Virtuoso Expands UDA Features with ASP.NET

OpenLink Software, Inc., a provider of UDA (Universal Data Access) and web services middleware, will include support for ASP.NET in its Virtuoso 3.0 Universal Server for SQL and XML data, slated to ship in Q1 2003. Integration Developer News interviews OpenLink CEO Kimberly Idehen to hear how he thinks developers should prepare in 2003 for web services integration projects.

Tags: Virtuoso, Developers, Mono, Web Services, Support, Database, Windows,

OpenLink Software, Inc., a provider of UDA (Universal Data Access) and web services middleware, will include support for ASP.NET in its Virtuoso 3.0 Universal Server, slated to ship in Q1 2003.

OpenLink has a more than decade-long heritage of helping developers tie into legacy data, providing both JDBC and ODBC tools with Virtuoso, their multipurpose, multiprotocol server virtual database for SQL and non-SQL data. More than a simple staging server, Virtuoso offers developers and users links between different data stores. With the coming release of Virtuoso 3.0, the company will push into the realm of data integration and web services, bringing support for ASP.NET and SQL-to-XML data communications and conversions.

Integration Developer News spoke with Kingsley Idehen, OpenLink's president/CEO, to discuss the features and strategy behind Virtuoso 3.0, which will enable developers and DBAs to create XML web services, user-defined types, stored procedures, functions and triggers. With Virtuoso 3.0's support for ASP.NET and Mono (the Open Source project to bring Microsoft's.NET framework to Linux and Unix), developers will be able to use any .NET-bound language on Windows, Linux, Mac OS X and a variety of UNIX platforms, Idehen said.

To learn more about how OpenLink will use existing and new technologies to deliver on this vision of the "developer-as-integrator," check out the full interview.

An Integration Developer News Interview with Kingsley Idehen,
CEO and President, OpenLink

IDN: Before we discuss your support for ASP.NET and Mono, let's get some perspective on your company. What's the target for Virtuoso?

Idehen: Virtuoso is a multipurpose, multiprotocol server virtual database for SQL and non-SQL data. With Virtuoso, we look to provide developers and users a single connection to provide links to different databases. We also provide ability to convert SQL -to XML.

IDN: So, web services is a natural expansion of that focus?

Idehen: We're adding a web services element using SOAP as a standard invocation method, to transparently make SQL stored procedures invocable as SOAP services and describable by WSDL. With our Virtuoso 3.0, we also wanted to extend the platform to work with other platforms, and that's where Mono comes in.

IDN: And what shape does your support of .NET and Mono take?

Idehen: We host Mono's .NET CLR on Windows to homogenize the heterogeneous applications logic. Using Mono helps us make that logic invocable by SOAP. Also, as increasing number of technology providers provide .NET bindings for such legacy systems as COBOL and other languages, the developer will get more flexibility. All Virtuoso will have to do is glue our functionality to those [.NET resources], and developers won't have to learn a lot of new things about new environments. We have been in the connectivity space for years, supporting many Microsoft ODBC and Java JDBC drivers.

IDN: Could you explain precisely how the CLR will help you deliver on your vision?

Idehen: With ASP.NET and Mono [combined], that gives us the ability to let developers' .aspx applications and code be platform independent, and work with many varieties of Unix and Windows.aspx.

IDN: How important would you say Mono and ASP.NET are to that vision for Virtuoso?

Idehen: It's a very, very strategic piece of our road map going forward.

IDN: Is it so strategic that Virtuoso will be committed only to .NET as an enabling technology?

Idehen: With Virtuoso, we want to give developers an option. Freedom is an important element for our value proposition, so you have an option to say, 'I want it with CLR hosting (.NET with Windows and Mono for non-Windows). At the same time, I can have Virtuoso hosting with binaries for .NET or Java.'

IDN: At this point in technology development, do you have a preference between .NET or Java in conjunction with Open Source, cross-platform options such as Mono?

Idehen: .NET is the one with the most solid road map. I see .NET over the long haul adversely affecting Java; I fundamentally believe the technology is superior. The existence of Mono as a project speaks volumes of the technical road map of .NET versus Java.

You're taking a lot of functionality that already exists today in the Visual Basic world and C++ world, and all of sudden this will compete with the Java world. The only problem with all these developer technologies is that you could use it in a Windows world. Now, you can use it all, through Mono, in a non-Windows world. The ability to take a bindery from Windows and make it work somewhere else is where Mono is so strong.

IDN: What are some key benefits that Mono and ASP.NET bring Virtuoso?

Idehen: With Mono's support for ASP.NET, all you do, with .aspx files, is load them into Virtuoso files. Without ASP.NET support, you would have to write the engine, write the renderer -- you would have to be able to render those .aspx files. And then you would have to have a C# compiler. And, you'd have to have a mechanism for parsing the .aspx pages. You can also support ASP code, as well, because ASP.NET supports ASP.

IDN: What are some specific advances you see from ASP.NET, compared with options, like PHP, for instance?

Idehen: We've been doing database integration support for years, and if developers want dynamic database-driven pages, and they want a flushed-out IDE, that's where Visual Studio has some strong advantages over PHP.

IDN: Can you elaborate on that?

Idehen: There are a lot of PHP-driven sites out there, but 90 percent of those sites are talking to MySQL, or aren't really doing any heavy database work. When you get to the ASP.NET world, there's a much richer underlying database-driven model, so with today's ASP or .aspx page, when it comes to database centricity, the .aspx page is doing much more sophisticated work than the PHP page.

As the need to develop more sophisticated database-driven web pages increases, especially with data accessing and the ability to talk to different databases or to communicate with web services in the background, an IDE that can bring that together coherently will increase developer productivity. And I think those kind of tools, available cross-platform because of Mono, will create a groundswell because the conventional Linux or Unix developer now realizes they are no longer confined.

IDN: So, do you think Mono's bundling of ASP.NET, and implementations like Virtuoso will affect how developers think about building dynamic web pages or web services?

Idehen: It will have a ripple effect, I think. But there's another development from Microsoft coming next year that will add to that.

IDN: What's that?

Idehen: Microsoft has come up with something they call the Web Matrix. It's essentially a stripped-down version of Visual Studio .NET, and it's written in C#, so it's all managed classes. It's the equivalent of a Java IDE built 100% in Java, so there are no non-Java components. All I need is to take to my classes to wherever there is a JVM, and my IDE will manifest itself.

A typical Linux developer may not touch Visual Studio.NET, let's say, because he doesn't touch Windows -- period. But with Web Matrix, which is a VS.NET replica with managed classes, you now have an IDE for both the Windows and the non-Windows world. All that will be needed is the completion of support for Windows Forms, which will come from WINE, another Open Source project.

IDN: Let's talk specifically about Virtuoso 3.0. Will Virtuoso 3.0 have Mono bundled with it from the outset? And will it be branded as "Mono" so developers will know you have Open Source with your product?

Idehen: Virtuosos 3.0 will have Mono in it, and that's how it will be branded. Our initial beta release is for Linux, and then we'll have the Windows bindings and then Mac OS X. After that, we'll then take it to other platforms we've worked on for years, such as Solaris and HP Itanium.

Virtuoso 3.0 with Mono/ASP.NET will be available in commercial beta in January 2003 from OpenLink Software.

Inside Mono's ASP.NET Support
"Although we had ASP.NET in the prototype version, we have now integrated the System.Web classes," Mono creator Miguel de Icaza told IDN. "Now, we've done it the way Microsoft has designed it."

In part, the new upgrade, called Mono 0.17, comes with "many new System.Data providers and a more mature System.Web (ASP.NET), which can now be hosted in any web server," according to de Icaza's release notes. A simple test web server to host ASP.NET has been released, as well. The Mono version 0.17, which is the first Open Source support for Microsoft's ASP.NET development environment, can be downloaded here.