Project Tango

Windows Communication Foundation (WCF) is set to change the way .NET developers create and manage connected systems.

Windows Communication Foundation (WCF) has arrived, and with its advanced Web services technologies, is set to change the way .NET developers create and manage connected systems.

Project TangoOnetime Microsoft rival Sun Microsystems Inc. wants to make sure Java can play in WCF's yard. Working with Microsoft engineers, Sun has developed Project Tango, a set of Web services interoperability standards -- WSIT for short -- which the company says will ensure a happy marriage between the Java platform and WCF.

Sun-Microsoft Agreements
The effort is part of Glassfish, Sun's open source enterprise software project, and arises from the much -- ballyhooed 10-year working relationship the two longtime rivals announced in 2004, following the settlement of antitrust and patent-related litigation between Sun and Microsoft.

The new standards will soon be subject to widespread exposure, notes Nick Kassem, technology director for Web services at Sun and a lead official in charge of Project Tango.
They will be integrated into Glassfish v2 (Sun Java Application Server 9.1) beta, which is set for release this month, according to Kassem. "The key point here is that Sun Java Application Server 9.1 Beta will have out-of-the-box Web services interoperability with Windows Vista," he writes in an e-mail.

Gartner analyst Nick Gall says ensuring clean interoperability between Java and WCF clearly holds value for both companies. "There's no question the Microsoft community will flock to [WCF]. It's the unified communications architecture for environments that are .NET-centric," he says. "... The question is, if I heavily use WCF, and if I use its default settings, will I be automatically interoperable with the JEE world? There, the question mark is really big."

In a blog posting last year, Sun engineer Harold Carr listed five main features of Project Tango: bootstrapping communication; optimizing communication; enabling reliability; enabling atomic transactions; securing communication.

Sun developed Project Tango using established Java APIs, Kassem notes. "One of the underpinnings and rationale for Project Tango was not to introduce a plethora of new specifications, which would be sort of a barrier for entry."

So, does it work? Company officials demoed the technology along with Microsoft during last year's JavaOne conference.

Forrester analyst Randy Heffner was there, and saw the demo. "There was real functionality, but the bottom line is that it is very preliminary work," he wrote in an e-mail. "I went to the microphone and asked the presenters what data they could share about the performance of Tango -- specifically about the performance of distributed transactions using the likes of WS-AtomicTransaction. Their answer was that they had no such data because it was too early in the project for such measurements.

"Certainly there will be some level of performance hit with a distributed transaction versus a native database transaction within a single platform, but if they can't even talk about the numbers yet, then there is a long way to go before it will enterprise-ready," Heffner writes in an e-mail.

But Kassem says at this point, Project Tango is looking quite robust: "Our internal performance analysis tells us we've come a long, long way from where we were almost two years ago. The technology we have is on par with the best of the best out there."

So how much help has Microsoft provided Sun? Kassem says Redmond officials have been accommodating and cooperative: "We have weekly conference calls with them ... there's a significant amount of information exchange."

A Microsoft spokesperson did not directly answer questions posed about the Sun-Microsoft relationship, but did note that Project Tango "is a Sun initiative and Microsoft supports the initiative."

The company provided a statement from Jorgen Thelin, Microsoft's senior program manager for interoperability standards, in which Thelin offered general praise for the effort: "As vendors like Sun implement advanced Web services protocols, our joint customers benefit from the improved interoperability between our systems. The combination of .NET Framework 3.0 with Sun's Glassfish and Tango technologies enable the high-fidelity communication between the Java and .NET Framework 3.0."

Gall sees Microsoft as a willing partner in Project Tango, but says Sun is leading the dance.

"From a 'who's driving it' perspective ... clearly it's Sun," he says. "A big contingent of the Microsoft Web services folks do participate in these interoperability fests with a range of vendors and a range of stacks. In those venues, Microsoft is 100 percent committed to making it work."

Asked how Project Tango reflects the validity of the Microsoft-Sun working partnership, Heffner voiced measured skepticism.

"Really, the only way to judge the overall relationship is by the results it produces. I've not tried to collect a definitive list, but it does not seem to be very long," he wrote. "I would not put stock in the promises that either vendor might make about what they will do. There are simply too many ways for product priorities, mismatched corporate cultures, and different business objectives to make, in the end, very little or nothing come of it."

Gall is more optimistic. "I think the entire WS community is going to feel the need to generate significant progress toward interoperability in 2007," he says.

About the Author

Chris Kanaracus is the news editor for Redmond Developer News.

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