.NET Developments

Mar 4 2009   3:29PM GMT

Oslo may not be vaporware, but is it significant?

Yuval Shavit Profile: YuvalShavit

This is the week of Oslo over at SearchWinDevelopment.com. On Monday, Microsoft released a new CTP of its Oslo data modeling project just as we were rolling out a tip on how Oslo fits in with .NET. Oslo development seems to be coming along, with demos and CTPs aplenty — but I still can’t help feeling there’s a lot of commotion about something that feels very much like a sideshow.

I had the chance to sit in on an Oslo session at a DevCon recently, and I must say, I was not incredibly impressed. At the core, it looks like the M programming language lets developers define their own, simple input grammar and compile it into a series of SQL calls. The end result is that you can take an arbitrarily-defined input file, feed it through your M program, and end up with a filled database.

So far, sounds like something a simple script could do, right?  And as far as I’ve seen, that’s all that Oslo really has to offer in terms of concrete functionality.

And while M is just one component of Oslo, it’s probably the most significant one, if the demos we’ve seen are any indication. Quadrant, Oslo’s GUI modeling tool, isn’t in CTP yet, and we’ve heard precious little about how the whole package will eventually form the foundation of SOA applications.

Granted, there’s some benefit to being able to define input grammars at a high level. But tools like lex/yacc have given programmers this ability for decades. M is less generalized and simpler than lex/yacc, but if Oslo is — as it appears to be so far — essentially a set of user-friendly tools that combine high-level grammar definitions with SQL output functionality and a nice GUI front end, is that enough to justify the hype? From what we’ve seen so far, Oslo could well be useful in its own right. But I don’t consider that groundbreaking enough to call it a brand new modeling platform, let alone the backbone to a 10-year SOA strategy.

Microsoft is very careful to point out that Oslo is in pre-alpha; they’re just giving us a glimpse whlie they work out the tools.  But with the various books, conference sessions and interviews they’ve been giving, we should expect a bit more than something to replace simple parsing scripts.

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