Microsoft Launches Pre-Release Updates of AppFabric, BizTalk

Microsoft today announced the availability of pre-release versions of Windows Server AppFabric and BizTalk Server 2010, during the Microsoft Application Infrastructure Virtual Launch Event. The two products are important components of Microsoft's enterprise computing strategy, and promise an efficient way for .NET development shops to transition to cloud-based development on Windows Azure.

Windows Server AppFabric Release Candidate (RC) is available for immediate download here. AppFabric, first announced at the Microsoft Professional Developers Conference (PDC) last year, provides distributing caching and composite application tooling to enable highly scalable and available Web applications.

The final release to manufacture (RTM) version of Windows Server AppFabric is expected in June, according to Microsoft. The product will be available at no additional cost to customers with licenses for Windows Server 2008 and Windows Server 2008 R2.

Microsoft also announced the first beta of BizTalk Server 2010, the latest version of the company's systems integration and connectivity server. Available for download here, BizTalk Server 2010 is expected to RTM in the third quarter of 2010, according to Burley Kawasaki, director of product management in the Connected Systems Division at Microsoft.

Microsoft says BizTalk Server 2010 works with Windows Server AppFabric to enable rapid development of composite applications that pull together data and processes from various line of business systems.

"They would like to start taking some of the benefits of the cloud--things like elastic scale and self-provisioning of composite applications--they want to take those benefits and bring it into their own IT environment," Kawasaki said, adding that organizations eventually want to be able to transition to the public cloud "on their own terms."

Middleware Mojo

The launch of Windows Server AppFabric and BizTalk Server 2010 highlights the importance of middleware as Microsoft transitions development to the cloud. Microsoft at last year's PDC event announced development of Windows Server and Windows Azure versions of AppFabric, which will provide a common, application-facing abstraction layer for .NET developers seeking to build on-premises and cloud-based applications. Windows Azure AppFabric was officially released last month.

"It shelters the developer from having to understand the complexities that occur at the lower levels of the hardware or the lower levels of the computing infrastructure," Kawasaki explained. He noted that many organizations will never completely migrate to the cloud, making the ability to deploy and support "hybrid applications" an important goal for Microsoft.

Kawasaki said that AppFabric will "plug in underneath" high level frameworks like ASP.NET, Windows Communication Foundation (WCF) and Windows Workflow Foundation (WF). Applications written today for these frameworks are well positioned to be deployed on Windows Server AppFabric to gain access to distributed caching and high availability features.

"I can start to manage and scale on the backend for free, since I've started moving to these frameworks," Kawasaki said.

BizTalk Server 2010

Where AppFabric promises a .NET-savvy landing pad for hybrid cloud- and server-based application development, the BizTalk Server 2010 release speaks directly to rapid application development and flexible app management. The new version of BizTalk Server offers application integration, solution management and interoperability improvements over the previous version. Kawasaki singled out efforts to more closely integrate BizTalk Server 2010 with AppFabric.

"Today both BizTalk Server and Windows Server AppFabric share Visual Studio, so there is sort of the IDE level of integration. But they still require different skills. BizTalk Server has a different programming model if you will," Kawasaki explained. "Then you have your different .NET based programming models with things like Windows Workflow Foundation."

Kawasaki described how a Visual Studio 2010 developer can now see BizTalk specific activities and drag and drop them from the Visual Studio toolbox to quickly set up information flows.

"I don't need to be a BizTalk Server guru to install a server. I don't need specialized BizTalk Server skills in order to be able to develop against it," Kawasaki said.

About the Author

Michael Desmond is an editor and writer for 1105 Media's Enterprise Computing Group.