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Microsoft: Web Services Covered With Indigo

SAN FRANCISCO -- Indigo, the Web services-oriented piece of Microsoft's still-in-beta Visual Studio 2005 development tool, could practically free developers from writing code, a Microsoft executive claimed today.

At the very least, the tool should help cut down on how much code they write.

Eric Rudder, Microsoft's senior vice president of servers and tools, demonstrated how the move to Web services via Indigo will move the development process from code to attribute management.

Indigo is Microsoft's implementation of an interoperable service-oriented architecture (SOA) that can be used as a platform by developers.

In his keynote delivered at VS Live! 2005 on Tuesday, Rudder added some adjectives to that description that could make developers happy.

"Indigo is a unified programming model for rapidly building secure, reliable service-oriented applications," he told the audience. Integrated tightly with Visual Studio, Microsoft's graphical development application, it relies on managing attributes instead of writing lines of code.

To make his point, Rudder showed code for a CRM implementation Microsoft created in-house. The first iteration, written using Visual Studio .NET 2003, took 56,296 lines of code. "That's when we made the commitment to do WSE [Web Services Enhancements]," Rudder said. The next round took 27,321 lines of code. (WSEs are described as supported add-ons to Visual Studio .NET and the .NET Framework.)

Rebuilding the application with Indigo and VS 2005, the app took just three lines of code -- one line for security, one line for reliable messaging and one for transactions.

"Indigo continues the trend toward service-oriented development," Rudder said. "It enables you to build loosely-coupled services while unifying IT administration."

Ari Bixhorn lead product manager, web services strategy for Microsoft, helped with a demo of how developers at a hospital could use Indigo to augment an existing patient monitoring system. Simply dragging and dropping allowed him to add an external service providing prescription information to the display of EEG and heart rate.

Bixhorn noted that the prescription information was running on BEA Systems' WebLogic. Although the BEA application was not a Web service, Indigo could call the app because it supports other Web services formats.

"Indigo can speak to not only other Indigo services, but to any other platform that supports Web services," Rudder noted.

Bixhorn also demonstrated how Indigo can simplify security. The tools allow for quick specification of security bindings: Bixhorn included a single line of code to add a custom attribute parameter, causing the application to request authentication in the form of a scan of the doctor's fingerprint.

Rudder promised developers an easy transition to Indigo's Web services -- and only when they're ready.

"You won't need to change your code," he promised. "All these other programming models will continue to work. No one has to panic the day Indigo comes out. There's no imperative that you must move to Indigo."

The transition will be simplest, Rudder said, for developers already working with ASMX, the Web services framework within Microsoft's .NET Framework, and Web Services Enhancements for Microsoft .NET (WSE) 2.0. WSE 2.0 provided extensions to ASMX. Indigo will interoperate with WSE -- or any other Simple Object Access Protocol code.

Microsoft will maintain integration between Indigo Web Services and its Windows Server System Line, Rudder said. Businesses will continue to use BizTalk to orchestrate applications and SQL Server 2005 to manage databases. BizTalk Server 2005 will include na adapter for Indigo. Ihe next version out, the native protocol will be Indigo.

"The default architectural assumption," Rudder said, "will be that you're using Web services." Microsoft hasn't given any guidance about when BizTalk 2005 will ship.

For SQLServer 2005, Microsoft plans to maintain its Service Broker implementation and protocol, and put the Indigo programming model on top. In the subsequent version, with no ship date in sight, Service Broker will use Indigo transports.

Of course, the full Indigo-enabled Windows product, code-named Longhorn, is not expected to ship until 2006. Rudder said Microsoft will release a community technology preview (CTP) of Indigo in March.

While developers wait for Longhorn and Indigo, Rudder advised them to at least "start to really think hard about building services using Visual Studio. It's the easiest way forward." They should build services using ASMX and use WSE for Web services support, he said.

"People need to roll out new chunks of things without breaking old chunks of things," Rudder said. "Nobody wants to upgrade their SAP system every month or every year." With SOAs, development will be more incremental, as will deployment, he added. "The shift to SOA is moving from built-to-last systems to those that are more agile and adaptable, built for change."