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January 18, 2006

Microsoft releases WinFX GoLive

Microsoft Corp will today release a "GoLive" version of parts of WinFX that the company claims can be tested in a full production environment.

By CBR Staff Writer

The company has been talking up the new programming models that are to be released with the forthcoming Windows Vista OS for a couple of years. Since last year, it’s been releasing Community Technology Previews (CTP) to give developers a chance to play with the code.

Microsoft is now releasing GoLive versions of two of the three pillars: the Windows Communication Foundation (WCF, formerly code-named Indigo), which provides ESB-like features for building and deploying web services; and Windows Workflow Foundation (WF), the workflow engine that will be built into Vista, and eventually, all major Microsoft tools and applications.

To recap, WinFX includes WCF, WF, and Windows Presentation Foundation (WPF, formerly code-named Avalon), which is Microsoft’s answer to the Mac OS X visual environment. While WinFX will be released in conjunction with Vista, it will be backwards compatible with Windows XP and Windows Server 2003.

According to Ari Bixhorn, director of web services strategy for Microsoft, the company has been releasing so-called GoLive editions since the early .NET Framework days.

Early adopters wanted to test the scalability in live production environment, he said.

Among the new features being introduced with the GoLive release, Microsoft is introducing two tools for WCF that will plug into Visual Studio 2005, plus support for additional web services protocols.

The first new tool for WCF is a GUI-based configuration editor that enables developers to tweak various parameters affecting how a web service is deployed.

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With the configuration editor, you can choose whether the service is to be sent using TCP, HTTP, or some other protocol. You could also set the level of authentication or select the type of reliability, such as whether it is important to ensure that the target receives the message only once or that it arrives in sequence.

Or you could configure diagnostics, such as setting thresholds to check in message logs. The other tool added to WCF is a service trace viewer for checking the flow of messages.

Other bells and whistles include support of REST (Representational State Transfer), a precursor to the SOAP protocol. REST has been used by household names like Amazon because of its simplicity. Many of the same casual programmers who originally found Visual Basic so appealing for its ease of use are looking to REST as a simpler alternative to building SOAP messages.

The WF workflow engine adds new capabilities for embedding policy in its rules designer tooling. Additionally, WF is being made available, both as a plug-in for Visual Studio 2005, and as standalone to third party software vendors who prefer reusing Microsoft’s workflow engine rather than rolling their own.

And, not surprisingly, the latest version of the workflow engine adds support of XAML, Microsoft’s new XML-based visual markup language that it is promoting to compete with rival offerings from Adobe/Macromedia.

Microsoft claims the GoLive release is ready for testing in full production environments. However, as the equivalent of beta release, Microsoft does not yet offer official support. Instead, it refers developers to online user groups.

Furthermore, while GoLive implies that Microsoft is about to take the products to prime time, in fact, they are not considered release candidates. While Microsoft is committed to final release of Vista by the second half of this year, which includes WinFX, it is not saying whether there may or may not be another GoLive release. And it will continue offering CTP previews on a monthly basis until release.

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