The next version of Microsoft's Visual Studio, code-named Orcas, will have a data mapping substrate called ADO.Net Entities, which will provide a data model focused on business terminology, a Microsoft executive said in his blog.

The ADO team's ADO.Net Entities moves the data model up from the physical structure of relational tables to a "data model that more accurately represents business entities such as 'Customer' or 'Order' that could map to multiple relational tables and views," said S. "Soma" Somasegar, corporate vice president of the developer division at Microsoft. His blog is frequently a source of insight into what is going on at Microsoft.

A preview of Entities is due before the end of this year, and it will be in the Orcas version of Visual Studio.

Entities will allow developers to define complex mapping to relational data, enabling development of new business structures when the data schema cannot be changed, Somasegar said.

"You can think about Entities as a declarative way to specify the structure of a business object, which you can then add business logic to and, through the power of LINQ (Language-Integrated Query), be able to query over them as well." Somasegar said. "Entities will allow us to provide a common data model within the familiar ADO.Net environment that can be used across high-level functions such as reporting, replication, and BI (business intelligence)."

With LINQ, developers do not need to learn separate query syntaxes when querying over data domains such as XML, Relational and Objects.

Entities will help improve communication between business people and developers, said Lyn Robison, an analyst with the application platforms group at the Burton Group. "It will raise the level of abstraction so that you can begin to think of data from a business perspective, not just from a rows-and-tables-in-a-database perspective," Robison said.

"The idea of logical modeling is valuable and if the Entities technology helps facilitate that, that will be very useful," he said. However, it is too early to tell how successful Microsoft will be with Entities, Robison said.