Microsoft aims to make COM more dynamic, scalable

Microsoft will soon detail plans to shore up its Component Object Model (COM) architecture to scale better and to handle diverse programming languages. It is expected to debut COM3 at the Professional Developers Conference, in San Diego. Microsoft's general plans for COM, which defines interfaces for intercomponent communications, include making it more dynamic and scalable. But the latter goal has been out of reach, since Distributed COM is based on a synchronous Remote Procedure Call (RPC) model that is limited in scope, analysts say.

Microsoft will next month detail plans to shore up its Component Object Model (COM) architecture to scale better and to handle diverse programming languages.

The software company is expected to debut COM3 at the Professional Developers Conference, in San Diego.

Microsoft's general plans for COM, which defines interfaces for intercomponent communications, include making it more dynamic and scalable. But the latter goal has been out of reach, since Distributed COM is based on a synchronous Remote Procedure Call (RPC) model that is limited in scope, analysts say.

"RPC, though a good interaction model, is somewhat limited, and doesn't address all of what distributed applications would like to do," says Mitch Kramer, consultant at the Patricia Seybold Group, in Boston. "Microsoft's [MSMQ] messaging could mitigate that by providing queues for asynchronous communications between components."

One developer, who requested anonymity, says COM needs a lot of work, but the best thing that Microsoft could do is make it interoperable with CORBA, a competing object model from the Object Management Group.

"COM doesn't scale, and hopefully they're working on that," says the developer. "COM has no inheritance, and I hope they're doing that. But CORBA interoperability is the most important thing, and we'll just have to see about that."

COM3, which is expected to first see the light of day in Windows NT by mid-1998, will reportedly include a lessening of the component model's C++ orientation, opening it to Java and Visual Basic. It will also include inheritance, garbage collection, improved persistence, and the provision of a COM run-time engine.

The expected addition of garbage collection appeals to one COM developer.

"Memory management is one area of improvement that we're looking for," says Art Whitten, a development manager for toolmaker Visio, in Seattle.

Microsoft is working on making it easier for developers to build COM objects in as many programming languages as possible, said Cornelius Willis, Microsoft product manager. Willis would not comment on specific features or time frames.

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