Microsoft Maps Out Next .Net Framework

'Whidbey' to get IDE update, new programming model.

Microsoft Corp. is mapping out the next major version of its .Net Framework, with features designed to make it easier for enterprise developers to deploy .Net applications and Web services.

.Net Framework 2.0, code-named Whidbey, should be available late next year, but coding on the technology is scheduled to begin this month, according to developers close to the Redmond, Wash., company.

The first beta is targeted to go out in January 2003, with a second beta of Whidbey set for August 2003, according to sources. The final version is expected to be released in December 2003.

Microsoft will release an interim .Net Framework, Version 1.1—code-named Everett—later this year. Everett code will be folded into Windows .Net Server Release Candidate 2, said sources, as well as the first beta of the next release of Visual Studio .Net before years end.

Microsoft is hanging its .Net Web services initiative on .Net Framework, and the company will embed Whidbey in the next versions of its flagship Windows, Visual Studio .Net and .Net Enterprise servers.

Among the key features of Whidbey will be upgraded support for the Visual Studio .Net integrated development environment; improvements to the ASP .Net programming model; and extensions to enable Visual Basic 6 users, Visual C++ users and Office developers to take advantage of .Net, sources said.

The framework will include work being done by Microsofts Global XML Web Services Architecture Toolkit team to bring rapid application design to Web services. Microsoft also will upgrade the CLR (Common Language Runtime) environment with just-in-time compilation and secure code execution, sources said.

Microsoft is working to add better federation support so if a Web server or a link goes down, the framework will have built-in support to automatically try another way to complete the activity.

Microsoft officials declined to comment on Whidbey.

.Net Framework consists of CLR—which enables users to mix and match programming languages in writing an application—as well as a set of class libraries. The company is soliciting input from its top-tier customers and developers on how they want .Net Framework to evolve.

Some .Net developers told eWeek that .Net still has a long way to go. ".Net has some really good things in it, but they also have some very broken APIs built into it. I would like to see Microsoft fix those APIs," said Miguel de Icaza, co-founder and chief technology officer of Boston-based Ximian Inc., which is developing Mono, an open-source version of .Net Framework that will run on Linux.

"The class libraries seem to have been rushed out the door before they were tested enough, and it shows in various areas," de Icaza said. The problems range "from simple inconsistencies in some database classes to fundamental problems with the class libraries."

Gerardo Capiel, CTO of Digital Impact Inc., a San Mateo, Calif., online marketing company, said .Net Framework needs to shore up the security of its Web services, such as being able to authenticate LDAP systems. Issues of access control and access rights against service-level agreements also need to be addressed, Capiel said.

"If were using that [access control] API to provide certain services, we have to have the ability to meter usage," he said.

A source close to the Whidbey development said there are "pretty low-level technical things going into the framework, some specific things around scalability to make the services provided even more scalable, [such as] caching of those services, so that you can do things like be able to automatically roll over from specific Web services servers to other Web services servers, based on demand or type of information being requested."

In addition, Microsoft is seeking to improve the platforms performance, the source said.

"For example, having true asynchronous messaging—making sure that youre guaranteed that a call happens on a Web service—so that you can start using Web services in a more transaction-based way," the source said. "If a Web service were to totally fail for whatever reason ... youd be guaranteed of getting that fail response so you could then roll back a transaction or a set of events that you had already done."

Security is also going to be a focus, said another source, including improved security specifications for Simple Object Access Protocol.

Mary Jo Foley is editor of Ziff Davis Microsoft Watch newsletter.

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