As you’ve probably observed, we’ve been working hard over the past year or so to grow our application stacks to better support the types of applications (Silverlight, rich desktop, AJAX, etc) and services (SOAP, REST, etc) that are required to build modern, robust solutions.  At present, a few of the technologies we have to help in building services & n-tier applications are: Windows Communication Foundation, .NET RIA Services and ADO.NET Data Services

We’ve been very pleased to see each of these stacks be well received in the community and, given that positive feedback, we’ve been eagerly working on expanding each based on your comments.  While today these stacks target different application scenarios and/or levels of abstraction, we see opportunities to align their foundations by building the concepts shared in each stack (authentication, conventions for business logic, logging, configuration, etc) on a single foundation.  Additionally, we’ve heard your feedback that traversing our offerings in this space is, at times, too complicated.

So, with the goal of simplifying our platform by aligning common components, we’d like to announce a few changes we’ll be making to achieve our goals….

Windows Communication Foundation (WCF) == your “one stop shop” for building services and n-tier applications

Since .NET Fx 3.0, WCF has been the place to go to in the .NET Framework to rapidly build service-oriented applications that communicate across the web and the enterprise.  As we’ve developed the product roadmaps for .NET RIA Services and ADO.NET Data Services we’ve found they complement the core WCF stack quite well as components/extensions for WCF or as new top-level layers of abstraction.    

To formalize our direction in aligning these technologies, we’re making a few name changes in the .NET Framework 4 timeframe.  ADO.NET Data Services will change its name slightly to be WCF Data Services and .NET RIA Services will be known as WCF RIA Services.  We’ll be talking about our alignment of these technologies starting at this PDC, so if you are attending, keep an eye out for sessions and information at the event.

We think of these name changes as a key first step in simplifying our offerings in this space.  Starting at this PDC and continuing over the coming Silverlight & .NET Framework releases cycles, you’ll see us further bring together these applications stacks such that you can leverage key parts of each in one WCF-based application.  As we progress along this path we’ll be sure to post our thinking to get your feedback.

Q&A

We thought this might generate a few questions, so here’s a couple Q&As on the topic that should help clarify this announcement…

Q: Now that the names are aligned, when will alignment occur in the products?

A:  We’ll start aligning the technologies in the .NET Framework 4 and Silverlight 4 timeframes and, guided by your feedback, continue through subsequent release cycles as appropriate.

Q: Doesn’t ADO.NET Data Services and .NET RIA Services already use WCF?

A: They do, but we believe we can further their alignment & integration to provide a more seamless developer experience.

Q: Does this mean you are changing the direction of Data Services?

A: The vision we have for Data Services does not change with this announcement. We believe this announcement further solidifies our investment in the area of simple, standards-based communication on the web by (overtime) bringing support for the Data Services conventions directly into WCF.  For further details, see this post on our future direction regarding data services and OData support: http://blogs.msdn.com/astoriateam/archive/2009/11/17/breaking-down-data-silos-the-open-data-protocol-odata.aspx    

Q: How does this announcement affect the planned Data Services update for .NET Fx 3.5 SP1?

A: It doesn’t.  The Data Services update for .NET Fx 3.5 SP1 will ship as planned this calendar year.

-Mike Flasko

Lead Program Manager, ADO.NET WCF Data Services