Microsoft is working on tools and technologies intended to make it easier for developers to deal with data.
A Microsoft official presented company plans for enhancements to the Visual Studio developer tool platform and other Microsoft technology bases to improve programming and data management.
"We're evolving data programming at Microsoft," said Britton Johnston, director of program management for data programmability at Microsoft.
"I think we're on the path to creating a more agile environment" with the company's "Conceptual Data Programming" concept, Johnston said.
Johnston stressed lower complexity as goal of Microsoft's efforts. He reflected on a time several years ago when he pondered this issue. "From my perspective, I really struggled with a lot of the complexity that we have to deal with in building apps," he said.
Now, the company is focusing on abstractions. Microsoft is taking the logical database schema and building abstractions on top of that.
"We're trying to move from what today is the abstraction that is captured in almost every tool across the board, [which] is the logical schema in the database, what we all know as the tables and columns that are in there, and move it up to a higher level of abstraction," Johnston said.
"There's a multi-step process to get there, [which] we're delivering in ADO.Net (Active Data Objects), in the next version of Visual Studio, and in the .Net Framework," he said. "And what I hoped to get to people today was an appreciation of how that is a first step and where this goes longer term."
With its Entity Data Platform, Microsoft seeks to raise the abstraction at which data can be accessed from multiple sources, such as XML data, files, and OLAP systems. "A sea of this data is being created at an incredible rate in the world today," all stored in different places ranging from servers to devices, said Johnston.
Microsoft initiatives in its data programming efforts include Language Integrated Query as well as its Entity Data Model concept. Entity Data Model raises the level of abstraction and provides for reusable artefacts and development of a services ecosystem. An entity, Johnston said, is a collection of attributes that represent data associated with a business concept.
Access to all information is a part of Microsoft's plan. To this end, Microsoft is committed to a broad data platform as well a continued commitment to Open Database Connectivity API (ODBC). Microsoft brings Java applications into the mix through a Java driver and also has plans to support PHP (Hypertext Pre-processor) in its stack as well.
Also featured in Microsoft's plans are:
* An XML Schema Definition (XSD) designer planned for the Visual Studio Orcas beta release. The designer is intended to soften the complexity of working with XML schemas. The Orcas beta is due around May.
* An Entity Data Model (EDM) wizard, also planned for the Orcas beta release. It features such capabilities as the ability to bind database objects to a Windows farm.
* An EDM designer
* An Extensible Style sheets (XSLT) files debugger for the Orcas beta
Microsoft announced at the VSLive the availability of Visual Studio Tools for Applications. The embedded customisation tools offering is a .Net-based successor to the Visual Basic for Applications package and allows users, ISVs, and partners to customise applications.
It also features easier integration than was possible with the predecessor tool. Visual Studio Tools for Applications supports both Visual Basic and C# and offers capabilities of the .Net Framework, such as security and Windows Forms functionality.
With the product, customers could extend their applications with capabilities like adding an invoice application or attaching to a web service, said KD Hallman, Microsoft Visual Studio general manager.
A user of the product, Business software maker Solgenia, has integrated the product into its Object Customised tool to enable its software to be customised for specific needs, Microsoft said.
Version 2.0 of Visual Studio Tools for Applications, due when Orcas arrives later this year, will add a dynamic programming model with the ability to declare objects at design time. Also planned for the 2.0 release is inclusion of Microsoft's Windows Communication Foundation (WCF) and Windows Presentation Foundation (WPF) technologies. WCF adds web services capabilities, while WPF focuses on application design.
Hallman also noted that Microsoft's Visual Tools for Office developer tools product becomes part of Visual Studio Professional when the Orcas release chain ships.