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MS offers early look at Longhorn, Web services, DB plans

Microsoft plans to offer developers and others an early look at its vision for Web services, database management and the next version of Windows at this week's Professional Developers Conference.

While few IT administrators have the luxury of being able to install the newest technologies from Microsoft, many application developers like to keep an eye on what's coming.

At the Professional Developers Conference this week in Los Angeles, developers will view Microsoft's next-generation Windows platform, database, developer tools and Web services technologies, which should provide a vision of Microsoft technologies for the next several years, at least.

IT administrators can learn a few things just from watching what happens at an event like this, said Steven VanRoekel, director of strategy of Microsoft's platform strategy group. First, IT administrators can see where the industry is going. Second, the event will provide a clear road map on how to get there, he said.

Some conference highlights include events aimed at teaching developers how to write code that's more secure, and some news regarding the direction of Web services.

The main technologies on display will include the next generation of Windows, code-named Longhorn; the next version of the SQL Server database, code-named Yukon; the next version of Visual Studio, code-named Whidbey, and an application layer to handle Web services, known as Indigo. There will be a Yukon beta, a Longhorn beta and a developer preview of Whidbey, VanRoeckel said.

An emphasis on efficiency

Experts said that Microsoft's next generation of tools will emphasize greater efficiency and cheaper development costs, which should will ultimately appeal to IT executives. For example, on Whidbey, IT administrators and their bosses should be interested because of the amount of menial coding that will be reduced compared with the previous technology, said Andrew Brust, president of Progressive Systems, a New York systems integrator.

"I think we will see more in the way of modeling tools that help projects get written faster and better, without those tools creating their own new project phases and cost overhead," Brust said.

Regarding Yukon, the tighter integration with .NET brings about greater efficiency, and lower cost, than previously possible, he said.

Another draw for administrators is the WinFS file system in Longhorn, said John Robbins, a .NET expert and co-founder of Wintellect, a Knoxville, Tenn.-based application development company. Administrators will, in some ways, be filling a data-mining role in the future. They'll be able to query their file systems like a SQL database, Robbins said, and be able to scan multiple databases to locate files.

Robbins said Microsoft will also make it easier to create Web services. "Today, 95% of Web services are wrappers on top of a stored procedure," he said. "If you want to talk to a Web service, someone has to write this in the .NET language. But the Yukon database can serve up this interface because .NET is inside of Yukon."

Too far ahead for some

For the vast majority of IT administrators, however, these technologies are an abstraction. Yukon and Whidbey aren't expected to ship until late 2004, at the earliest, and Longhorn isn't expected to ship until roughly 2006.

"I've seen a bit of Longhorn, but it's such a long way out," said Rich Zach, chairman of the Boston Area Windows Server User Group. "We tend to look at things after they are deployed.

"Most IT professionals look at it with interest, but it won't be part of their jobs for three years, at least."

This week, Microsoft will also reveal relationships with IBM 's Tivoli unit and with Computer Associates International Inc. Both companies make server management software that can now be managed via Microsoft Operations Manager server using the MOM connector framework.

The connector framework is a bidirectional connector between MOM and any third-party enterprise management system. Other companies, including Aprisma Management Technologies of Portsmouth, N.H., will also announce their intentions to develop connectors between MOM and their new products, said David Hamilton, director of product management in the management business group at Microsoft.

Redmond will also release several MOM management packs that provide in-depth services for Web services management. The company will release packs for AmberPoint Inc., Actional Corp. and Computer Associates' recently acquired Adjoin Solutions.


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