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Microsoft Delivers Web Services Enhancements 1.0

On the same day software tools group Eclipse announced new projects and members, Microsoft Corp. unveiled Web Services Enhancements 1.0 (WSE) to support the latest specifications to make it easier for Visual Studio .NET developers to complete projects.

The Redmond, Wash. software giant said Monday its new WSE support WS-Security, WS-Routing and WS-Attachments, and works with Visual Studio .NET and the .NET Framework so developers can upgrade their Web services applications as standards evolve. The news coincides with Microsoft's announcement of the release to Web (RTW) of WSE 1.0, following the technical preview published in August 2002.

Known then as the Web Services Developers Kit, the WSE is based on XML, SOAP, and WSDL. "As these advancements gain broad adoption and mature, they will be absorbed into the .NET Framework and Visual Studio, while future releases of the Web Services Enhancements will contain the latest version of the specifications and new specification breakthroughs," Microsoft said on its Web site. "Future versions of the WSE may not be backwards compatible."

With the WSE, enterprise ready applications can be developed quickly with the support of security features such as digital signature and encryption, message routing capabilities, and the ability to include message attachments that are not serialized into XML.

WSE didn't go unnoticed by independent programmers. Mike Gunderloy, lead developer for software tools group Larkware and author of several books and articles on programming topics, said on his Web site that Microsoft "is attempting to add serious services that are missing in the original SOAP specification so that Web Services are actually useful" with WSE.

Since its introduction, developers have put WSE through "rigorous testing" and it now has the ability to help secure XML Web services across platforms and trust domains, including digital signing and encryption of SOAP messages that are compliant with the WS-Security specification, created Microsoft, IBM and VeriSign last April.

WSE can also route an XML-based Web service through intermediaries using the WS-Routing specification, which describes how to place message addresses in the SOAP message header and enables SOAP messages to travel to destinations along a message path. WSE also allows for attachments that are not serialized into XML. The WSDK provides the ability to add attachments to SOAP messages following the WS-Attachments specification.

Lastly, WSE is an extensible "pipeline" for SOAP message processing. With this capability, developers can extend the functionality of the system to customize its encryption and signing capabilities to support proprietary security infrastructures.

Larkware's Gunderloy explained the enhancements from a developer's perspective to internetnews.com.

"WS-Security is a much better answer than what was available in Microsoft tools previously - now the security can be negotiated as part of the message, rather than needing to be handled using IIS and ASP.NET strictly on the server side (or via a proprietary client setting the security context for the Web Services calls)," Gunderloy said. "WS-Routing too looks to be useful in the enterprise - any time you need to be able to set up a sensible fallover strategy, you'll need something like that. So it's nice to see it standardized. Attachments are nice, though there's nothing you can do with DIME [Direct Internet Message Encapsulation] and compound SOAP messages that you couldn't do with plain SOAP before -- it just takes fewer bits to send the binary rather than the base64 version. So that's mostly important in Internet scenarios."

Microsoft said F5 Networks, WestGlobal and WRQ Inc. are among the first firms who have used the WSE to shorten their time to market. For an introduction outlining the ground rules, please go here.