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Microsoft Updates Web Services Tool

Microsoft will release the latest version of its Web Service Enhancements (WSE) tool to the general public Monday, just in time for the launch of Visual Studio 2005 (VS 2005).

WSE 3.0 is an add-on to the Visual Studio 2005 platform and .NET Framework 2.0 that allows developers to create secure Web services using the latest industry protocols.

The tool has been in beta since August.

The last update to the tool, WSE 2.0, was in June 2004 as an accompaniment to Visual Studio .NET 2003 and .NET Framework 1.1.

One of the Redmond, Wash., software company's goals is to make it easier for developers to create applications. That mindset has translated over to WSE, as well.

Ari Bixhorn, Microsoft director of Web services strategy, said there are three key elements the company was shooting for in this latest release: simplifying the development of secure Web services; the integration of WSE with VS 2005; and setting the stage for applications to be created using the Windows Communication Foundation (WCF), formerly code-named Indigo, for Web services.

One of the things Bixhorn and his team noticed when talking to developers using WSE 2.0 was that, while the programmers used WSE for a broad range of scenarios, there were a number of security patterns each used to make Web services.

This led to the creation of what Microsoft calls turnkey Web services security profiles, or templates, of pre-written code and policy files. Five of them are introduced in WSE 3.0, which allows for these five scenarios to be incorporated into a VS 2005-created application with just a few clicks of the mouse.

"If you think about the millions of Visual Basic and C# developers who may not be experts in XML-based programming, they don't need to know the intricate details of how to write XML because the WSE 3.0 tool does that for them," he said. "The benefit is that it allows them to focus on the business task at hand."

In the performance department, Bixhorn said the improvements to the .NET Framework in version 2.0, as well as enhancements to WSE 3.0, have resulted in a 30 percent increase in performance. Because of .NET Framework 2.0, WSE 3.0 will also be able to support applications that make use of 64-bit computing.

WSE 3.0 updates its support for the WS-Security specifications in use today, particularly around WS-SecureConversation and WS-Trust.

Microsoft officials also worked on what they call transport independence, the protocols used to shuttle Web services messages. In addition to the tried-and-true HTTP and TCP, Microsoft has added samples for messages using the User Datagram Protocol (UDP ) and the Simple Mail Transfer Protocol (SMTP ).

The tool also supports a recent World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) recommendation, or standard, called the Message Transmission Optimization Mechanism (MTOM).

The standard is a programming model for securely tracking attachments to a Web services message, such as a purchase order or media file.

Microsoft also wanted to ensure developers weren't stuck re-coding Web services created in WSE 3.0 when WCF (Indigo) is introduced. WCF is expected to be an integral part of Windows Vista and will ship with the operating system in 2006.

Bixhorn said Web services created using WSE 3.0 will communicate seamlessly with WCF-created Web services. The programming model in WCF will also remain consistent with WSE 3.0's model, he said.

"Developers have told us loud and clear that they want to be able to easily build secure Web services today using the tools they already have and the skills they already have, in preparation for WCF," Bixhorn said.

Developers can download WSE 3.0 for free on the Microsoft Developer Network (MSDN) Monday after the launch of VS 2005 and .NET Framework 2.0 here. .NET Framework 2.0 will need to be installed before WSE 3.0 will work, Bixhorn said.