Today at PDC09, Scott Guthrie Announced the beta of WCF RIA Services.  As you may know RIA Services is a set of end-to-end experiences that makes it as easy to build Silverlight based n-tier applications as it is to build traditional 2 tier apps.   I am very excited about this release as it represents a lot of great feedback we have heard from many of you. 

A few goodies in this release based on your feedback

  • You told us you wanted to get up and running with the UI quicker, so we enabled the “DataSources” window that allows you to drag and drop “tables” exposed by your Domain Service onto the form and get meaningful UI to start with.   No more guessing about the Xaml syntax for databinding, or incantation for layout, etc.

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  • You told us error handling was not intuitive\consistent with the rest of the framework, so we we simplified error handing both on the server and client.  This will help errors get noticed quicker at development time so they don’t sneak into production
  • You told us you wanted Inheritance support from the Data Model to just flow through the Domain Service to the client, so we gave it to you, works exactly as you’d expect.
  • You told us you didn’t always want to expose DAL types to the client, but rather a custom “presentation model” where you can customize the shape of the entities, so we gave it to you.. and in a complete way where we handle all  the update and error cases.
  • You told us you wanted the fastest possible communication channel between the client and the server, so we gave an optimized binary channel by default! 
  • You told us it was a pain to install so we integrated the RIA Services installer into the Silverlight 4 installer making it very easy to get started.   We also created a “server only” installer to use on your production boxes.   
  • You told us real world data models use a lot of Compositional hierarchy (Order->OrderDetails) so we have improved the handling of this scenario by making it more built in. 
  • You told us you wanted GAC *and* bin deployment.  So we gave it to you. By default RIA Services look for our server assemblies in the GAC as this is the most secure and efficient model, but just like ASP.NET MVC, you can simply select “copy local” in your VS project and those assemblies work fine bin deployed. 
  • You told us you really liked the easy on ramp with the Business Application Template, but that you wanted it to be more complete.  So we added globalization support, user state example, persisted sign in, etc. 
  • You told us you wanted to go live today (and many of you already have) so we are providing .NET Framework 3.5\Visual Studio 2008\Silverlight 3 based bits that are ready for you to go live on today!   We hope that this release will be a bridge to you that will make it easier for you to (eventually, when you are ready) move to our finally RTM bits which will be on .NET Framework 4, Visual Studio 2010 and Silverlight 4. 
  • You gave us a LOT of other feedback as well, some of which will come in V1, and some will have to wait until the next releases, but please keep it coming. 

WCF: What’s in a Name?

Many of you will notice the slight change in the branding around RIA Services.  RIA Services is now part of the WCF family (as is ADO.NET Data Services, which is now WCF Data Services).  This branding change is a direct result of some significant work we are releasing in this beta and it hopefully makes it very clear that we have one technology base for doing services on the .NET platform and that is WCF. 

Our driving principle with using WCF has been “All the power and none of the complexity”.  That is we wanted to enable all the power that WCF brings (for example, the binary end-point, data contract serialization, all the extensibility points, fully management support with the AppFabric we announced yesterday).  But none of the complexity.  Just look at the web.config file… there is no  tedious config to get right.. there is no fragile contract interface and implementation class to keep in sync, none of the deployment headache around configuration.  This is still the RIA Services model where you can expect a deep simplicity across development, deployment and maintenance.  We accomplish this by creating a custom service host at runtime based on how you define your DomainService.

I am also very excited to get OData support into RIA Services.  OData is the protocol from “Astoria” that is already widely used in products like Sharepoint and PowerPivot.  Look for more details on that in future. 

Check out Henrik Frystyk Nielsen’s talk Developing REST Applications with the .NET Framework which will cover how WCF Data Services and WCF RIA Services work together. 

Call to Action

1. Please install Visual Studio 2010 and Silverlight 4 (this includes RIA Services)

2. Build something cool and tell us about it!

3. Send in your feedback.. we want to hear what rocked, and what needs more polish

 

(2/15/10) Note: This does not work on VS2010 RC -- Look for an update in the next month or so.