RealTime IT News

Microsoft Shares Web Services at Work

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- Microsoft is in the advanced stages of building a software application that enables distributed computing among various computing devices.

At VSLive today, company officials generated buzz for Windows Communication Foundation (WCF), formerly known as Indigo, by showing how it works for both commercial and enterprise scenarios.

WCF, formerly known as Indigo, is being prepped for a 2006 launch. When it appears, the Redmond, Wash., software giant hopes WCF will provide a viable Web services platform capable of triggering communications between PCs and handheld computers, among other devices.

Richard Turner and Payam Shodjai, product managers for Web Services Strategy at Microsoft, used the Web services in WCF to execute business transactions and help parents keep tabs on their children's actions through a PC running WCF Web services and Windows XP Media Center software.

In the first demo, Shodjai used the example of a home improvement show, called Yankee Workshop, to show how Web services could trigger and interactive TV experience.

"Wouldn't it be cool if you could watch a home improvement show and buy anything you need by simply clicking a button on your control?" Shodjai said.

Using a Web service created by WCF, the programmer's PC asked him if he wanted to know the materials that he need to build a bookcase, where to buy them and the cost. Shodjai replied "yes" with the remote control and the PC spat out the information in seconds. The idea is the company would send the materials to Shodjai a few days later.

Behind the scenes, the Web service trolled a registry, or Web-based yellow pages, to find businesses that expose Web services and could aggregate them to fill the order directly from the PC.

The point of WCF is that not only does the consumer benefit from the ability to interact with his home entertainment system and buy what he needs without leaving the house, but the business benefits from a new revenue source with little work.

In a second demo, Turner had a parental control on his Windows XP Media Center-based PC.

When his son tried to watch Jerry Springer, an alert was created by WCF, and was sent to Turner's handheld device, warning him that his son was watching Springer. Turner wrote him back: "dude, you are so busted," and changed the program to SpongeBob Squarepants.

The idea behind this is that WCF can be used as a monitoring service to alert consumers from remote devices.

This is an important function at a time when broadband, wireless services and more intelligent computing devices are converging to take up permanent residence in consumers' homes, Turner said.

The demos were real-world scenarios of what WCF can do. Behind the scenes, WCF aims to improve on older programming methods like CORBA and COM . WCF essentially allows users to exchange requests for endpoints to do work for users and get some results.

WCF is a prime example of a service-oriented architecture (SOA) , an approach to designing applications that do not have as many dependencies between the different component applications.

WCF is part of Microsoft's next-generation application programming interface (API), or WinFX, which includes a Windows presentation layer and workflow engine to choreograph services. Turner said it is still on schedule for a release next year.

In related Web services news, standards group OASIS today has formed a technical committee to define a set of protocols for coordinating the outcome of distributed application actions.

The OASIS Web Services Transaction (WS-TX) committee plans to finalize a set of specifications based on Web Services Coordination (WS-Coordination), Atomic Transaction (WS-AtomicTransaction) and Business Activity Framework (WS-BusinessActivity).

The supporting cast for this endeavor reads like a who's who of major software makers, including, but not limited to, BEA Systems, IBM, Microsoft and Oracle.