Brian's Waste of Time

Mon, 08 Dec 2003

Microsoft Taking Over O/R Mapping?

I was skimming through blog comments at and a lot of people are talking about Frans Bouma's post about the MS employees moving over there now that GotDotNet is dead. That is fine and dandy, but his comment that MS is performing anti-competitive practices by releasing ObjectSpaces is interesting.

Frans appears to work on LLBLGen which looks like a decent, Torque-style, O/R mapping tool. It points at database metadata and generates your classes with the ability to customize your codegen templates. I couldn't tell from the marketing material if it supports arbitrary object to arbitrary table mappings, and don't have a convenient VS.NET install to trial the product. I'll presume its a good product.

I have never been in a position, luckily, where I am developing a product that competes directly against Microsoft in the same market segment. I guess OJB competes against ObjectSpaces, but for very different target audiences -- and I don't make any money from OJB directly anyway, so not the same fear. I can imagine that Richard Adams's "tharn" probably describes the state of people who realize their livelihood will in a short time be in direct comptition with Microsoft products. Not fun.

Does Microsoft entering a developer market mean that everyone else with a competing library is doomed? I know that certainly didn't happen to O/R mapping with CMP Entity Beans in J2EE, CMP probably helped the other O/R libraries find greater acceptance. It helped that CMP is tied to Entity Beans, which are the handmaidens of Evil, but it also helped to raise awareness that there are strong alternatives to handcoded SQL. Most MS platform developers I know are barely aware of O/R mapping, and if they are think that ADO is O/R mapping because it is higher level than the C interfaces to whatever RDBMS they are using. Microsoft telling their minions that O/R mapping tools are an officially sanctioned "good idea" would seem to increase the market size more than take users from existing technologies. Again, I haven't gone head to head against Microsoft though, so cannot say for sure.

The bigger problem, I think, that Frans and other commercial O/R vendors face is that O/R mapping is not a nice field to be making money from right now. It is not that it is going to be commoditized soon, it is already commoditized. This may not be true in the .NET user space, but it is true in the Java space. There are dozens of O/R tools available freely, and half a dozen which are rock solid -- and at least three of those have good communities, good unit tests, and good support available. Microsoft, if they bundle ObjectSpaces with VS.Net EA or whatever their absurdly overpriced IDE is named for the next release, will not be found guilty of any anticompetitive practices for doing so. They are far from having a monopoly on IDE's or language platforms. They have a monopoly on .NET, yes, but that is because they own .NET -- many other enterprise grade platforms exist that run happily on Windows, and many more on the same hardware.

3 writebacks [/tech] permanent link