Microsoft Renames Atlas, Sets Road Map

Microsoft announces official names for its AJAX development tools and says it will deliver the core technology by the end of 2006.

Microsoft has announced official names for its technology set for enabling AJAX development, previously known as Atlas, and has released a road map for delivery of the technology.

Microsoft had been calling all its AJAX (Asynchronous JavaScript and XML)-enabling technology by the code name ASP.Net Atlas. However, from now on the technologies will have separate names that better describe the functionality they provide, the company said.

The server-side Atlas functionality, which tightly integrates with ASP.Net, is now called ASP.Net 2.0 AJAX Extensions, Microsoft said, while the client-side Atlas functionality, which integrates with ASP.Net 2.0 AJAX Extensions or other back-end platforms like PHP or ColdFusion, is now called the Microsoft AJAX Library, the company said.

Microsoft is also rebranding the Atlas Control Toolkit, which will be known as ASP.Net AJAX Control Toolkit, Microsoft officials said.

In a blog post, Scott Guthrie, a general manager in the Microsoft Developer Division, said that although the plan has been to ship Atlas with the next version of Visual Studio, code-named Orcas, which is expected to be available in 2007, Microsoft will deliver a production-ready version of ASP.Net 2.0 AJAX Extensions and the Microsoft AJAX Library by the end of 2006. This will enable our enterprise customers to take their Atlas applications into production with fully supported APIs.

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Jeff Prosise, co-founder of Wintellect, a Knoxville, Tenn., consulting, debugging and training firm specializing in Microsoft .NET and Windows technologies, told eWEEK, "The client half—the Microsoft AJAX Library—is not only browser-agnostic, its server-agnostic as well. Everyones been thinking Atlas is all about ASP.Net, but its not. If you want, you can ignore the server half of Atlas and do amazing things with the client-side library from PHP, ColdFusion, and other platforms."

But the server-based part of the solution is where the action will be, Prosise said. "Developers familiar with the ASP.Net programming paradigm will feel right at home with the ASP.Net 2.0 AJAX Extensions, because some of the most difficult AJAX programming tasks will require little more than dragging and dropping a control onto a page in Visual Studio," he said. "AJAX has never been easier than this."

Meanwhile, also in a blog post, Brian Goldfarb, lead product manager for Web Platform and Tools at Microsoft, said, "Im personally excited about the names and feel they do an excellent job of describing what the product is and how it works together."

In his blog, Guthrie said several Microsoft customers and technology users have asked the company to deliver a fully supported 1.0 release of Atlas before the next release of Visual Studio. "Fully supported" would mean that Microsoft product support services "are available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year and that any customer can obtain hot fixes if they encounter a bug affecting their application," he said. It would also mean that the product has a committed servicing product lifetime of 10 years—which means companies can depend on it for mission-critical applications, Guthrie said.

Meanwhile, Guthrie said, "I am excited to announce today that we are going to ship this fully supported Atlas 1.0 release on top of ASP.Net 2.0 and ensure that it works with Visual Studio 2005. Our goal is to ship the Atlas 1.0 release around the end of this year."

Guthrie said Microsoft will continue to release CTP (Community Technology Preview) drops of the technology, then will release a Beta version, then a release candidate "and then decide on the final [release] date based on customer feedback."

In addition, to hasten the release of the Atlas technology, Microsoft will focus on delivering a core set of fully supported functionality, Guthrie said. "This core set of functionality includes all the common components needed to enable developers to build client-side controls/components, as well as the server-side functionality that provides integration within ASP.Net (including the super-popular update-panel and other server controls)," he said.

Guthrie further explained that there are features of the current Atlas CTP drops that will not be in the fully supported "core" bucket.

However, "These features will continue to be available in a separate download and will continue to work on top of the supported core release," Guthrie said. "We arent pulling back from these features at all. We are simply trying to optimize the timing of the first fully supported set of features and also make sure that we have the flexibility to continue to evolve and innovate some features in a more agile fashion…"

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Prosise said that because of Microsofts pledge to deliver a core set of functionality, "larger, more conservative development shops that are leery of CTPs will be able to leverage Atlas core features and rest assured that theyre fully supported. Smaller, more agile shops that are willing to deploy on CTP bits may do so and take greater advantage of the Atlas features. It looks like a win-win to me."

In his own blog post, Brad Abrams, a Microsoft engineer who has been working on Atlas, said of the plan to ship the Atlas technology on VS 2005 and ASP.Net 2.0 by the end of the year: "The team is super focused on this goal and I am very pumped to be able to deliver it."

Yet, Guthrie said developers looking to Microsoft for AJAX development help can expect even more next year.

"Things will get even better next year with Visual Studio Orcas where we are adding rich JavaScript IntelliSense, debugging and WYSIWYG designer support for the ASP.Net AJAX Extensions within Visual Studio and many other great features to take advantage of."

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