On-Premises or in the Cloud, One Consistent Composite Application Experience for Developers

LOS ANGELES — Nov. 17, 2009 — During a keynote address at Professional Developers Conference 2009 today, Bob Muglia, president of Microsoft’s Server and Tools business, unveiled Windows Server AppFabric and Windows Azure platform AppFabric, a new technology that bridges on-premises and cloud deployment and management scenarios.

Abhay Parasnis, general manager of Microsoft’s Application Server Group.

Available in beta today, Windows Server AppFabric evolves the traditional application server category, which has matured with many advances in hardware and “scale-up” architectures to allow for mission-critical applications. At the same time, tremendous innovation has occurred to support emerging cloud-based platforms, which typically rely on elastic “scale-out” techniques to support massive scale and high reliability using large numbers of commodity servers. With AppFabric, Microsoft is blending the best of both worlds — evolving the mature and familiar application server technologies in Microsoft .NET and Windows Server and combining them with next-generation fabric innovation used today in the Windows Azure platform.

The application services delivered by AppFabric will enable developers and IT pros to leverage current skills and technology investments to improve scalability, reliability and performance of complex applications, regardless of where an application will be deployed. A final version of Windows Server AppFabric will be available in 2010. Various Windows Azure platform AppFabric technologies are available in Community Technology Preview (CTP) form today, and will continue to debut in 2010.

According to Abhay Parasnis, general manager of Microsoft’s Application Server Group, customers are looking for ways to get the most out of their current investments in hardware and software, while simultaneously responding more quickly to external business change. “Our goal is to help customers spend less time worrying about building infrastructure, and help them focus on building great applications. AppFabric delivers on this goal by providing pre-integrated, higher-level application services that enable developers to more easily deploy and manage composite applications and services spanning server and cloud,” says Parasnis.

The announcement of AppFabric comes as many companies are looking for ways to get the most out of their current investments in hardware and software while exploring new innovations such as cloud computing. One of the primary ways businesses are doing this is by creating composite applications out of existing software. Composite applications reuse existing services and business logic to provide new and innovative functionality for end users.

Composite Applications for the Business, Without the Complexity

Composite applications typically require a rather complex infrastructure, which requires higher capital expenditure and increased demand on developers’ precious time. With AppFabric, developers can easily build composite applications by using their existing skills with the .NET Framework. Windows Server AppFabric provides a powerful runtime environment for composite applications built on ASP.NET, Windows Communication Foundation and Windows Workflow Foundation. Windows Server AppFabric is a natural progression in these areas for .NET developers. What’s more, Windows Server AppFabric enables companies to more easily deploy and scale these composite applications on their existing Windows Server-based infrastructure.

Windows Server AppFabric delivers a set of capabilities for hosting services (RESTful or SOAP-based), workflows, and application-level monitoring (based upon efforts formerly code-named “Dublin”). This provides developers with a set of pre-built infrastructure that improves the scalability and manageability of composite applications. As a result, much of the complexity related to infrastructure is already taken care of.

This is complemented by Windows Azure platform AppFabric, which will help developers build composite applications that span both on-premises and cloud environments. The Service Bus and Access Control services (previously called .NET Services) provide capabilities for secure connectivity between loosely coupled services and applications, enabling them to navigate firewalls or network boundaries.

“One of the main themes we’ve heard from developers is the demand for transparent, easy-to-use applications,” says Parasnis. “With the new tools, capabilities and hosted services in AppFabric, developers can easily create composite applications that allow employees to access information across the company or outside the firewall.”

In addition, composite applications often must connect to heterogeneous systems to access data or business logic. BizTalk Server extends core composite application scenarios by providing enterprise connectivity to non-Microsoft environments, whether connecting to back-end line-of-business (LOB) systems or legacy mainframe environments. The next major release of BizTalk Server will provide platform support for Windows Workflow Foundation and take advantage of certain Windows Server AppFabric services.

Scaling Out Without Breaking the Bank

One of the challenges of composite applications is scaling as the needs of the business grow. AppFabric’s distributed in-memory caching technology (previously code-named “Velocity”) caches data in the middle tier of a composite application to deliver faster performance and greater reliability (through high availability of cached data across a fabric of servers). This provides elastic scale as the number of users grows, without the need to move to larger, more expensive server architectures. Among the companies already benefiting is the Associated Press (AP), which is currently using this caching technology to manage the latest versions of the Custom News product it provides to AP member organizations.

Print and broadcast outlets can subscribe to specific types of AP content, such as breaking news, photos, video and interactive features, which they can embed on their sites as original content or link to content that’s hosted by AP on its servers. Custom News receives approximately 16 million hits per day from users requesting content on these servers.

According to Alan Wintroub, director of development for AP’s Enterprise Application Services, “We had six Web servers, each of which required its own cache to serve the requests from both internally hosted and AP member sites. But limitations on the size of each cache meant that many of the requests for data went all the way to the back-end system, further taxing core AP services providing search and content. This resulted in slower response times for what AP considers one of its fastest and most critical means of delivering breaking news content.”

Moving to the AppFabric caching technology has given AP roughly six times the caching capabilities and freed up more bandwidth to respond to the demands of its customers while reducing the load on other shared services.

“Switching to AppFabric has been an IT godsend,” says Wintroub. “It’s integrated seamlessly with our existing application and provided tremendous benefit by allowing us to meet demand while maintaining our existing hardware investment.”

AP is just one example of how the AppFabric technology can be applied to existing resources to deliver dramatic benefits. “AppFabric gives customers a one-stop shop for building and running applications with better scalability and performance across the cloud and on-premises,” says Parasnis.

Consistent Development Experience for Cloud and On-Premises

Customers can download the beta of Windows Server AppFabric today with the final version slated for release next year. Later in 2010, Microsoft will debut a CTP of Windows Azure platform AppFabric, which will offer the same set of tools for managing and deploying applications for the cloud.

What this will offer, says Parasnis, is a consistent experience for developers, regardless of where an application is deployed. Developers also will be able to move the individual pieces of an application from being on-premises to the cloud, or from the cloud to on-premises.

“Windows Server AppFabric and Windows Azure platform AppFabric are designed to remove the complexity of deploying and running composite applications,” says Parasnis. “The tools we’re providing will help developers focus on creating applications that are easy to use and provide additional value without concern for where and how to deploy.”

To learn more or to download the Windows Server AppFabric beta, visit http://msdn.microsoft.com/AppFabric.

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