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Get Ready for Microsoft's 'Oslo' Modeling Tool

Microsoft's Professional Developer Conference (PDC) will be a coming out party, not just Windows 7, but also "Oslo," a new tool the firm has been working on for around a year that helps with model-based development.

"Oslo" was first announced by Robert Wahbe, corporate vice president of the Connected Systems Division in October 2007. Developers at PDC will get their first release of a community technology preview (CTP), Microsoft's fancy name for beta software.

The CTP process is favored by Microsoft's developer tool segment. CTPs tend to be updated regularly, usually once per month, and Microsoft solicits regular feedback. The result, though, is solid software, such as Visual Studio 2008 and SQL Server 2008.

Steve Martin, director of product management in the Connected Systems Division at Microsoft (NASDAQ: MSFT), said in a blog posting that the goal of Oslo is "to make it easier to build apps using models and to break down silos of application development. That means that whether you write the user specification, write the code, or have to manage the application, the model for what the app should do is shared."

Dial M for creation

To that end, Oslo has three key technologies: a language codenamed "M" that helps people create and use textual domain-specific languages (DSLs) and data models, a relational repository for both tools and platforms, and a tool codenamed Quadrant that helps people define and interact with models in a rich and visual manner.

Modeling is used to visually lay out and design an application, rather than drawing its structure on a board or in a visualization tool like Visio. It's a popular form of development, so much so IBM shelled out $2.1 billion to acquire Rational Software, and continues to invest heavily in Rational products.

Modeling is especially popular in service-oriented architectures and the use of Web services because so many objects and services are visualized as models and connected to form complex services.

"Quadrant" will handle the modeling graphically, whereas "M" will handle the models in text code. Graphical models developed in "Quadrant" will be exportable and readable in "M."

The repository is a SQL database of models and related metadata that holds all of the objects and models for developers using Microsoft Access, Excel, or SQL Server Reporting Services, from which they can build their project.

Oslo will be available as an add-on to Microsoft's popular Visual Studio development toolkit while it's under development, although it may be spun off as a stand alone product later.