Microsoft joins industry move towards using domain-specific modelling languages

Microsoft has released a programming utility that will allow users of Visual Studio 2005 Team System to create their own visual...

Microsoft has released a programming utility that will allow users of Visual Studio 2005 Team System to create their own visual design tools, aiming to encourage users to create industry-specific applications based on the Visual Studio development environment.

The Metadata Framework will allow them to build "application designers" based on Microsoft's .net programming framework, to create service-oriented applications that can model their business processes more effectively, analysts said. It would also mean they could reuse more code to save significant time and money and reduce the scope for programming errors.

The package is part of a Community Technology Preview for global system integrators and a few corporations to try out, said Mark Quirk, .net group technical manager at Microsoft. It will eventually ship with Visual Studio 2005 Team System, which is due out next year.

The Metadata Framework uses Team System's modelling capabilities to build domain-specific language designers. Domain can refer to industry sectors such as automotive or retail; company departments such as accounts or human resources; or specific environments such as operations and testing.

Domain-specific languages are part of an industry initiative to foster "software factories" in order to automate more routine or menial application development tasks by using pre-built and pre-tested code.

The Nationwide building society is one of the early adopters. Its chief architect, Mike Warwick, said, "We have developed customised domain-specific language designers for the Visual Studio 2005 Team System to capture our unique business process semantics more effectively."

Michael Azoff, senior research analyst at Butler Group, said, "Microsoft is creating within generic software development the facility to create domain-specific rapid application development - that has been the bread-and-butter of niche software houses and consultants."

IBM recently said it would base all its new Rational branded tools on the Eclipse open source framework, which will compete with Microsoft's framework to some extent. Azoff said, "We will see the equivalent [of the Metadata Framework] emerging on Eclipse. Sun also wants to be a player, but it has tended to be behind the other suppliers with its Netbeans tools framework."

BEA has also announced a solutions framework that allows its WebLogic platform users to build vertical service-oriented applications, aimed at telecoms, financial services, manufacturing or government. It will take reusable code components to build applications for customer service, employee service, service delivery platforms, trade processing, and RFID.

"This trend is recognition that software development is a barrier for many organisations," said Bola Rotibi, senior analyst at Ovum.

Meanwhile, software tools supplier Borland said it would release an add-in tool for Visual Studio 2005 Team System, based on the UML 2.0 modelling language.

Tool story

2004/2005 Tools gain better process capabilities and standalone lifecycle facilities emerge

2005 Stronger ties to project metrics

2006 Tools have team collaboration features

2008 Tools to enable software reuse on the market.

Source: Thomas Murphy, Meta Group

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