Microsoft details new domain-specific modeling tools

Microsoft Corp. is continuing its efforts to tap the enterprise-level development market with the announcement of a new framework and tool for Visual Studio Team System to support the creation of service-oriented applications for various vertical industries.

The new technology — designed to be used for building custom visual modeling tools — is part of a Community Technology Preview released by Microsoft to help users and vendors test it with the design tools that will ship with Visual Studio 2005 Team System. Microsoft earlier this year detailed plans for VSTS, which it said will provide development, design and testing tools in a single product that can bolster collaboration among architects, developer and IT professionals.

Microsoft was scheduled to make the announcement in Vancouver at the ACM Conference on Object-Oriented Programming, Systems, Languages and Applications. Siemens AG and Unisys Corp. announced plans to use the new technology to deliver domain-specific language designers for specific industries. And tools vendor Borland Software Corp. said it plans to provide a domain-specific modeling solution that would deliver Unified Modeling Language capabilities within VSTS.

The new framework and tool will allow users to add customized modeling that could, for example, layer regulatory policy enforcement to the generic tools planned for VSTS, said Prashant Sridharan, Microsoft’s lead product manager for Visual Studio.

“The kind of service-oriented applications I would build in the retail industry are dramatically different from the services I would build in the health care industry,” he said. “Instead of using a generic set of tools, I can specialize those tools for the work I do and the way that I work. I am constrained so that I don’t go off track or do something that is not permitted.”

Domain-specific languages are part of an industry effort to foster “software factories” to tailor the development life cycle to support customized applications for vertical and horizontal business domains.

The announcement shows Microsoft is working to address the needs of more enterprise-scale development projects “where there is a need to have much more control over the development process” than in smaller team efforts, said Mark Driver, an analyst at Gartner Inc. in Stamford, Conn.

Thomas Murphy, an analyst at Meta Group Inc. in Stamford, Conn., agreed, adding that the VSTS announcement also strengthens Microsoft’s leadership in the Web services arena with .Net.

“There is a lot of pressure building in the market for Java to move beyond its response of Web services API support and for the platform to prove itself out,” Murphy said. “Unfortunately, this is an area where Java’s various supporters each are trying to build differentiation. Rather than evolving a common J2EE response, each is developing a vendor-specific response.”

As a result, the battleground is evolving to .Net vs. IBM Corp.’s WebSphere, BEA Systems Inc.’s WebLogic and SAP AG’s NetWeaver, as opposed to .Net vs. J2EE, he added.

“Of course, Microsoft only has to worry about itself, not holding together different partners’ implementations, which allows it to rapidly evolve,” Murphy said.

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