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Microsoft releases new Web services enablers

At its TechEd conference, Redmond takes the wraps off new technology designed to ease the creation of Web services and enable service-oriented applications.

SAN DIEGO -- Microsoft offered new support for XML-based Web services and service-oriented architecture (SOA) with three releases at its TechEd conference on Monday.

The software maker's chief executive, Steven Ballmer, also trumpeted what he called independent confirmation that its .NET application development framework is now used by a majority of U.S. programmers.

XML and the stack that goes below it is the best thing that could have happened to our industry, and one of the most important.
Steve Ballmer

"XML and the stack that goes below it is the best thing that could have happened to our industry, and one of the most important," Ballmer said. "XML Web services are essentially an architected way to do interoperability."

During a keynote address, Ballmer announced the availability of Web Services Enhancements 2.0, or WSE. The product is billed as an add-on to Microsoft's Visual Studio .NET developer tools and its .NET development environment that allows enterprises to build and consume Web services using popular Web services specifications, including WS-Security.

Microsoft also said WSE (pronounced whiz-zee) lets IT administrators apply Web services security policies across heterogeneous systems.

Office's new Web services connector

Also announced on Monday was a beta release of Microsoft's Information Bridge Framework (IBF) for the Office productivity suite. Ballmer said the toolset connects back-end systems with Office so that end users can conduct Web services transactions using data from applications such as Excel, Outlook and Word.

The move gives customers "a taste" of what's going to come in Visual Studio 2005, said Peter Pawlak, an analyst with the Directions on Microsoft consultancy, of Kirkland, Wash. And it provides a bridge to Web services for Office users until Microsoft can build those features into the next version of Office, which Pawlak predicted would arrive about the same time as Longhorn -- the next iteration of Windows.

IBF will be available as a free download from the Microsoft Developer Network site in July, the company said.

Another product announcement from TechEd was the release of Visual Studio 2005 Team System, which Ballmer described as a suite of "extensible life-cycle tools" for the Visual Studio platform that adds capabilities for group development, modeling, testing and deployment. Microsoft said developers can use those tools to create applications based on SOA.


Learn how to implement WS-Security


Read about Microsoft adding to its list of free XML schema

Testing security from the start

The Visual Studio Team System includes static analysis tools that provide detailed information about coding and security errors in an application, said Prashant Sridharan, the senior product manager for Visual Studio. He provided a demo of the product during Ballmer's keynote speech on Monday.

Conducting security testing from the beginning of the development process is a more effective method than waiting to test at the end, which is a "really bad idea," Sridharan said.

TechEd attendee Matt Eaton, a developer with East West Technology, said he thought the idea of security testing throughout the development process "was pretty amazing."

"I could definitely see us doing security checks for applications while they're in testing," said Eaton, whose Edwards, Colo.-based employer serves the real estate industry. "And we have a lot of busy Web sites, so the performance monitoring while in development would be very helpful."

"It seems like it would make the application process a little faster, if you could do that on the fly."

Growth of .NET use cited

During his speech, Ballmer also touted the progress of .NET, Redmond's signature development environment and the successor to Win32.

He cited a Forrester Research report from earlier this month that found that more than 50% of U.S. developers are using .NET to create their applications -- more than Win32 and even more than Sun Microsystems Inc.'s Java. He said the report by Cambridge, Mass.-based Forrester Research Inc. confirms Microsoft's internal research.

Those numbers won't mean the demise of Win32, apparently.

"We still have a lot of customers who are on Win32," Ballmer said. "We will continue to support those customers."

In a related announcement, Microsoft said Tibco Software Inc., of Palo Alto, Calif., will support Visual Studio as an extensibility suite for its runtime and its platforms. Oracle Corp. and SAP AG announced similar support recently as part of the Visual Studio Industry Partner program.

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