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Microsoft Previews Web Services Enhancements 2.0

Web services tools offered by Microsoft are about to get a little safer to use.

The Redmond, Wash. software maker Tuesday issued a preview of the next version of developer tools to give Visual Studio .NET developers support for designing and building advanced Web services.

Web services are the foundations on which many software companies large and small are seeking to build. They are made available from a business's Web server for Web users or other Web-connected programs, and often allow applications to communicate with one another to perform tasks.

Microsoft, along with IBM , Sun Microsystems and BEA Systems to name a few, are hedging their bets on Web services technologies to catapult them into the next era of computing. Microsoft would like to lure more developers to its .NET platform to build these Web services on, while the other rivals rely on Java-based platforms and services.

Microsoft Web Services Enhancements (WSE) version 2.0 offers new security features, which experts say are necessary to make such processes work and make the authoring of secure Web services in enterprises and trust domains easier.

WSE 2.0 provides a messaging-based object model that supports multiple transports, including TCP and HTTP, and synchronous and asynchronous communications. Synchronous messages are those in which the sender must wait for a reply, while asynchronous messages may be submitted and retrieved any time without a user having to wait for a reply.

Compared to WSE 1.0, which was released last December, WSE 2.0 features improved routing and attachment capabilities and adds a layer for building applications based on Microsoft co-authored Web services specifications, including WS-Security, WS-Policy, WS-SecurityPolicy, WS-Trust, WS-SecureConversation and WS-Addressing.

These specs have been enjoying momentum in recent months. Within WSE 2.0, WS-Trust, WS-SecureConversation build on WS-Security and define extensions to request and issue security tokens and to manage relationships and secure conversations.

WS-Policy and WS-SecurityPolicy help developers author policies that operate a runtime component. For example, the runtime can automatically sign and encrypt a message based on the authored policy without the developer having to write code. WS-Addressing provides users a message-based programming model over TCP and HTTP, allowing them to explore alternative types of SOAP-based applications such as ad hoc peer-to-peer applications.

"Developers are now able to apply a set of security policies to Web services with minimal lines of code in a way that is interoperable across heterogeneous systems," said Rebecca Dias, product manager for advanced Web services at Microsoft.

Microsoft counts media giant Reuters as one of the companies using WSE to deliver financial information using Web services.

"WSE and the Microsoft .NET Framework address a critical need for our customers by providing the necessary security infrastructure by leveraging WSE's implementation of WS-Security and WS-Policy capabilities," said Bill Evjen, technical director of development for Reuters. "This infrastructure allows our customers to quickly and easily communicate with our financial services customers in a secure and standardized manner."

WSE 2.0 is available as a free download at the MSDN site.