Microsoft service packs boost developers

First service packs for Visual Studio 2008 and the accompanying .Net Framework 3.5 released.

Microsoft on Monday released the first service packs for the Visual Studio 2008 software development platform and the accompanying .Net Framework 3.5 programming framework, offering improvements for building client, Web, and data-driven applications.

Visual Studio 2008 and .Net Framework 3.5 were released last November. The Visual Studio pack and the .Net Framework upgrade service packs are available immediately for download.

Enhancements in Visual Studio 2008 Service Pack 1 include improved designers for building Windows Presentation Foundation applications and improved tools for developing AJAX (Asynchronous JavaScript and XML) applications. Designers also are featured for ADO.Net (Active Data Objects) Entity Framework, for building data-driven applications.

A richer JavaScript development environment is included along with a streamlined Web site deployment experience, Microsoft said. The service pack extends developer-focused improvements in the newly released SQL Server 2008 database by making the development of occasionally connected applications and spatial applications easier and offering more controls for business intelligence capabilities.

"With Visual Studio 2008 Service Pack 1, you can now connect directly to SQL Server 2008 and you can develop against that," said Shanku Niyogi, partner product unit manager for the .Net Framework at Microsoft.

A key improvement area in .Net Framework 3.5 Service Pack 1 is enhanced REST (Representational State Transfer) services functionality within the Windows Communication Foundation platform for Web services. Developers gain a more flexible programming model for Web 2.0 and SOA applications, the company said. ADO.Net Data Services leverage these REST capabilities to boost developer productivity when building data-centric REST services.

"You can take the data in your app and turn it into a REST service without having to write any plumbing," Niyogi said.

Also featured in the .Net Framework service pack is .Net Framework Client Profile, which the company said makes it easier to deploy client applications via an 86.5 percent reduction in the size of the .Net Framework. With this feature, a subset of the full framework is featured, reducing the download from 197MB to 26.5MB.

"We're making it significantly easier for developers to deploy their apps and to make a kind of a great application deployment experience on the desktop," Niyogi said.

Also, developers using the service pack can more quickly deploy rich client applications to a broader audience, Microsoft said. Services connecting to these applications will have as much as a tenfold performance improvement when running Internet Information Services 7.0.

Improvements also are offered in for the Common Language Runtime, such as the ability to generate managed code that improves application startup time by 20 percent to 45 percent, Microsoft said.

The Common Language Runtime via the .Net Framework service pack also takes advantage of the Address Space Layout Randomization application security feature in Windows Vista. This capability makes it difficult to exploit vulnerabilities in the system, Niyogi said.

This service pack supports ASP.Net Dynamic Data, providing a scaffolding framework for data-driven development without having to write code. Additionally, requirements are simplified for building and scaling applications through provision of a single framework for service development.

Inclusion of the ADO.Net Entity Framework in the service pack raises the level of abstraction for database programming and provides a model-based paradigm and a framework for building data-oriented Web services, Microsoft said. SQL Server 2008 also is supported in the service pack.

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