Careers: Interviews
.NET Guru: Larry Grothaus

This week, Stephen Ibaraki, I.S.P., speaks with Larry Grothaus, Lead Product Manager, .NET Enterprise Solutions, evangelist of the Microsoft .NET Enterprise server and development tools strategy.

Q. What is .NET and how can it be implemented today, in 2002, in 2004, in 2005 and how does it link to XML Web Services?

A. .NET is Microsoft’s platform for XML Web services and is comprised of several pieces including development tools, infrastructure servers, building block services, and the clients needed to deliver an end-to-end rich experience. Building distributed applications using XML Web services is largely recognized as the next major paradigm shift in computing and Microsoft is a leader in working with the industry bodies to develop the standards required to build make XML Web service a reality. Today, these standards include UDDI, WSDL, SOAP, XML, HTTP and TCP/IP.

The benefit of using XML Web services today is that it provides an Internet-native way to connect business systems together – this allows enterprises to solve their most difficult integration issues. Businesses can easily and quickly connect their multitude of disparate internal applications, as well as deeply integrate their systems with those of their partners and customers, regardless of vendor, platform or development language. Longer term, XML Web services will enable a new generation of business and consumer solutions that put the user in control of their personal network of communication devices and applications.

Today, .NET is being implemented by a variety of customers, such as Dollar Rent-A-Car, Scandinavian Airlines System (SAS) and EmpowerNet, to name a few. These customers are using .NET to create and deploy XML Web services enabling them to achieve greater business efficiencies and to build better relationships with business partners.

Q. What does .NET mean for developers today, in 2002, in 2004, and in 2005?

A. With .NET, developers have the broadest and deepest platform for XML Web services in the industry. This platform includes enterprise servers, device software, a set of XML Web services that act as building blocks, and tools and middleware – all built from the ground up for XML Web services. The biggest, near-term step forward is the new tools and middleware, Microsoft Visual Studio .NET and the Microsoft .NET Framework, that help developers to easily and quickly build, secure, deploy, run and scale XML Web services.

Visual Studio .NET is the next generation of Microsoft's popular multi-language development environment. Developers, using Visual Studio .NET, can quickly build XML Web services and applications that scale out using their language of choice. Visual Studio.NET advances the high-productivity programming languages Visual Basic�, which includes new object oriented programming features; Visual C++�, which advances Windows development and enables you to build .NET applications; and C#, which brings RAD to the C and C++ developer. With JUMP, Microsoft will provide additional tools enabling developers using the Java language to be productive on the .NET platform. In addition to the Microsoft language offerings, third-parties are delivering over 20 additional languages including COBOL, FORTRAN, PERL, Eiffel, and Python that support the .NET platform.

The .NET Framework is a high-productivity, standards-based, multi-language application execution environment that handles essential plumbing chores and eases deployment, scalability and reliability. It provides an application execution environment that manages memory, addresses versioning issues, and improves the reliability, scalability, and security of your application. The .NET Framework consists of several parts, including the Common Language Runtime, a rich set of class libraries for building XML Web services, and ASP .NET.

For developers these new tools and middleware mean that they can use a familiar set of tools and a variety of languages to quickly build, deploy, and run XML Web services, with the added benefit of allowing them to leverage their existing development language skills and knowledge base.

The Microsoft .NET Enterprise Servers are available today with deep support for XML across the entire family and targeted support for SOAP and other related XML Web services standards where appropriate. Visual Studio .NET and the .NET Framework will be available by the end of this year. Other new elements of the .NET platform, such as the “Hailstorm” set of XML Web services will start to be available next year.

Q. Can you provide a road map for future XML Web Services?

A. While Microsoft was the first platform vendor to deliver production support for XML Web services in its offerings, over the next year, most of the rest of the leading platform vendors will follow suit with their own implementations of XML Web services. As all of the major platform vendors implement XML Web services, the benefits of seamless, cross-platform integration will become more and more of a reality for customers.

Another important effort critical to the future of XML Web services is the additional work taking place in the standards and industry bodies to further flesh out the key standards that make up the XML Web services architecture. In order to speed up the rate of adoption, and make XML Web services truly ubiquitous, there is work that needs to be done in areas such as security, privacy and transactions. The work on these standards will complete in the next year, but over the next few years, there will continue to be a great deal of cross-industry work taking place.

Finally, while many enterprises are taking advantage of Microsoft’s XML Web services platform today, so to are many application developers (ISVs). As these ISV solutions come to market with their XML Web services-based solutions, more and more businesses and individuals will find that they are gaining the benefits of a new, connected world – enabled by XML Web services. .NET and XML Web services represents a tremendous industry opportunity and the many tens thousands of solutions that Microsoft anticipates our partners will build on the .NET platform will fundamentally change the way people experience technology.

Q. What are the capabilities of the new SOAP Toolkit and why would developers be interested?

A. The Microsoft Simple Object Access Protocol (SOAP) Toolkit 2.0 consists of:
  • A client-side component that allows an application to invoke XML Web services.
  • A server-side component that maps COM object methods to XML Web service operations.
  • Additional components that automate the construction, transmission, and processing of SOAP messages.
  • A tool that generates WSDL and WSML files, relieving developers of the tedious process of manually creating such files.
All together, this toolkit helps developers using Microsoft’s currently shipping tools, Visual Studio 6.0, to easily create industrial-strength XML Web services solutions. While many companies have beta code or proof-of-concepts for XML Web services, Microsoft is the only platform vendor to ship fully supported production tools for XML Web services.

Q. How is Native SOAP Support for Windows XP provided?

A. XML Web services support in Windows XP comes in two forms. First, Windows XP includes the Microsoft XML and SOAP processing engines that all Microsoft developers depend upon. This means that developers can easily build client applications using XML Web services to access data and services over the Internet. Second, Windows XP includes native support for Microsoft first building block service: Passport. This integration will help users to take advantage of this new generation of ISV XML Web services-based solutions – particularly those designed to help consumers manage their personal information and their collection of communications devices.

Q. How does Hailstorm fit into .NET?

A. As previously discussed, building block services such as Passport and “Hailstorm” are a key element of .NET, Microsoft’s platform for XML Web services. “Hailstorm” is the codename for a set of user-centric XML Web services which are oriented around people, instead of a specific device, application, service, or network. Passport is an XML Web service that allows Web sites and other XML Web services to authenticate a users identity, and it allows users to seamlessly and centrally control their logon information to all Passport authenticated sites and services. These to XML Web services put users in control of their own information and applications and enable access at anytime from any web connected device - whether it is a desktop PC, mobile phone, PDA, or other device.

Q. Can you talk about Sharepoint Technologies?

A. Microsoft SharePoint is a set of two new offerings that were developed to facilitate information sharing both within organizations and over the Internet: Microsoft SharePoint Portal Server 2001 and SharePoint Team Services. When organizations use SharePoint Team Services and SharePoint Portal Server 2001, they can address the information-sharing challenges for both the large and small groups within their enterprise. Together, the SharePoint technologies give users the ability to organize information, readily access that information, manage documents, and enable efficient collaboration—all in a familiar, browser-based and Microsoft Office-integrated environment.

SharePoint Team Services gives users the ability to create and contribute to team and project-focused Web sites. Team Services is ideal for small groups and/or ad hoc communication and ships as part of FrontPage 2002.

SharePoint Portal Server is a flexible intranet portal solution that allows you to easily find, share, and publish information. Portal Server combines three distinct capabilities in one product: a customizable portal platform, search/index technology, and document management. SharePoint Portal Server gives organizations the ability to search and index information across the organization, including SharePoint Team Services Web sites. Portal Server is a standalone server product.

SharePoint is a member of the .NET Enterprise servers, Microsoft’s family of server products designed to provide the broadest and deepest foundation for building, managing, deploying, securing, scaling and orchestrating business applications as well as XML Web services. At the core of the .NET Enterprise Servers is Windows 2000.

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