from development through to operations. So, this is actually about the model driven life cycle.

This reminded me of my trip to Redmond in 2005 for the Microsoft Technology Summit. At the summit, we were shown an internal tool, I think from the Patterns & Practices group, that presented a deployment model of a solution. I recall a number of us going, “we want that.” If Microsoft has taken steps to integrate these models into the development and run-time management tooling, this is an excellent step, and certainly something beyond the typical model-driven development of the BPM suites. At a minimum, these capabilities should be enough for people to at least track the ongoing progress of the Oslo effort.

The second thing that came up, which again was consistent with some recent blogs of mine (see Registries, Repositories, and Bears, oh my! and Is Metadata the center of the SOA technology universe?), was the discussion around the metadata repository at the heart of Microsoft’s strategy. Dana pointed out that “there really aren’t any standards for unifying modeling or repository for various models” with some comments from Neil that this is very ambitious. First, I’d have to say that Microsoft trumped IBM on this one. Remember when IBM announced WebSphere Registry Repository and stated that they’d be coming out with their own standards for communication with it? They were slammed by many analysts. Microsoft, rather than trying to operate in the narrow space of the SOA registry/repository, are talking about the importance of metadata in general. The breadth of models and associated metadata when talking about full IT product lifecycle (development and management), is far broader than what is typically discussed in the SOA space. AS a result, there are no standards that cover this completely, so the lack of standards-based integration is a non-issue, and Neil nails it by saying Microsoft is trying to get out in front of the metadata federation problem and drive others to comply with what they do.

Give the entire podcast a listen here, or read the transcript here.

Oslo, DSLs, MDD, and more…

It’s amazing how long it can take for some things to become a reality. Back in the corn fields of central Illinois in the early 90’s, I was in graduate school working for a professor that was researching visual programming languages. While the project was focused on building tools for visual programming languages, and not as much on visual programming itself, it certainly was interested. Here we are, almost 15 years later, and what’s the latest news from Microsoft? Visual programming languages. Okay, they’re calling it model driven development (which isn’t new either).

It will be very interesting to see if Microsoft can succeed in this endeavor. I suspect that they will, simply because Microsoft has a unique relationship with their development community, something that none of the Java players do. While there were competing tools for quite a few years, you’d be hard pressed to find an organization doing Microsoft development that isn’t using Visual Studio. You’d also be hard pressed to find an organization that isn’t leveraging the .NET framework. While the Java community has Eclipse, there’s still enough variation of the environment through the extensive plugin network that it’s a different beast. So, if Microsoft emphasizes model driven development in Visual Studio, it’s safe to say that a good number of developers will follow suit. As a point of comparison, BEA did the same thing over 5 years ago when they introduced WebLogic Workshop in February of 2002. This article stated:

BEA is calling WebLogic Workshop the first integrated application development environment with visual interfaces to Java and J2EE… “We’re radically changing the way people development applications,” said Alfred Chuang, president and CEO of BEA… Chuang said WebLogic Workshop could improve the application development and deployment cycle by as much as 100 times.

Hmmm… I’m getting a sense of deja vu. I’m hopeful that Microsoft can achieve better successes than BEA did. Point of fact, I don’t think it had anything to do with the quality of BEA’s offering. At the time, I had someone working for me look into Workshop. I was very surprised when the answer was not, “This is just a bunch of fluff, we need to keep writing the code” and instead was, “Wow, this really did improve my productivity.” Unfortunately, many developers will take their text-based editor to the grave with them so they can continue to write code.

In a similar vein, Phil Windley had a post on domain specific languages or DSLs. He points out that he is “a big believer in notation. Using the right notation to describe and think about a problem is a powerful tool.” Further on, he states, “GPLs (General Purpose Languages) are, by definition, general. They are designed to solve a wide host of problems outside the domain I care about. As a result, expressing something I can put in a line of code in a DSL takes a dozen in most GPLs.” Now Phil focuses on textual notations in his post, but I’d argue that there’s no reason that the notation can’t be symbolic. It may make the exercise of writing a parser more difficult, but then again, I’m pretty sure that the work I did back in grad school wound up having some in-memory representation of what was graphically shown in the editor that would have been pretty easy to parse. Of course, the example I used in my thesis wound up being music notation, which didn’t have such an internal representation, but I’m getting off the topic. If there are any grad students reading this blog, I think a parser for music notation is an interesting problem because it doesn’t follow the more procedural, flow chart like approach that we all too often see.

Anyway, back to the point. I 100% agree with Phil that a custom notation can make a smaller subset of programming tasks far more efficient. So much of what we do in corporate IT is just data in/data out type operations, and a language tuned for this, whether graphical or textual can help. The trend right now is toward graphical tools, toward model driven development. There will always be a need for GPLs, and we’ll continue to have them. But, given the smaller subset of typical corporate IT problems, it’s about time we start making things more efficient through DSLs, and model driven development. Let’s just hope it doesn’t take another 15 years.

Podcast on RIA and more

Another Briefings Direct SOA Insights podcast has been posted by Dana Gardner in which I’m a panelist. In this edition, Dana, myself, Joe McKendrick, and indepdent blogger Barb Darrow discussed the role of RIA and rich media with SOA and the impact of associated technologies, such as Flash, AJAX, and Silverlight on the space. You can find a full transcript here or listen to it here. You can also subscribe via iTunes.

Podcast on User Experience, Apple, etc.

Phil Windley, Scott Lemon, and Ben Galbraith had a nice discussion on the iPhone, Apple’s iLife and iWork, user experience, consumer-friendliness, and much more in the latest IT Conversations Technometria podcast. Sometimes, their best podcasts are simply when they get together and have a discussion about the latest happenings. It was very entertaining, especially the discussion around the iPhone. Give it a listen. Also, make sure you give the Paul Graham essay on “stuff” mentioned by Phil a read.

Is Apple in the home like Microsoft in the enterprise?

I was just having a discussion with someone regarding Apple’s recovery over the last ten years and what the future holds for them when it dawned on me that there are parallels (sorry, no pun intended) between Microsoft’s efforts in the server-side space in the enterprise and Apple’s efforts in the home.

There’s no doubt that Apple’s strategy has always been about having end-to-end control of the entire platform, from hardware to software. There are advantages and disadvantages to this, with the clear disadvantage being market share, but the advantages being user experience. On the Microsoft side, when they entered into the enterprise market, and this still holds true today, it’s really about getting as much Microsoft software there as possible. They would like to own the software platform from end-to-end.

The parallel in this is that when Microsoft moved beyond the desktop, where they had nearly all of the market share, they suddenly had to deal with a heterogeneous environment rather than a homogenous one. Microsoft’s strategy is not one of integration, however, it is about replacement. Over time, they’ve had to yield to the fact that integration will always be necessary, and that many infrastructures are too well established to incur the cost of a migration to an all Microsoft environment. That being said, Microsoft would be happy to take your money and do it, and they still continue to position their products so that thought is in the back of your mind. I don’t know of anyone who would argue with the statement that Microsoft solutions work best in an all-Microsoft environment. That’s not to say that it doesn’t work really well in a heterogeneous environment, it simply says that if you want the best Microsoft has to offer, you have to go 100% Microsoft.

Now let’s talk about Apple. I’d argue that the state of the market for the integrated, intelligent home is around the same point (maybe a bit less mature) that enterprise infrastructures were when the whole middleware rage occurred in the 90’s. Companies were just starting to realize the potential and the importance of integrating their disparate systems. Today, consumers are just starting to realize the potential of integrating the technology in their houses. I’m not going to make any predictions about when it will become mainstream, as they’re usually wrong, but I do think it’s safe to say that the uptake is definitely increasing in slope rather than remaining flat. Apple is in a very similar position to Microsoft. The home is a heterogeneous environment. Apple works best in an all Apple environment. Will Apple take a path similar to Microsoft to where they integrate where they have to, but are really focused on getting a foot in the door and then it’s all about more Apple? Or will there be careful decisions on where the strategy is about integration and where the strategy is about extending the platform? To date, I think they’ve done the latter. We don’t see an Apple-branded TV, instead we have a set top box that talks to TVs.

The biggest factor may not be what Apple does, but what everyone else does. Microsoft continues to gain market share in the enterprise because integration of heterogeneous environment is still a painful exercise. As look as there is pain in integration, there’s always opportunity for platform-based approaches to gain ground. Integration in consumer technologies is certainly a different beast, as there are standards and a certain level of status-quo. It’s not a painful effort to hook up stereo components from multiple vendors. At the same time, however, it’s ripe for improvements in the experience, case in point, the 100+ button remote control associated with most receivers. Likewise, the standards change all too often. Back when digital camcorders came out, Apple had a big win with integration with iMovie that no one else had. Over the past 8 years however, the digital camcorder manufacturers have changed formats to the point where you can’t say whether a digital camcorder will work with iMovie or not. It just shows that if you don’t control the platform end-to-end, your entire strategy can fall apart quickly based upon those pieces outside of your control.

I think Apple’s taking a very careful approach on what problems to tackle and when. The one thing I’m sure of is that Apple’s presence in the consumer will make the next 10 years in the home very exciting. While one could argue that the availability of the Internet in the home started the process of the demand increasing at a faster pace, I also think you can that Apple’s products, more so than any other consumer products company, have enabled that pace to continue to increase.

The Epitome of Bloat…

I just downloaded Microsoft’s Office Open XML Converter beta for MacOS X, and was surprised to see that it was a 24.9 MB Disk Image. The application that was installed was only 3.9 MB, however, I assume that there is a bunch of supporting files that went into the Application Support folders somewhere. As a point of comparison, the freely available docx-converter widget for the Dashboard downloads at 154 KB and post-installation, comes in at 304 KB. While I’m confident that the Microsoft converter is more robust, I’m really surprised at just how big it was.


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