Today marks the first day of engineering for the ADO.NET Entity Framework V2.0. V2 of the product is a combination of a continued investment in our greater data platform vision as well as a focus on new and expanded ORM scenarios. Some of the things that we are trying to do in this release are as follows:

  • Persistence Ignorance : We are looking at ways to introduce a full POCO solution for state management and interaction with the ObjectContext.
  • N-Tier Support : Today we support Data Contract serialization of entities or exposing entities via Astoria, in V2 we would like to expand to a DataSet like experience where one can remote graphs and changes to the graphs across the wire using standard WCF services.
  • Code-First : We want to enable a convention based, code only experience with EF wherein one may start with classes and opt-in to database generation and deployment. We expect that we would provide attributes and external mapping capabilities for people who wanted something beyond the convention based mapping.
  • TDD Scenarios: With the introduction of POCO classes some of the TDD scenarios get a lot easier, and we are looking at incorporating some other asks to better fill out the scenario, such as making our ObjectQuery<T> and other generated members of our context and classes virtual.
  • FK's : Today we support bi-directional relationships, and we are looking at introducing model concepts to facilitate the definition of FK like experiences in the model or in one's POCO classes.
  • Lazy Loading: Today we support explicit lazy loading (calling .Load), and we are looking at various options around LoadOptions as well as outright implicit lazy loading.
  • Query Tree Re-Writing: This allows framework develolpers to contextualy, vertically and horizontally filter query results.
  • ...

We have been looking at various options to ensure that the design of Entity Framework V2 truly reflects the requirements of the day to day challenges that our developer community faces when building real-world applications and services. We would like to start by being as transparent as possible in the design process. The approach we take will be similar to what you have seen on Astoria Team blog (ADO.NET Data Services), but I wanted to briefly describe how we’ll go about it so you know exactly what you are looking at when reading one of our design-related posts.

How did we get here? Version 1 of the ADO.NET Entity Framework is set to ship as a part of Visual Studio 2008 SP1 and the .NET Framework 3.5 SP1. This release has been the result of a number of years of effort. During V1 the team was focused on implementing an initial set of scenarios as well as the groundwork necessary to continue to build out the Entity Framework in future versions.

Where are we now? Today marks the first day of engineering for ADO.NET Entity Framework V2.0. What this means in practice is that we have a team with developers, testers, program managers, etc., that we have regular design meetings, and that we have a timeline (or more accurately, that we’re required to have a timeline but of course we’re still working on it :).

Transparency in the design? Over the years Microsoft has been opening up the engineering processes incrementally. Long ago there were only betas, and that was the only chance to see and give feedback about a product before it shipped. Then we started to do Community Tech Previews (CTPs). CTPs enabled us to provide bits more often and gather feedback frequently. The goal with increasing the transparency of design is to take this one step further: we would like to enable folks that are interested in Entity Framework version 2 to follow the design topics as we discuss them, and have the opportunity to provide feedback right during the time where we are actively discussing a certain aspect and before we have made a final decision.

What exactly would we make visible? In short, our design process. To be more concrete, I’m not talking about some fancy set of specifications. What I mean is that as we go through the detailed design of the various aspects of Entity Framework V2, we would post to this blog a) the meeting notes from our design meetings (the team has a design meeting twice a week, plus a lot of impromptu hallway chats), and b) deeper write-ups of specific design challenges where we’d like folks to understand how we’re approaching a problem and provide a channel for deep, detailed feedback.

How transparent is transparent? We want to be completely clear about the scope of the information we are sharing. One of the things we need to learn both from the Microsoft side and from the community side is whether the model works within a practical set of restrictions. We will post as much of our discussions as it is practically possible. However, we have to make sure we don’t compromise the interests of Microsoft as a company. There are certain things that can range from ideas to specific implementation details that we could consider trade secrets, high-value Microsoft intellectual property or something along those lines. It *will* happen that in some cases we will not discuss a topic publicly, either for a certain term (e.g. until a proper IP protection mechanism is in place) or until we ship or ever. This is nothing new, but I haven’t seen folks from large companies discuss this explicitly before, so we wanted to make sure it is clear here.

About your feedback: We would love to hear your thoughts, be it comments, suggestions, ideas or anything else. However, in the end we are designing a commercial Microsoft product. So we’ll happily take your feedback but you need to understand that by providing us feedback in any form you are agreeing that we may use it to develop our product, that others may use it in connection with the product and that you will not be compensated for any of these things. We may incorporate ideas or make changes based on the comments you make, or we may make changes to the product that are indirectly influenced by discussions that we have with you and other folks in the community. Again, this is nothing new, but instead of having some fancy statement written in legal lingo we wanted to be upfront about this here in this first post on the topic. Of course our legal folks looked at this, and they were cool enough to understand that the informal nature of the process is what makes it work, and they let us get away with this statement in which I think we clearly delineate what will happen with whatever feedback you send our way.

We will start posting design notes and challenges soon and tweak the process as we go.

Tim Mallalieu
Program Manager, Entity Framework