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Adventures with AppFabric, BizTalk & Clouds

Blueprints Diary-1: Getting up to speed

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In a previous post, I called out the fact that the GAT technology is now evolving into its next version, Blueprints, and also shared why I think this is a great idea and how Blueprints makes up for deficiencies in GAT. In this series, my aim is to learn this technology and share it with you as I go deep into it. Although I never got round to blogging in detail about GAT, I did closely follow along with the progress in that space, notably concentrating on how the Service Factory implemented GAT and DSLs. So here , as we look at building and using Blueprints, we’ll also compare and contrast GAT along the way (and if the GAT content gets pretty large then I’ll hive that off into a separate set of posts).

Of course, with me being a BizTalk guy, for me it all comes down to whether these things can help with BizTalk development or not and I certainly think they can. So expect a call-back in most posts to relate it to the BTS world. The BizTalk Solution Factory has made a great start in this area (using GAT) and I do believe that with Blueprints we can take BSF to the next level.

Okay, enough preamble. Let’s get on with it. Here are the resources I’ve come across to help get started.

(A) Overview stuff

  1. MSDN – Overview (landing page) : pretty sparse at the time of writing this. Expect a lot more to come.
  2. MSDN – Introduction to Blueprints: Puts blueprints into context, explaining how it ties in with Software Factories 2.0 and what to expect from the Blueprints family of offerings.
  3. C9 – S+S Blueprints: A short video where Mike Lehman explains what S+S is and what the S+S Blueprints are all about. This was done quite a while ago when, IMO, Software Factories 2.0 hadn’t been written about, so there’s no mention of GAT/GAX or DSLs. There are a couple of other videos on Multi-Tenant data access blueprints and a Silverlight blueprint for Sharepoint. I’m not looking into the S+S area now although I suspect that when Azure starts to take off this will gain more significance.
  4. Infosys – Microsoft Blueprints – Building Process Oriented Contextual Guidance: Infosys, one of the top Indian SI’s are also one of the earliest adopters of the Blueprints technology. This article puts Blueprints into context.

(B) More Details On Blueprints

  1. C9 – Beyond VS Packages : A fairly detailed video talking about what to expect from Blueprints and a general sense of where the technology is headed.

(C) Building and Using Blueprints

  1. MSDN – Inside Blueprints : Talks about the levels of blueprints and a quick overview of the Blueprints Manager tool. This page unfortunately has serious formatting problems at present with the content defining each “level” being all over the place. I’ve pinged Mike about it so I hope it gets revised soon.
  2. C9 – S+S Blueprint Walkthrough: This screencast is a walkthrough of using the first S+S Blueprint, the Outlook+Services Blueprint. Mike shows the process of building an add-in for Outlook. The add-in is like Twitter and he calls it “Mumbl”. The process is much faster )(when compared to raw VSTO based development) because of the help of blueprints to code-gen some parts of the solution. If you are used to GAT, then this is no big deal. In fact there’s no automated generation of standard project naming conventions and all the other stuff we are used to in GAT. So from that respect its a little disappointing but remember this was done in Nov 2007 and so there’s no equivalence to GAT there.

(D) Blogs to keep an eye on

At this point in time, look out for these blogs. As the P&P team gets deeper into this, many of their blogs will contain good information. I shall highlight them as they become available and if you come across others, let me know.

  1. Mike Lehman: the lead architect for Blueprints.
  2. SF Team Blog
  3. Infosys Blogs on Software Factories
  4. Mine ? : well, I’ll leave that to you to decide  🙂

So, this should be enough to give you an idea of what’s out there. My next post will be on getting started with the blueprints manager, installing the existing samples and looking at what’s in the boxes (this inspection tends to get missed out often when looking into new stuff – we can learn a lot by diving into the existing blueprints) and then we’ll look at writing our own blueprints (which is where the real fun is).

However, If you can’t wait to get started, then make sure you have Visual Studio 2008 (Standard and above) with SP1 and head over to the codeplex site to grab the bits and look at the discussion forums for a couple of issues that have already been posted there.

As always, your feedback is welcome. As the series progresses, let me know if there’s anything specific you would like me to cover.

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Written by santoshbenjamin

November 14, 2008 at 2:39 PM

Posted in Blueprints, Factories

One Response

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  1. […] I won’t go into great details about what Blueprints are as there are already a great number of blog posts on the subject that not only show the interesting things people are doing with the framework, but […]


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