.NET UPDATE—brought to you by the Windows & .NET Magazine Network
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August 8, 2002—In this issue:
- Gates's .NET Report Card Doesn't Go Far Enough
2. .NET NEWS AND VIEWS
- Microsoft Updates Windows CE .NET
3. DOT-TECH PERSPECTIVES
- Introducing UDDI 3.0: New Naming Conventions
- Get a Free Digital or Print Sample Issue Today!
- Event Highlight: XML Web Services One Conference and Expo
6. NEW AND IMPROVED
- Keep Current on .NET Server and XP Training
- Submit Top Product Ideas
7. CONTACT US
- See this section for a list of ways to contact us.
(contributed by Paul Thurrott, news editor, [email protected])
Last week, 2 years after Microsoft announced its sweeping plans for .NET, Microsoft Chairman and Chief Software Architect Bill Gates hosted an event at the Microsoft campus to give analysts an overview of the company's progress thus far. The verdict isn't pretty: Like a principal cracking a yardstick on a recalcitrant student's knuckles, Gates delivered a grade of C to the company for its delivery of Web services. That grade might be a bit generous. Here's my own analysis of where Microsoft stands regarding .NET so far.
Envisioned originally as a universal online identity authentication service, .NET Passport gets no respect today because the company forces the service on the hundreds of millions of people who use MSN Hotmail. In fact, if .NET Passport weren't tied to Hotmail, I find it unlikely that more than a few dozen people would even take advantage of it. .NET Passport's eWallet feature goes virtually unused, and a short-lived .NET Passport for Kids promotion failed to garner serious interest from parents. .NET Passport is a prime example of a solution without a problem, and if Microsoft is serious about .NET, I suspect the company will scale .NET Passport back in the coming years and ultimately let a more universal solution, such as that offered by The Liberty Alliance, to displace the service. (For more information about The Liberty Alliance, go to http://wwws.sun.com/software/sunone/liberty/ .)
Microsoft purchased Hotmail in January 1998—when the free email service had only 9 million users—for about $400 million. Today, with almost 250 million active users, Hotmail is the most popular email service in the world. Although Microsoft is slowly ripping features out of the free version to influence customers to sign up for an extra-cost subscription service, the free service still works, and the per-fee Hotmail service is still cheap. Like .NET Passport, Hotmail predates .NET, but Hotmail's success is probably the most visible sign that Microsoft can deliver Web-based services to a large audience.
On a darker note, Hotmail is marred by spam. Microsoft recently admitted that more than 80 percent of the mail transmitted to and from Hotmail is spam that the company's spam filters don't catch. That's more than 1 billion pieces of spam, every single day. To give you an idea of how bad this situation is, I maintain a Hotmail account that I never use: Over the past 5 days, I received 273 spam messages, so I cleared out the Junk Mail folder last night. When I woke up this morning, the account had received 34 new spam messages. Unbelievable! I hope Microsoft will do something about the spam problems in Hotmail, even if doing so requires a paid service.
.NET My Services
Last year, Microsoft began touting .NET My Services, which was to have been released by late 2002. According to the company's plan, .NET My Services would build from .NET Passport to supply a suite of Web services to enterprises and consumers providing, among other things, online authentication and identity management, and calendaring and email services. However, .NET My Services had one fatal flaw: It required Microsoft to store user data on its servers, raising serious privacy and security concerns. For large corporations, an even bigger problem arose: No company was interested in allowing Microsoft to store proprietary customer information.
When not one of its partners endorsed .NET My Services, Microsoft canceled plans for and retooled the service. The current plan is to ship a server-based product sometime in 2003 that will enable corporations to roll out services similar to .NET My Services but using a company's internal servers. Thus, Microsoft's single biggest Web services plan has been completely recast into yet another standard server product, raising serious doubts about whether the company can ever truly deliver on its .NET vision. Say what you will about .NET My Services, the project was a major misstep for the software giant.
Visual Studio .NET/.NET Framework
It took years to complete, but the move from Visual Studio (VS) 6 to Visual Studio .NET—which enables developers to create .NET services and applications—was well worth the wait. Visual Studio .NET is an amazingly mature development environment with support for all the latest .NET technologies, including the .NET Framework, C#, and ASP .NET. Developers have quickly embraced this tool and are now racing to deliver .NET-based software. In a field of otherwise disappointing products, Visual Studio .NET is the shining star, and the .NET Framework it supports is logical, well-designed, and full-featured.
.NET Enterprise Servers
Nothing is wrong with the .NET Enterprise Servers—among them Application Center 2000, BizTalk Server 2002, Commerce Server 2002, Exchange 2000 Server, SQL Server 2000—other than the simple fact that most have very little to do with .NET. Perhaps the company was riding a .NET high when it decided to preemptively name its server line the .NET Enterprise Servers, but I think Microsoft should have waited until these products had integrated .NET Framework support and performed more than a modicum of XML Web services interoperability. Today, the .NET Enterprise Servers just confuse the .NET issue for customers, who might logically wonder whether this group of products was what they had been waiting for all along.
Articulating the .NET Vision
I've always thought that Microsoft has done a supremely poor job of communicating what .NET is and why customers should want it, and the events of the past year have only reinforced this belief. "One degree of separation": Can anyone on this planet explain what that phrase means without having to think about it? In contrast, I think Microsoft is taking the right approach with Palladium, its secure computing initiative, which won't be released until 2005. Unlike .NET, Palladium wasn't introduced to the world with a flashy event but rather was leaked slowly to the press, letting people simultaneously get a feel for what the technology is and also understand that the technology isn't going to emerge any time soon. With .NET, Microsoft has always given the impression that we're very close to seeing something palpable, when in fact the only .NET products the company has been able to release for end users—.NET Passport, Hotmail, and the .NET Enterprise Servers—all use pre-.NET technologies. This strategy seems like a smoke screen or a delaying tactic. Yeah, we get it: You're moving to Web services. But, years later, that day still hasn't arrived. Talk to us, Microsoft.
Overall, .NET isn't much further along now than it was 2 years ago: It's still a good idea, and Microsoft is still betting the company on it. But .NET hasn't altered the way we compute, and that's a problem. You can't change the world, you know, unless you actually change the world.
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2. .NET NEWS AND VIEWS
(contributed by Paul Thurrott, [email protected])
On July 30, Microsoft announced Windows CE .NET 4.1 (code-named Jameson), a major update that adds support for IP version 6 (IPv6) and speech technologies, Microsoft Office document compatibility, and various performance improvements. Windows CE .NET is Microsoft's embedded OS for next-generation mobile and small-footprint devices.
3. DOT-TECH PERSPECTIVES
(contributed by Christa Anderson, [email protected])
For this .NET UPDATE, I had planned to discuss namespaces and how .NET applications logically organize information, but late in July, the Universal Description, Discovery, and Integration (UDDI) committee released version 3 of the UDDI specification. I'd like to show you what's new in this version and give you a little background about how the new features will affect the way UDDI functions.
The new specification contains six main changes from previous versions: support for publisher-assigned keys; support for digital signatures; a new UDDI policy schema for determining how UDDI should operate in different environments; changes to the information model and the discovery model; changes to the way UDDI subscribers can find out about changes to a UDDI registry; changes in the way UDDI registries are managed. Let's examine support for publisher-assigned keys.
The new naming scheme represents a change in the way UDDI can share data between registries and in the way UDDI entity keys (identifiers) are generated. As you'll recall from our original discussion of UDDI in the February 21, 2002, issue of .NET UPDATE, one way to make services available to .NET applications is to publish them in a UDDI registry. Each service, represented by an entity, must have a unique key that follows the standard for Uniform Resource Identifiers (URIs). In other words, you have a registry of services, and all the services in the registry have unique keys according to the naming scheme specified in Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF) Request for Comments (RFC) 2396.
In previous UDDI versions, only the UDDI node can generate keys. One consequence of this restriction is to render it effectively impossible for one entity to exist in more than one registry—in effect, for registries to share data. A publisher can't truly import or export data between registries because the publisher can't preassign a key to the entity to let the entity keep its unique name. The same service published in multiple registries is a different entity in each registry because the service has a unique key in each registry.
UDDI 3.0 supports entity promotion, a device that lets a publisher propose a new key for an entity. Assuming that the publisher has write privileges to the registry, he or she can insert the key and its entity into the registry. Such additions needn't occur on an entity-by-entity level; a publisher can potentially publish a registry's entire contents into another registry, effectively mirroring the data. Alternatively, the publisher can copy only a portion of a registry into another registry.
Of course, when you allow keys to be created by proposal, rather than assigned according to established rules, you increase the chances that keys will be duplicated—a problem that can keep service registries from functioning properly. UDDI 3.0 presents two measures to avoid key duplication. First, publishers must follow RFC 2396 to name entities, and the UDDI specification suggests a hierarchical naming scheme that correlates with DNS records to create the keys. Second, the specification outlines rules for the way the UDDI node will name new elements in existing entities when those elements are added programmatically. This DNS-based naming scheme has an added advantage: It's much more human-friendly than the previous naming system. To avoid name conflicts in registries, the earlier system suggested a hierarchical structure of an authoritative root registry that subordinate affiliate registries support. That is, the original entities go into the root but can be imported into other affiliate registries. Thus, the publisher knows which registry has the original—and definitive—entry. The current specification suggests the UDDI Business Registry (UBR) as a good example of a root registry because this registry has policies that let publishers generate unique keys.
Want more details? You can find the complete specification for UDDI 3.0 at http://uddi.org/pubs/uddi_v3.htm .
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August 26 through 30, 2002
XML Web Services One Conference and Expo is coming to Boston in late August with an outstanding technical program that provides experienced software architects with valuable, practical insights and solutions for their enterprise-level development work. XML Web Services One conference tracks, which include a .NET Programming track, are designed and developed by track chairs who have the real-world experience and connections to deliver the best sessions and instructors in the business.
For other upcoming events, check out the Windows & .NET Magazine Event Calendar.
6. NEW AND IMPROVED
(contributed by Carolyn Mader, [email protected])
David Solomon Expert Seminars announced that it's expanding its interactive video product line to include coverage of Windows .NET Server (Win.NET Server) and Windows XP kernel changes. Developed by David Solomon and Mark Russinovich, INSIDE Windows 2000 on video provides interactive training based on the book "Inside Windows 2000, 3rd Edition" (Microsoft Press). The courseware provides direct menu access to 36 content-specific instructional video modules totaling more than 11 hours of training. The video is available in DVD and Windows Media format for CD-ROM and intranet server applications. The retail price is $198; existing users can get a special upgrade for $95. The product release will coincide with the Win.NET Server launch. Contact David Solomon Expert Seminars at 800-492-4898.
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