Microsoft's .Net 4.0, 'Dublin' App Server Furthers SOA Plans

The new server technology first will be made available as a downloadable add-on to Windows Server and later built into the operating system itself.
Microsoft continued a controlled unveiling of the next generation of its development products on Wednesday, detailing a new server technology and changes to the .Net Framework that aim to give Microsoft more relevance in service-oriented architectures and with today's Web developers.

"Developers are continuing to embrace the notion of composite applications and components, some of which they write, some of which they get from other services," said Steven Martin, Microsoft's connected systems division's senior director of marketing. "The distinction between web server capabilities and application server capabilities are increasingly getting fuzzier and fuzzier."

Application server and Web server workloads evolved separately and diverged over the years, but their roles have begun again intertwining. While Web servers often deliver more content-rich, workflow-light applications, app servers are often the reverse. But with the rise of SOA, the walls between the two have fallen. Until now, Microsoft has kept the walls up, and developers have been forced to, for example, write their own configuration, state management, and message forwarding code for Web apps.

The new server technology, code-named "Dublin," is an "environment for deploying, managing, and monitoring a componentized application," Martin said. It will be a distributed application server that will allow applications to take advantage of some of the features of Microsoft's Web server technology, Internet Information Services, without the developers having to code that interaction themselves. Dublin first will be made available as a downloadable add-on to Windows Server and later built into the operating system itself.

Future versions of Microsoft's Dynamics CRM and ERP software will be among the first software to take advantage of Dublin.

Microsoft also will make improvements to Windows Communication Foundation and Windows Workflow in the next version of the .Net Framework, .Net 4.0. Windows Communication Foundation will get new REST-based capabilities and support Atom and POX, as well as a REST SDK starter kit that Microsoft will make available on its Codeplex open source forge.

Windows Workflow, meanwhile, will see performance increases of more than 10 times, according to Martin. Additional announcements about improvements to Windows Presentation Foundation, the third major prong of the .Net Framework, will be coming soon, according to a Microsoft spokesperson.

Microsoft will make .Net 4.0, or at least WF and WCF, available as a test version for developers at the company's semiannual Professional Developers Conference at the end of this month. For more on where companies stand today with service-oriented architectures and Web services, see this InformationWeek Analytics report.

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