Back in 2005 Eddie Churchill, one of the BizTalk team members presented a couple of Channel 9 video titled “First look at Solution Designer” and “Biztalk’s sexy new XSLT Mapper”. These videos showed very early prototypes of want may go on to form a part of BizTalk Server vNext. The BizTalk Solution Designer and the new mapper looked like great tools, and I remember many BizTalk developers looking forward to using them in BizTalk applications. Unfortunately they never made it into BizTalk, and the BizTalk team continued with the development of future versions of BizTalk Server and pretty much stuck with the same developer toolset.
About the same time in 2005, Microsoft announced Windows Workflow Foundation (WWF at the time, later changed to WF), and ever since then there has been speculation that WF would replace the orchestration engine in BizTalk Server, with Windows Communication Foundation (WCF) forming the communication layer. BizTalk Server 2006 R2 saw the introduction of WCF based adapters, and a new adapter framework that is based on WCF, but so far there has been no use of WF in BizTalk Server.
Oslo Unveiled
In October 2007, two years after Eddie’s presentation and the announcement of WF, Microsoft publicly unveiled the “Codename Oslo” strategy at the SOA/BPM summit in Redmond. They announced that there would be a “Universal Editor”, a graphical tool that could be used by architects and analysts to model SOA and integration applications at a high level. This “Universal Editor” may lift some of the ideas from the BizTalk Solution Designer, but it is expected that it will be much less technical in nature as it’s aimed at modelling applications rather than implementing them. They also announced a number of other technologies that would be included in the Oslo wave of technologies.
%u00b7 BizTalk Server “V6”
%u00b7 System Center “V5”
%u00b7 Visual Studio “V10”
%u00b7 BizTalk Services “V1”
%u00b7 .NET Framework “V4”
Since then there has not been much public information shared about Oslo, there have been a few rumours circulating regarding some of the Oslo technologies.
Oslo at TechEd
TechEd US in June saw pretentions and interviews by David Chappell and Jon Flanders that were touching on Oslo technologies but not going into any deep technical details on what would be delivered. David gave a good overview of the Oslo technologies, and Jon provided some useful information for developers who are wanting to gear up for Oslo.
In the TechEd Fishbowl interview, David Chappell mentioned that Oslo would consist of three main components.
%u00b7 A storage repository and visual modelling tool
%u00b7 A new version of Windows Workflow Foundation
%u00b7 A process server to host WCF services and WF workflows
This was the first public indications of the development of the Oslo platform from Microsoft that has come since the SOA/BPM summit in October last year.
September Announcement
On 5th September 2008 there was an announcement in the BizTalk homepage regarding the future directions of BizTalk and Oslo, featuring a Q&A with Oliver Sharp, and an updated BizTalk Roadmap.
BizTalk Server 2006 R3 has been renamed to BizTalk Server 2009. This decision makes a lot of sense. BizTalk Server 2006 R2 was basically the same server runtime and development tools as BizTalk Server 2006, but with the addition of features for WCF, WDI, RFID, and BAM interceptors for WF and WCF. BizTalk Server 2009 will see improvements in the developer tools, support for the 2008 wave of developer tools and server platform, as well as enhanced EDI and UDDI functionality. Microsoft also announced that there would be continued development of the BizTalk platform in the future, with a release cycle roughly every two years. This is very good news for existing BizTalk customers and developers as it confirms the commitment to continue development of BizTalk Server for the foreseeable future.
One of the proposed features for the version after 2009 is improved developer productivity enhancements, mentioning complex mapping. So one day we may see some of the ideas from Eddie Churchill’s “Sexy New XSLT Mapper” finally make it into the product.
The September announcement also changed the scope of codename Oslo in a significant way. Last year Oslo was described as a large collection of differing technologies, at PDC David Chappell described Oslo’s three main components as modelling tools, a process server, and a new version of WF. According to the announcement, Oslo now consists of just the modelling components.
%u00b7 A modelling tool
%u00b7 A modelling language
%u00b7 A storage repository
This is confirmed by Douglas Purdy in his “What is Oslo?” blog post. “That is it.That is all Oslo is.Oslo is just the modelling platform.”
This makes a lot of sense, as previously there were a large range of existing and future technologies that were under the Oslo umbrella. This “wave of technologies” included server products, modelling tools, and improvements in the .net platform. Having a clear definition of Oslo representing the modelling aspects of these technologies provides a much clearer definition of what Oslo is.

As for the process server, the new workflow version, BizTalk Services, and the other developments, we will have to wait until PDC at the end of October for further confirmation. It should be a very exciting conference.