Microsoft: Indigo to offer dramatic productivity boosts

Microsoft is vowing dramatic productivity gains with its planned Indigo communications infrastructure for Web services, which is due in early versions via a Community Technology Preview in March and a beta release by June.

Set for general availability in 2006, Indigo was intended to make it easy to build secure, reliable Web services-based transactions, senior-vice president of Microsoft's server and tools business, Eric Rudder, said.

Rudder spoke during a keynote presentation at the VSLive conference.

The technology spoke Web services protocols on the wire by default and would yield drastic reductions in code for developers building reliable Web services, Microsoft lead product manager for the company's platform strategy group, Ari Bixhorn, said.

Functioning with the Visual Studio 2005 development platform and languages such as C# or J#, Indigo saves developers from having to write thousands of lines code, leveraging metadata, according to Microsoft. Indigo is built as extensions to the .Net Framework, with support planned for Windows XP, Windows Server 2003, and the proposed Longhorn version of Windows.

Indigo, Rudder said, provided a unified programming model for building service-oriented, secure, reliable transactions. With reservations, he pledged that Indigo would arrive in a WinFX community technology preview in March that also featured an early iteration of the Avalon presentation subsystem and a build of Visual Studio 2005. WinFX is an object-oriented, managed API planned for Longhorn.

"Our plan is to deliver [the Indigo preview] in March," he said. "Even if it's March 38th or 43rd, we will deliver it in March."

Indigo will back the Microsoft-driven WS-* architectures for Web services standardization. WS-* is how Microsoft refers to the set of Web services specifications that features Web Services Reliable Messaging, among others.

"The core value proposition of Web services [with] Indigo is interoperability," Rudder said.

He then thanked vendors including Sun, IBM, and BEA for working with Microsoft on Web services interoperability.

Bixhorn presented a demonstration of a medical services application for gauging a patient's vital signs, in which information is taken from a device, pumped through an Indigo Web service running on a BEA WebLogic application server and funneled to a SQL Server database. The Indigo service was exposed to both HTTP and TCP endpoints. Reliability and security were added via two lines of code.

Developers will be able to switch from a slew of Microsoft technologies to Indigo, including the ASMX Web services framework and the WSE (Web Services Enhancements) for .Net.

Developers using the .Net remoting framework probably would not switch, because they had made an architectural decision to not use Web services, Rudder said.

An adapter for Indigo will also be provided so it can function with Microsoft BizTalk Server. Beyond 2006, BizTalk Server will be built natively on the Indigo foundation. The SQL Server Service Broker, meanwhile, will use Indigo transports for interoperability with WS-*.

Microsoft also plans to unveil architectural guidance on Indigo, dubbed "Global Bank on Indigo", that will feature real-world scenarios for its usage. Indigo drew mixed responses from the audience.

But Rudder's Indigo-focused keynote speech was too much about future technology, said a senior application developer from a credit union who requested anonymity.

"We're not going to get into that sort of thing until everyone buys off on it. It is exciting stuff, going from enormous amounts of code to much less, but it is not something that pertains to me today," he said. "I am here to learn things that apply today."

One developer was impressed by the demonstration of interoperability between Microsoft technology and a BEA application server.

"I like the way that Microsoft is going to the industry. They were starting to get cocky like IBM used to be, now they have seen the light and are going into the direction of industry standards," said the developer, who also asked not to be identified. "I develop against Oracle databases, and this means I can go out and develop against standards."

Speaking on Microsoft's Dynamic Systems Initiative, Rudder said plans called for management information collected from applications and management products to be stored in SQL Server database using its reporting services function.

Web services and management would be linked for end-to-end problem solving, he said.

Currently, alerts can be sent that stipulate when a disk has run out of space or when a Web service is down, but that will be expanded, according to Rudder. "What you really can't do today is get an alert that says, 'My Web service is down because three machines ago I ran out of disk space,' " he said.

Rudder also said AmberPoint, Actional, and Mindreef had committed to building tools supporting Indigo as part of the Visual Studio Industry Partner program.

(Joris Evers of IDG News Service contributed to this story.)

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