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LightSwitch And OData: Like Putting Out A Fire With A Telephone

Visual Studio LightSwitch is a relatively young technology. Its supporters, have various reasons for supporting it. For some it has allowed them to realize their dream application, for others it has allowed them to finally complete that long suffering project.

For myself, my primary motivation is that it allows me to actually complete projects in a reasonable amount of time (and time is money). In most cases I can complete a project 95%+ faster than if I coded the exact same requirements in ASP.NET Web Forms.

The Silverlight Match

Last year, however, there has been a disquiet among my fellow LightSwitch enthusiasts. Silverlight's largest detractor was no longer outsiders but Microsoft:

The problem is that LightSwitch, at the time, only created Silverlight applications. Out ‘in the field’ people would commonly ask, “isn’t Silverlight dead?”. How can we promote LightSwitch in our organizations and to our colleagues and fellow developers if ‘Silverlight is dead’ ?

LightSwitch: The House Is On Fire

For many of my fellow LightSwitch supporters the house was on fire and they were wondering what the LightSwitch team was going to do to put it out. Most agreed that LightSwitch needed to output HTML5 pages to remain competitive.

To use the House Is On Fire as a metaphor, the supporter was watching the house burn and wanted a fire hose, fast.

On February 29th 2012 the LightSwitch team gave us… OData and said HTML5 support won't (yet) be included in LightSwitch.   

This was not the fire hose people were looking for. Think about it, your house is burning down and instead of giving you a fire hose, someone gives you… well… a telephone. How are you suppose to put the fire out with a telephone?

I Was Not Scared – Just Annoyed

During the past year I was not scared for the future of LightSwitch, I was annoyed. Many… ok most people did not see what I see. The brilliance of the LightSwitch architecture. LightSwitch does not just create applications, what it mainly does is allow you to define an application, its entities, both local and external, its business rules and objects, and its security. It also allows you to define the UI (user interface). I deliberately use the word define at this point because it is the second part of LightSwitch, the publishing process that actually implements the application and the UI.

When you publish a LightSwitch application, that is when the Silverlight application is created. However, LightSwitch was designed from the ground up to be a two part process. I have always been confidant that the reason it is a two part process is that the LightSwitch team knew years ago, when the product was being designed, that it needed to be designed to publish and output in other technologies.

To return to the House Is On Fire metaphor,  I have faith only because I can recognize that the city has built fire hydrants and there is one nearby.

So yeah, I was a bit shocked too when I was staring at a telephone rather than a fire hose!

LightSwitch Team - Playing The Long Game

One thing I have come to accept over the past two years interacting with the LightSwitch team is that they really are smarter than the average person. They think ahead, way ahead. The proof is in the LightSwitch application and its extensibility that can handle any challenge I have thrown at it. The has over 50 sample applications that I have created over the past 2 years, proving over and over again that it can create any professional enterprise application.

So even I had to stop and think, back to the House Is On Fire metaphor, is a telephone what I really need? With a telephone:

  • I can call for help
  • I can get information from other people
  • Perhaps the fire is bigger than I thought?
    • I can call for an airplane water drop

So perhaps the most important thing is not to create HTML5 web pages (the fire hose), but to first improve communication:

  • When the HTML5 ‘yet’ comes, wont the LightSwitch team need a solid core built on OData to communicate between the HTML5 pages and LightSwitch?
  • By implementing OData now, doesn’t that allow me to create HTML5 pages, JQuery Mobile apps, Native Android apps, Windows Phone 7 apps, now? (and later communicate with technologies that have yet to be created?)

When your house is burning down, maybe what you really do need is a telephone.

Also See:

Blog - Betting The House On LightSwitch

Blog - LightSwitch: It’s About The Money… (It’s Always About The Money)

Blog - Oh, And It's Also All About Productivity

Blog - LightSwitch: "There is a commitment to explore creation of apps other than Silverlight..."


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