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Tech Ed offers insight into inner workings of WinFX

Several Tech Ed 2006 sessions addressed .NET 3.0 and how its individual parts will apply to both existing and new applications. Here we look at connecting WCF to COM+, using workflow in ASP.NET 2.0 apps and binding data in WPF.

The .NET Framework 3.0, known until very recently as WinFX, is set to roll out with Vista and change the way Windows applications look, perform and manage users' identity. Some programmers have been playing with the beta versions for quite some time now, but for many others the technology is quite new.

Several sessions at Tech Ed 2006 in Boston addressed .NET 3.0 and how its individual parts will apply to both existing and new applications.

Windows Communication Foundation, or WCF, provides access between logic and clients. It is designed to do what ASMX, .NET Remoting, Enterprise Services, WSE and MSMQ do now, but it won't replace those five tools, Chappell said. WCF also offers interoperability with other platforms, such as WebSphere running on Linux. "We'll finally have full-tilt availability with a high level of functionality," said David Chappell of the consultancy Chappell & Associates.

The same way you think about building an app is the way you build a template [in WPF]. And the binding is the glue.
Kevin Moore
program managerMicrosoft

Andy Milligan, program manager of Microsoft's connected systems division, devoted his session to integrating COM+ and MSMQ applications into WCF. This process lets developers take advantage of WCF's loosely coupled architecture without rewriting core applications, he said.

The ComSvcConfig file will automatically generate WCF endpoints for COM+ component interfaces. The client then communicates with these endpoints via IIS and WCF. "We just build a wrapper service around the client…and the components sit untouched on the COM+ server," Milligan said. As for MSMQ interoperability, WCF sets up a transport channel to line up the MSMQ messages and an integration channel to link MSMQ apps and WCF clients without any hard coding.

Windows Workflow Foundation, or WF, provides a series of activities, run as classes, which are executed by a workflow runtime engine. It is intended for developers who are building apps that have workflow. Those looking for business process integration or other server processes should stick to BizTalk Server, Chappell said: "[WF] is not anything close to a complete solution and it does not have what you just saw in BizTalk."

Additional details about WF emerged when Kashif Alam, program manager for Microsoft's ASP.NET developer division, talked about how WF can be applied to ASP.NET 2.0 apps. Typically, when a client makes a server request, IIS processes that request and then ASP.NET sends data back to the browser. In a workflow-enabled ASP.NET app, Alam pointed out, ASP.NET sends the information into the workflow runtime and waits until a WF activity is executed before going back to the browser.

Alam also provided some details about UI Workflow, a project now in beta that aims to use WF as a business logic layer and to get common events like Cancel and Resume to interact with workflow runtime. UI Workflow provides both a hosting environment for executing workflows and services like scheduling and tracking.

More on WinFX and .NET 3.0

Podcast: Craig McMurtry on WCF 101

Learning Guide: Windows Communication Foundation

Learning Guide: Windows Presentation Foundation

Learning Guide: Windows Workflow Foundation

Windows Presentation Foundation, or WPF, uses XAML to create controls, graphics, images and other application UI enhancements. A key element of WPF is its pervasive and flexible data binding capabilities, which Kevin Moore of Microsoft detailed during his breakout session.

Four concepts fit into WPF's binding stack, Moore said.

  • Singular binding: This is the simple process of taking a data object and binding it to a UI object. For example, the content of a button can be bound to a dictionary reference to an object.
  • Data templates: This gives a visual representation of data and aims to cut down on disagreements between developers and designers. Moore described data templates as "easy to tweak [and] easy to tool" because they are built with standard WPF elements like panels and controls. "The same way you think about building an app is the way you build a template. And the binding is the glue," he added.
  • List binding: Here ItemsControl is the base class, which governs data and the panel the data is going in, and ListBoxItem serves as the content control.
  • Collection view: If a developer starts binding to collections, WPF will instantiate a collection view, which maintains current item and group, sort and filter capabilities.

    Finally, Windows CardSpace, previously known as InfoCard, is an identity metasystem that recognizes the complexity of identity. This product intends to let end users display different information to different applications -- for example, just an e-mail address to online auction sites but a phone number, fax number and mailing address for business-to-business apps.

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