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InfoQ Homepage News The Future of WCF Is RESTful [Updated]

The Future of WCF Is RESTful [Updated]

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Glenn Block, a Windows Communication Foundation (WCF) Program Manager, said during an online webinar entitled “WCF, Evolving for the Web” that Microsoft’s framework for building service-oriented applications is going to be refactored radically, the new architecture being centered around HTTP.

Block started the online session by summarizing the current trends in the industry:

  • a move to cloud-based computing
  • a migration away from SOAP
  • a shift towards browsers running on all sorts of devices
  • an increase in the adoption of REST
  • emerging standards like OAuth, WebSockets

He mentioned that the current architecture of WCF is largely based on SOAP as shown in this slide:


One of the key features of WCF is support for multiple transports (HTTP, TCP, named-pipes) under the same programming model. Unfortunately when it comes to HTTP, a lot of HTTP goodness (scale, content negotiation) is lost because WCF treats it as a transport. So Block is looking forward to see WCF supporting HTTP as a first class application protocol with simple and flexible programming model as depicted on the following slide:


HTTP was introduced in .NET 3.5, allowing the creation of services accessed via HTTP, but “it does not give access to everything HTTP has to offer, and it is a very flat model, RPC oriented, whereas the Web is not. The Web is a very rich set of resources,” according to Block. Instead of retrofitting the current WCF to work over HTTP, Block considers WCF should be re-architected with HTTP in mind using a RESTful approach.

WCF will contain helper APIs for pre-processing HTTP requests or responses, doing all the parsing and manipulation of arguments, encapsulating the HTTP information in objects that can be later transferred for further processing. This will relieve the user from dealing with HTTP internals directly if he wants to. This feature will also present a plug-in capability for media-type formatters of data formats like JSON, Atom, OData, etc. WCF will support some of them out of the box, but the user will be able to add his own formatters.

The new WCF is already being built, Block demoing sample code using it, but he mentioned that the feature set and what WCF is going to look like is not set in stone. They will publish an initial version of the framework on CodePlex in the near future for the community to be able to test and react, shaping the future of WCF. More details are to come during PDC 2010.


We asked Glenn Block what it is going to happen to the other protocols, especially SOAP. His answer was that WCF is going to fully support the existing stack, and the current development is meant to evolve WCF to fully support HTTP without renouncing to anything WCF has so far.

A WCF Community website is now set up on CodePlex for all those interested in the evolution of WCF. 

Glenn Block presented a more detailed view on the future of WCF and how it relates to current investments in Microsoft's SOA technology at PDC 2010.

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