Managed Services Engine

I read an article on the DevX web site entitled “Virtualize Your SOA with the Managed Services Engine” by Steve Spefanovich. I had not heard about the Managed Services Engine (MSE) before. So I read through it with interest.

Steve said that it is difficult to keep the enterprise SOA up and running. The MSE is a product that eases this pain. Steve reviewed the Windows Communication Foundation (WCF). He said that WCF is split between contract and implementation.

The MSE uses the idea of service virtualization. It provides a service layer on top of the services you provide. The MSE extends rather than replaces the WCF. It acts as a proxy service host, which is the only point of entry to your SOA.

The four major parts to the MSE are the service catalog, messenger, broker, and dispatcher. The MSE runtime server can act as a messenger, as a broker, or both a messenger and broker. It can import existing services. It is also able to version the services you provide.

Only the published service is listed in the WSDL. You can only publish one version of your service at a time. The MSE eliminates tight coupling between consumer and service.

Visual Studio

Microsoft released Visual Studio 2008 this year. This release is also known as Visual Studio 9. Plans for the next version of Visual Studio have been shared with the public. This next version shall be Visual Studio 10. According to the InternetNews web site, there are 4 major “pushes” that come with this new version: experience, customer, platform, and architecture.

Visual Studio has grown to much more than just a code compiler. It includes tools to deal with new user interface models like Silverlight. As you may already know, Silverlight is a plugin for web browsers.

A specific change for the next version of Visual Studio is to improve the C++ performance. That is good news to me as I am a C++ programmer. However right now I am still using Visual Studio 2005 (Visual Studio 8). The next version of Visual Studio shall also have a Windows Presentation Foundation (WPF) editor.

Microsoft is also adding the Visual Studio Extensibility (VAX) to Visual Studio. This includes numerous concepts and components such as the Visual Studio SDK. You can extend the tool using add-ins and packages. Visual Studio will host functional units called packages.

There are some long range ideas for Visual Studio, which may not make it into the Visual Studio 10 release. The tool is to get a WPF look and feel. Instant messaging for users on a team is to be built into the tool. Finally there will be an updated Visual Studio Tools for Applications (VSTA). It is an application customization toolkit based on .NET.


I read a couple trade magazines. More often than not, Microsoft has an advertisement on the first page. They are pitching something called Microsoft Forefront. I found it strange that I had never heard of this product. I used to be a Microsoft Man (exclusively using their technologies). So I decided to take a look at what this beast is.

The advertisement itself says that Forefront takes on security threats. Somehow the product makes this task easier. It can help you defend your system. It is being marketed as an integrated family of products. They protect the client, server, and network.

I figured I should go to the source to find out more. So I perused Microsoft Technet. This is where I found out that Forefront is a business security product. Perhaps this is why I have not run into this product yet. I work in the enterprise. But I develop software. I do not deal with enterprise security at all. This tool protects the network by controlling access.

There are 5 main pieces to the Forefront family: client security, security for exchange server, security for Sharepoint, security and acceleration server, and intelligent application gateway 2007. The first one protects against malicious software such as spyware and viruses. The second integrates multiple commercial scan engines. It automatically downloads the latest signatures of new malicious code. The third scan documents going in and coming out of Sharepoint. The forth is a gateway to securely publish content. And the final piece is a remote access solution.

A little more searching on the web gave me the impression that this family of tools provides multiple layers of defense. That sounds good. But I still do not have a hands-on feel for the product. Perhaps I could talk my company into sending me to some training. Or I could do a rotation into the network security group. I think we do a lot of that work for our clients.

Free Products

I discovered a great program from Microsoft called DreamSpark. It provides professional versions of Microsoft software to students for free. You need to verify that you are a student. Then you can download the software at no cost to you. Microsoft does not ship the software to you. However it is the real versions of the software. This is not trial or beta versions.

Here are some examples of software that Microsoft provides through this program. I have included the MSRP of each product to demonstrate the magnitude of this deal:

* Visual Studio 2008 Professional $799
* Windows Server 2003 Standard $999

Microsoft also provides older versions of software through this program such as:

* Visual Studio 2005 Professional
* SQL Server 2005

Recently I have applied to attend college in order to learn some web technologies. So I was very excited to learn about the DreamSpark program. I wanted to get Visual Studio for my home. However I was disturbed to find that my university was not listed as one of the colleges participating in this program. Oh no they didn’t. It is time to get on the horn with my university. Microsoft is offering a goldmine to me through this program. My college needs to get on the ball and sign up with Microsoft. I don’t care if it costs the college a little case. The savings to me are too great.

There is a lot of anti-Microsoft sentiment out there. Yes they are a huge firm that plots to take over the world. But they are offering free software to students. For that they get my respect. I will let you know if I succeed in getting my college to sign up for the program.


The Microsoft Data Access Components (MDAC) are a framework from Microsoft for accessing databases. As you can read in the Software Maintenance blog, you can run into a lot of MDAC pain during installation.

MDAC consists of three major components:
1. ADO

The last version of the MDAC released by Microsoft was 2.8. To be more precise it was 2.8 SP 1. Since then, the MDAC functionality has been built into Microsoft Windows 98, XP, 2000, and Me.

Microsoft provides a redistributable installer for the MDAC. You can check the version of the MDAC on your system with the Microsoft Component Checker tool. You can also look in the Windows registry to find the MDAC version number. However this is not as reliable as the Component Checker.

Virtual Offerings

While riding the train to meet our customer, I read an article in Information Week magazine. Microsoft has released its Application Virtualization product. It was formerly named SoftGrid. I suspect that was also the name of the company that it acquired to get that product.

Microsoft Application Virtualization is also called App-V. It stream applications from a server to the PC. Even though Microsoft has just released version 4.5 of App-V, you can be sure that they will be hyping this product in their upcoming Get Virtual Now event.

The strange thing about this product is that it is not offered as a stand alone product. When I heard that, I was disappointed. I guess Microsoft is using this as a way to sell bundles to big customers.