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1/18/2006
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Microsoft Allows Production Use For WinFX Workflow, Web-Services Code

Microsoft green-lighted solution providers and ISVs to use the WinFX workflow and Web-services code in production well before Windows Vista ships. WinFX is a key component of Vista.

Microsoft has given solution provider partners and ISVs the green light to use WinFX workflow and Web services code in production well before Windows Vista ships.

The Redmond, Wash., software giant on Wednesday announced the availability of GoLive licenses for the Windows Communications Foundation, formerly code-named Indigo, and the Windows Workflow Foundation, both of which are server-side technologies.

The two core WinFX technologies are significant enhancements in the Windows Vista upgrade. While the industy awaits the delivery of Vista in late 2006, ISVs and channel partners can begin deploying the workflow and Web services technology on Windows XP and Windows Server 2003, as well as Windows Vista beta code.

WinFX is the new programming model that Microsoft developed for Vista and has ported to Windows XP and Windows Server 2003. It requires Microsoft's recently released .Net Framework 2.0 code, which is part of Visual Studio 2005.

WinFX consists of three core components: Windows Communications Foundation (WCF) for Web services transactions, Windows Workflow Foundation (WF) for business process design and Windows Presentation Foundation (WPF) for developing advanced graphical-user interfaces.

Microsoft offered early access to WinFX in the first Vista Community Technology Preview, which was issued in September at the company’s Professional Developers Conference.

Microsoft said it didn’t issue a GoLive license for Windows Presentation Foundation because it’s a client-side technology. That would require every user of an application to sign a GoLive license, industry observers said. For server-side technologies such as WCF and WF, a single administrator would be able to sign a GoLive license for many users, observers said.

ISVs ranging from Captaris to Pivotal aim to use the server-side WinFX GoLive licenses. Microsoft also issued a GoLive license for Visual Studio 2005's Team Foundation Server, expected to ship this quarter.

Tim Huckaby, president of InterKnowlogy, a Carlsbad, Calif.-based Microsoft partner, is working with one ISV customer that he said "desperately needs" to integrate workflow technology in its Visual Studio 2005 and Ajax-style applications.

"Workflow is one of the few places in the Microsoft stack that is still painful. You currently get zero for free in the Windows plumbing to do worklow, and there are a handful of [other] Microsoft workflow technologies that do not measure up. WF solves that," Huckaby said. So the industry is going to be very excited when WF ships."

Analyst Anne Thomas Manes of the research firm Burton Group said the GoLive announcements also signal optimism that Microsoft will ship Vista in late 2006, as promised.

"The licenses allow customers to test their apps under productionlike conditions and even to use the code in production applications, although Microsoft does not provide support," Manes said. "The fact that Microsoft is providing these licenses this early in the process implies that the code is pretty solid."

The workflow and Web services layers also contain new features. WCF supports better editing of configuration files in Visual Studio 2005, and WF supports state-machine workflows. Microsoft also aligned the file format of WF with XAML, a display standard associated more with the Windows Presentation Foundation, said Jason Bloomberg, an analyst at ZapThink.

The availability of WCF and WF is important, but Microsoft is relying on ISVs and solution providers to deliver the benefit to customers, Bloomberg said.

"WCF and WF, as well as WPF, will be quite significant to Microsoft's corporate customers, but indirectly," he said. "These technologies enable ISVs as well as Microsoft to build the next generation of applications, fully service-oriented apps that can potentially take advantage of all the capabilities these foundation technologies offer. But the foundations are just the ingredients. It's still up to the vendors to bake their cakes with them."

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