Microsoft ‘Orleans’: A New Cloud Development Platform?

August 19, 2010 Off By David
Grazed from eWeek.  Author: Darryl K. Taft.

Microsoft is working on a next-generation cloud programming model and related tools to possibly augment its cloud strategy already being played out with Windows Azure, according to documents uncovered by a prominent Microsoft observer.

In an Aug. 18 blog post on her “All About Microsoft” site, Mary Jo Foley cites documents pointing to a Microsoft research project codenamed Orleans. According to Foley:

“So what is Orleans, exactly? Orleans is a new programming model designed to raise the level of abstraction above Microsoft’s Common Language Runtime (CLR). Orleans introduces the concept of ‘grains’ as being units of computation and data storage that can migrate between data centers. Orleans also will include its own runtime that will handle replication, persistence and consistency. The idea is to create a single programming model that will work on clients and servers, which will simplify debugging and improve code mobility.”

Moreover, slides Foley uncovered also referenced Volta, which is a project Microsoft described as an effort to democratize cloud application development. From description of the Volta work in 2007, Microsoft researcher Erik Meijer said, “’If you look at when VB came on the market, it was really, really hard to do Windows programming. You had to be a C++ programmer, and then VB came around and then suddenly people could write Windows programs. Now it’s the era of the Web, but in some senses we’re back in the early days of Windows programming."

He added: “Just like Visual Basic democratized programming Windows by removing much of the boilerplate, such as message pumps and window handles, that contributed more to the problem than to the solution, we propose a toolkit of language extensions, APIs and tools that do the same for Web programming."

Meanwhile, the documents said nothing about any plans Microsoft might have for the Orleans technology–or whether it is purely a Microsoft Research effort or if the company has plans to productize it.

Whatever the case, “Orleans” appears as though it would fit directly in with Microsoft’s effort to empower developers for cloud app development. In an interview with eWEEK at Microsoft’s Worldwide Partner Conference in July, Amitabh Srivastava, senior vice president of Microsoft’s Server and Cloud Division, said Microsoft built its Windows Azure cloud platform with developers in mind from the start.

“When we were developing Azure from day one it was done for developers,” Srivastava said. “You have to allow developers to bring their skills, their current set of skills, to the cloud. So we said developers should get to choose the language they want to use. You can use any environment you want. You can use Visual Studio or you can do the entire development in Eclipse. You can’t pigeonhole developers into one or two languages or one or two frameworks. Just because our lineage is Windows Server doesn’t mean we will restrict you to using C# or a Microsoft language.”