Microsoft is looking to extend visual modeling of applications in its Visual Studio 2005 platform, with an early release of technology to enable developers to author industry-specific modelling tools.
Visual modelling technologies, featuring a framework and tool, are being unveiled at the OOPSLA (Object-Oriented Programming, Systems, Languages, and Applications) conference in Vancouver.
The preview will function with the refresh of Visual Studio 2005 Beta 1 and functions on top of Microsoft's Whitehorse visual designer technology. The technology will be generally available with the release of Visual Studio 2005 Team System next year.
With the modelling technologies, developers can build for specific product areas, such as retail or financial services, said Prashant Sridharan, lead product manager for Visual Studio.
Microsoft's modelling technologies will be like its Web Services Designer tool, which is a domain-specific designer. "We expect that our customers and our partners will also want to create their own modelling tools for their own problem domains," such as healthcare, Sridharan said.
Modelling tools provide a visual way of building applications and show how the application will work prior to actually implementing it, said Sridharan.
An analyst described Microsoft's new modelling functionality as valuable.
"It will allow partners to add additional modelling capabilities to Team System in a standardised [way], and tightly integrate them with the rest of the development lifecycle," said analyst Carl Zetie, vice-president at Forrester Research.
The new technology is intended to better enable users to adapt Visual Studio 2005 and the .net Framework to meet specific business needs, according to Microsoft. Organisations will be able to build domain-specific language designers intended to automate redundant tasks within targeted "problem domains", or industry-specific areas, the company said.
Domain-specific languages are part of an industry initiative called Software Factories. Microsoft, while saying Software Factories are years away, describes the concept as providing a faster, less expensive, and more reliable approach to application development by increasing the level of automation in application development, using visual languages for quick assembly and configuration of framework-based components.
Microsoft is also announcing partnerships with other companies that will build customised designers for use with Visual Studio, such as Borland's unveiling of designers for UML 2.0. While companies such as Borland have hailed UML 2.0, Microsoft views it as of being of limited interest to developers.
"Our research shows that it's not a lot of people" interested in UML 2.0, Sridharan said.
Other companies participating include Unisys, which is building designers for multiple industries, and Siemens, which plans to offer a designer for medical imaging device applications.
Paul Krill writes for Infoworld