Microsoft Corp. is developing upgrades to its enterprise templates and frameworks for the next major version of the Visual Studio .Net platform that will let developers scale applications to the enterprise level.
The Redmond, Wash., company introduced preliminary versions of these development tools in February, when it announced Visual Studio .Net 1.0. Microsoft is working to enhance the tools to be more robust and scalable, with support for Web services federation, business orchestration and test tools, said sources familiar with the companys plans.
Support for federated Web services will be crucial for developers, sources said. Microsoft is federating its Web services by integrating them across multiple "trust" boundaries with partners that abide by the same security rules. In a federated scenario, no one company manages all the users in a distributed system. As a result, enterprise applications would need to support this capability.
Business orchestration support will include a visual design environment that enables developers to work with business analysts to define business processes and connect them to software implementations. Sources also said configurations for testing systems and services will be included. Such tools will let developers generate real-world data during testing, they said. Currently, that process requires a lot of data to simulate the performance and load that would occur in the real world. The template enhancements would generate the test data itself.
"Theres nothing like this out there today. This isnt a catch-up effort," said one developer, who wished to remain anonymous. "If Microsoft pulls this off, [Whitehorse is] going to be a killer tool. Its going to be conceptually similar to BEA [Systems Inc.s] WebLogic Workshop, but much more encompassing and with Microsofts notoriously good developer usability."
The templates in Visual Studio .Net contain an initial project structure component, which is essentially the starting point for a software architect to begin building an application. The component can include reusable software components, classes and other pieces of technology. Templates also contain the policy associated with the project, in which an architect can outline which technologies a developer should use when creating the applications.
The frameworks are reusable components built by Microsoft that simplify programming tasks by including pre-written code to handle procedures such as application management and error handling or that target specific vertical markets such as business-to-business or business-to-customer applications.
Together, the templates and frameworks enable companies to define and build applications based on best practices.
The upgraded templates and frameworks will be the main tools in a new enterprise-scale rapid application development environment for Web services, code-named Whitehorse, that Microsoft is developing, sources said. Whitehorse will be incorporated into the next full-fledged version of Microsofts .Net Framework and Visual Studio .Net, code-named Whidbey and due in December 2003. Microsoft declined to comment on Whitehorse.
Craig Goren, president of Clarity Consulting Inc., in Chicago, said Web services could be the vehicle for creating software that wires disparate enterprise services together in an easy, graphical way. "I think its natural for Microsoft to apply their proven ability to create great graphical developer tools toward creating new enterprise architecture tools," Goren said.
Additional reporting by Mary Jo Foley, editor of Ziff Davis Microsoft Watch newsletter
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