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.NET Edge 2003 East International .NET Conference & Expo

.NET Edge 2003 East International .NET Conference & Expo

When SYS-CON Media's sister company, SYS-CON Events, began preparing last year for this spring's Web Services Edge Conference & Expo, one consideration was paramount: every effort of the nine-month preparation cycle should be geared toward making it indisputably the world's largest independent .NET, XML, Web services, and Java event.

That particular mission was totally accomplished.

Held March 18-20, 2003, at the very centrally located Hynes Convention Center in Boston, MA, Web Services Edge 2003 East made its mark right from the get-go, with delegates registering from the widest possible variety of companies, both in terms of technology and geography. Not only had they been attracted by the specific session tracks for .NET, XML, Web services, and Java; they had also come to take advantage of the all-day i-technology tutorials, whether it was Russ Fustino's .NET workshop ("Russ' Tool Shed"), Derek Ferguson's Mobile .NET tutorial, or the IBM XML Certified Developer Fast Path.

The show opened with a very well-attended keynote from Oracle's John Magee, VP of Oracle9i Application Server. Magee stressed that the key to understanding why Web services, unlike its distributed-computing forerunners like COM and CORBA, is prevailing in the enterprise space is that Web services do more than merely enable interoperability between platforms and integration between applications...they also do so simply.

What drives their simplicity, Magee explained to the audience, is standards.

Moving Beyond SOAP/WSDL/UDDI
The afternoon keynote offerings on Day One of the conference were equally well received. First came a panel coordinated by the Web Services Interoperability Organization (WS-I). The WS-I is an open industry organization chartered to promote Web services interoperability across platforms, operating systems, and programming languages, and the panel discussion took place against the backdrop of the WS-I Basic Profile 1.0, consisting of a set of nonproprietary Web services specifications. The working draft for this, the audience learned, was approved just four weeks before the Web Services Edge 2003 East Conference & Expo opened.

But security, the panel agreed, was the primary priority. Now that corporations like Merrill Lynch and DaimlerChrysler have joined the organization, ensuring that everyone adheres to the same specification is more important than ever before. Web services is moving beyond mere SOAP, WSDL, and UDDI, toward addressing security, messaging, reliability, and transactions. Eric Newcomer, chief technology officer of IONA Technologies, emphasized the importance of the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) approach to these challenges, an effort that centers on the W3C's Web Services Specification Effort.

The Web services keynote panel was quickly followed by the highlight of Day One for many of the delegates gathered in the keynote hall: an address by Miguel de Icaza, the impossibly young and extremely gifted founder and leader of the GNOME Foundation, cofounder of Ximian, Inc., and .NET expert extraordinary - as anyone needs to be who leads a project designed to port .NET to the Linux operating system.

The Mono Project, as de Icaza's project is called, clearly fascinated the broad mix of developers attending the conference. After explaining that GNOME - a desktop development platform and suite of productivity applications - is his company's key focus and is mostly developed in C, C++, Python, and Perl, he went on to recount how for every new GNOME API (GNOME is component oriented and supports many programming languages) GNOME developers needed to develop language-specific bindings. Thus .NET, which also addresses the multilanguage problem, was of immediate interest to de Icaza.

As soon as he learned about the .NET Framework, he told the spellbound audience, he got excited - a single Virtual Execution System for multiple languages, with a large and reusable factored class library - that was just what in his view was needed. As well as being a new way to do stuff, .NET's rich support for interop (COM, P/Invoke) meant you didn't have to rewrite everything all at once. And so Mono was born: an open-source .NET Framework implementation.

It's based around the CLI ISO standard, de Icaza continued. It has a CLI-compliant execution system and a x86 JIT compiler. It is supported by Windows, BSD, Linux, and Solaris, and there has been lots of progress on the class libraries.

The Windows support, de Icaza said, was merely a function of the fact that 60% or so of Mono developers have a Windows background. Some of the code contributed to Mono was funded by Microsoft grants, he added. Mono is already pretty useful now, and builds are available for Red Hat Linux, Debian GNU/Linux, and Windows. You can compile it yourself on other platforms.

"I Don't Get Web Services," de Icaza Admits
Although some class files are still missing, de Icaza told his audience that System.Xml is very far along (nearly 100%) and that System.Data (ADO.NET) is at about the same stage but also supports more providers. System.Web is at about 90%, he said, and System.Web.Services is at about 20%. Admitting that he didn't (personally) "get it" as far as Web services was concerned, de Icaza noted that GTK# is Ximian's main interest for GNOME development, because it is cross-platform (looks like Windows under Windows, Mac OS X under Mac OS X/X11, and GTK+ under X11). He then demoed a sample app called mphoto that makes use of GTK# and looks kind of like iPhoto.

At the end of his keynote address, scores of developers of every stripe got up from their chairs and surrounded de Icaza for further questions. The response to his good humor, rapid delivery, technical savvy, and sheer charm had been overwhelming and with his keynote Web Services Edge 2003 East passed a significant milestone: no previous conference in the series had before included so wide a range of technical content, spanning every aspect of the i-technology spectrum...including open source.

Day Two saw Jesse Liberty take the keynote stage, and his mastery both of .NET and of the whole Web services paradigm was clearly in evidence. Extended coverage of his .NET keynote (and of the keynote address by Sun's Mark Herring, if anyone would like to check out a "contrary view"!) is available on the main conference Web site, www.sys-con.com/WebServicesEdge2003East.

The afternoon discussion panel, which for many .NET Edge attendees turned out to be the high point of the entire keynote program, was a wide-ranging panel looking at "Real-World .NET."

The panel's moderator was Derek Ferguson, editor-in-chief of the magazine you are holding in your hand; Derek's editorial this month tells all about what went on. The members of the keynote panel were Dean Guida, CEO of Infragistics; Tony Denbow, of STAR Information Technology; Bob Familiar, a Microsoft architectural engineer and certified Microsoft Solution Developer; and Joe Stagner, a Microsoft technology evangelist whose contributions to the discussion were some of the most incisive and enlightening anyone attending the panel had heard for a long time.

We fully expect the next Conference & Expo, Web Services Edge West in October, to be equally chock-full of the movers and shakers who are helping shape the software development industry as it continues its headlong progress toward distributed computing with full application integration and interoperability.

All in all, it was a marvellous conference, and the Expo hall too was intensely busy from the moment it opened to the moment it closed two days later.

This is not the end of the XML Web services/.NET "story," nor is it even the beginning of the end; but March 18-20 in Boston's Hynes Convention Center may well have marked the end of the beginning.

Come join us for Phase Two...in October.

More Stories By .NETDJ News Desk

.NETDJ News Desk monitors Microsoft .NET and its related technologies, including Silverlight, to present IT professionals with news, updates on technology advances, business trends, new products and standards, and insight.

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