Today during the VSLive! keynote here in Redmond I announced a new product called Microsoft® Visual Studio® LightSwitch™, which is the simplest way to build business applications for the desktop and cloud. LightSwitch is a new member of the Visual Studio family focused on making it easy to develop line of business applications.
At their core, most end user business applications combine two things: data + screens. LightSwitch is optimized around making these two things very simple. Let’s walk through a simple example which demonstrates how easy it is to get going.
LightSwitch is a stand alone Visual Studio product (it will also be available in future versions of Visual Studio Professional and above). VS Professional gives you a lot of options for building your application, including being able to build top tier enterprise wide apps. This is very powerful but also presents you with a lot of options to sort out up front as you contemplate your architecture. With LightSwitch we make it really simple with two choices: VB or C#!
Other Data, Including SharePoint
Not all of your data is stored in a single database. Often time you need to combine data from more than one database as well as other data sources. LightSwitch makes it easy for you to do joins across disparate data sources (internally using WCF RIA Services to serve up the data). So as an example you can attach to a SharePoint list and create new screens that combine data from a database and SharePoint. Being able to do this kind of data mash up is very powerful. Being able to do the join without having to write any code is just awesome :-)
Kick Starting the Cloud
I’m sure you’ve seen that we are “All in” on the Cloud and LightSwitch is no exception. In fact LightSwitch has been designed to target the cloud using the same set of data and screen designers I’ve shown above. You can easily create your schema and store data using SQL Azure. Your running business logic can be hosted in the Azure cloud meaning you never have to do administration work. The really powerful thing about this is there is nothing special for you to do in order to run in the cloud. You will simply do the deploy step when you are happy with your app and then point your users at the URL. The same is true of SQL Azure: it is just like any other database you can target.
Running in the Browser
By default LightSwitch produces a desktop application. This kind of app can work very easily with local data and can integrate with Office as mentioned above. Some times you will also want to give access to the application in the browser. This is very easy using the Properties settings for the application: