Windows 7 Project Orleans: A Cloud Computing Framework


Extraordinary Robot
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Orleans is a Microsoft Research (MSR) project and managed (.NET) software framework for building client + cloud applications. As outlined in the recently released paper on the topic: Orleans defines an actor-like model of isolated grains that communicate through asynchronous messages and manage asynchronous computations with promises. The isolated state and constrained execution model of grains allows the Orleans runtime to persist, migrate, replicate, and reconcile grain state without programmer intervention. Orleans also provides lightweight, optimistic, distributed transactions that provide predictable consistency and failure handling for distributed operations across multiple grains.

Here, we meet the Orleans team—Sergey Bykov, Alan Geller, Gabriel Kliot, James Larus, Ravi Pandya, and Jorgen Thelin—as they introduce Orleans and provide insights into the rationale and design decisions behind the project (such as the use of promises, actors, and transactions) and also spend a fair amount of time focusing on the basic unit of computation in Orleans, the grain, including implicit message passing (method calls) between isolated grains.Very interesting (and promising - pun intended) stuff!

I highly recommend that you read the paper—it's very approachable and makes many aspects of Orleans crystal clear. In fact, that's the goal of the Orleans framework: to make reliable and scalable distributed concurrent computing easier for developers to program. As we all know, it's hard to effectively program sclable distributed concurrent systems reliably. Orleans's goal is to change this by exploring new approaches (grain-based programming) using novel combinations of time-tested programming models and technologies (actors, promises, transactions, C#, CLR, etc).

Tune in. Enjoy.


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