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A look at .NET Framework 3.5: WCF, WF more closely aligned; REST supported

Jack Vaughan

Not a lot of attention has focused yet on something brewing known as the .NET Framework 3.5. That is probably not a bad thing. The hyperbole surrounding .NET 3.0 was extensive but, in the view of many, misplaced. Although Windows Communication Foundation (WCF) and Windows Presentation Foundation (WPF) were important, they and other aspects of NET 3.0 may be viewed as new features, not completely revised frameworks.

The same is true in the .NET Framework 3.5, which will ship along with Visual Studio 2008. The changes are evolutionary. According to Thom Robbins, director, Microsoft .NET Platform Product Management, new technology to highlight in .NET 3.5 includes ASP.NET AJAX, LINQ for both C# and VB, as well as tooling enhancements intended to ease the task of building WPF, WCF and Windows Workflow Foundation (WF) apps.

Add to that, of course, a new round of Base Class Libraries enhancements. Robbins also points to closer association between WCF and WF as a notable feature in this revision of the .NET framework.

We caught up with Robbins at Microsoft TechEd 2007 in Orlando. "We are adding a WCF designer," he said, "because, for example, we wanted to reduce the complexity of developing the config files. Our job is to make it easier for you to write code."

Robbins said newly improved interaction between WCF and WF lets developers build business logic using Windows Workflow Foundation and expose messaging from that service using Windows Communication Foundation.

"WCF and WF are more closely aligned. WF can expose services as WCF services. So there are workflow-enabled services you can expose through WCF channels," Robbins said.

Improved RSS and ATOM syndication support comes to WCF with this release. Add to that new bindings for REST (Representational State Transfer) style development. Just in the nick of time, perhaps; as Robbins put it, "REST is hot."

With what Robbins has described as Ajax-enabled WCF Services, an HTTP programming model is provided allowing for REST-style Web services. He points out that REST is just one model for moving data around on the Internet, and that some people still want secure finer grain abstraction plus distributed transactions. The .NET development team is working to support both models.

"We want to create a common model," said Robbins, "so you don't have to learn the HTTP system."

More details on the .NET Framework 3.5 are cited on Thom Robbins' blog. There he notes BigInteger, HashSet and DateTime2 types, Anonymous and Named Pipes IO Classes, and Integration with Event Tracing for Windows among various library enhancements due.


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