Tim Mallalieu's Blog.

Just a PM's random musings on data, models, services...

On Entities...

On Entities...

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I am jazzed by the fact that people are reading our docs and posting opinions. The feedback, positive or negative, is always good stuff for us to consume and internalize. One thing that I wanted to talk about, having read many of the blogs out there, is the bigger picture of the Entity Data Model and how the investment we are making in ADO.NET is a step towards a greater vision.

When I look out at the market trends and technology landscape today I see a number of interesting things. The move towards service orientation, composite applications and process-centric applications has been evolving for some time. The information landscape is changing from silos of data viewed through application-centric perspectives to composite, aggregated "dashboards" of information viewed through contextual (user and activity contexts) perspectives. It is no longer acceptable to have to open "n" applications or sift through "m" screens to have sufficient information and forms to perform business or personal activities. We want to be able to have all of the information and forms required to perform our desired activity in a single, rich, client experience. Much of the innovation we have seen to date has been in terms of the infrastructure to facilitate the peer-wise collaboration of mutually distrustful systems that must co-exist to satisfy the desired user experience. We see new technology offerings like Windows Communication Foundation  and Windows Workflow Foundation from Microsoft and various aspects of the ESB offering on both the Java and .NET platform.

At the end of the day, however, the core piece to the puzzle is Data. Data is the "key to the castle". Our investment in the Entity Data Model and our overall Data Programmability vision contemplates the role of data-centric services that can support the provisioning of composite applications which sit on top of networks of autonomous systems. The Entity Data Model is a store agnostic conceptual model which shall form the common substrate for data-centric services in the future. We envision a world where Master Data Management and Data Virtualization solutions are facilitated by the composition of conceptual models from collections of in-service persistent stores and external data services. We envision an environment where declarative expression of intent for OLTP activities, ad-hoc reporting, OLAP, replication can be done in terms of EDM entities. The EDM shall play a world in rich client scenarios where the EDM provides a client-specific conceptual model that aggregates locally persistent and service data in a single model which forms the basis for user presentation and client-side processes.

All of this is a lot of words to describe what I think are exciting times to come. We are dedicated to bringing the data programmability story to prominence in composite client and service scenarios. LINQ, ADO.NET Entities and the EDM are our first steps towards that vision. Our client views infrastructure provides the first level of model to model transformation (Entities to Relational Model), there is lots more to come. So keep the feedback coming... we shall endeavor to be transparent in our efforts as we can only improve through these exchanges. Hopefully you will find our existing and future work both interesting and useful.

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  • Tim,

    I agree with you that at the end of the day, data is king and I really appreciate what Microsoft has done. I would like to add though, that I feel being data centric also has its flaws. Whereas being behavior centric, which does have flaws also, has come to my attention lately. Data, though king, does deteriorate over time. It has also caused myself many problems with applications. The group I work with took a hard look at this problem and decided to shift our focus from being data minded to behavior minded and have seen some promising results. We live on business objects.

    An Entity Data Model does have its benefits, but I feel it can also stifle progress. Just a thought.

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  • Allen,

    I agree that there are issues being purely data-centric or beavior-centric. I think that this is one of the internal conflicts that folks have all the time... are you doing OO if you do not encapsulate state and behavior for example.

    Here are some random thoughts... data often outlives applications; in the move to mid-tier apps we often built new apps on top of the same persistent data. In the move to composite apps we see much of the same, building process oriented apps and rich clients that aggregate services but they are built on the same underlying data. My biased opinion is that often people who model in a behavior centric way compromise the ability for data to outlive the app. Some of the more flexible patterns are transaction script and manager style patterns which provide a separation of concerns between state and behavior. We can still provide meaningful domain models and OO infrastructure but the separation of concerns is often beneficial tactically and strategically.

    I believe that as we move to more process oriented applications and late bound aggregations of service data we will see people start to embrace dynamic models with declarative intent in more of a functional flavor than an imperative flavor. Of course, to your point... if you are polarized too far to one side or the other [which I may very well be :) ] then you can get into world where the approach indeed can stifle progress... as my wife likes to tell me "everything in moderation".

  • Tim,

    My wife says the same thing! :)

    I've been exploring the EDM and it does show promise. Maybe as it matures it could help bridge the gap between behavior and data. I know that I'll be using. Thanks for your thoughts back.

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