Microsoft Prepping Preview of REST Support, App Server Improvements

PDC handouts will highlight workflow, communication technologies and hosting platform for services.

Microsoft on Wednesday said it plans to significantly increase its support for REST as part of three technologies it will preview later this month that contribute to building a foundation for supporting Web 2.0 and composite applications.

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At its annual Professional Developers Conference, which begins Oct. 27, Microsoft will hand out to attendees "community technology previews" (CTP) of Windows Workflow Foundation (WWF) 4.0, Windows Communication Foundation (WCF 4.0) and a set of technologies code-named Dublin that begin to turn Windows application server into a host for composite applications.

REST is a way to build simple interfaces for services and is a lightweight alternative to the Simple Object Access Protocol (SOAP) used in many Web services today.

The company is not announcing final delivery dates for any of the software, but Microsoft is clearly beginning to align its software and development tools with its ideas around a computing future filled with services.

The announcement comes two days after Microsoft provided a quick peek at Visual Studio 2010 and the .Net Framework 4.0 and said the two would be categorized under five focus areas.

One of those areas was titled "riding the next-generation platform wave" and Wednesday's announcement expanded on that theme.

"We are trying to address the move toward Web services and composite applications," said Burley Kawasaki, director of product management in the connected systems division at Microsoft. He said the applications could be traditional SOA-type or Web 2.0 applications.

One important step for developers is improved support for REST interfaces in WCF 4.0 and a REST Starter Kit.

There is a running debate among developers comparing Microsoft's WS-* stack of Web services protocols, which are mostly based on SOAP, and REST, which is a more lightweight mechanism for lashing together services.

The Starter Kit will ship with WCF in the .Net Framework 4.0 and provide Visual Studio project and item templates including: REST Singleton Service, REST Collection Service, ATOM Feed Service, Atom Publishing Protocol Service and HTTP Plain XML Service.

"Microsoft has finally gotten on the REST bandwagon," says Stephen Forte, chief strategy officer for Telerik, which develops user interface components for ASP.Net, Windows Forms and .Net Reporting software. "I would suspect you will see more REST support everywhere in the Framework. This is definitely evidence of that."

Microsoft hopes the Starter Kit makes it easier for developers to use REST with WCF. The Starter Kit also includes support and guidance around caching, security and error handling in REST servers, and early ideas for a REST client, according to Microsoft.

The Starter Kit will be available on CodePlex when released in late October.

WCF 4.0 also includes messaging enhancements around UDP and MQ transport technology, and protocols support for SOAP over UDP, WS-Discovery, and WS-BusinessActivity.

Microsoft also plans to use XAML, its declarative XML-based language, to integrate WCF and WWF, giving developers the ability to build entire applications in XAML.

With Dublin, Microsoft is turning its Web application server into a platform to host those applications.

Dublin will provide code as pre-built services including message-based correlation, message forwarding service, content-based message routing and compensation service for long-running transactions

"You as a developer don't have to write all the infrastructure code you might have to today such as statement management or long running transactions," Kawasaki says.

Dublin also will work in conjunction with BizTalk Server and integrate with "Oslo," Microsoft’s forthcoming modeling platform that is a highlight for PDC. Users building Oslo models will be able to deploy those on Dublin.

Microsoft said future versions of Dynamics AX and CRM would align with Dublin and .Net Framework 4.0.

Microsoft plans to build the Dublin technology into a future version of Windows Server and said Dublin will first be available as a download add-on to Windows Server 2008 after the release of the .Net Framework 4.0 and Visual Studio 2010.

Microsoft's Kawasaki would not say if other Windows Server versions would be supported.

Enhancements to WWF 4.0 include performance tweaks, new workflow control models and an updated visual designer.

Telerik's Forte says the update to the designer, used for building workflows, are significant because now independent software vendors (ISV) can make the designer available in their applications.

"To us that is make or break," he said. "Without the ability to rehost the designer it is extremely difficult for an ISV to integrate WWF into their products." Telerik plans to use the designer in its Sitefinity content management application.

This story, "Microsoft Prepping Preview of REST Support, App Server Improvements" was originally published by Network World.

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