I have focused on the the more developer end of SOA today. In the morning excellent sessions by Aaron Skonnard and Matt Milner on using WCF in BizTalk and best WF practices respectively, both provided an interesting set of gotta’s to look out for. Check their blogs if this is an area you work in.

In the afternoon I went to a session on the Microsoft Managed Service Engine (MSE), a set of tools to allow versioning of services using in effect a WCF based proxy broker. Not a solution for every site, but in an ESB SOA world it could really save the day if you want an Agile development model, where you have to change WDSL contracts as a system evolves. My only worry would be how far it can go with the XML transforms to keep old clients working with new contracts. You still need a depreciation model which might be an issue - but even if this is the case a potentially very useful tool I am sure I will be revisiting.

Next I went to a session on testing BizTalk, all based around the BizUnit tool. Now this looks interesting, though the definition language looks a bit nasty (all XML). I think putting the ‘unit’  term in the name is stretching a point if we define a unit test as being atomic. By its nature any BizTalk test tends towards an integration test - this said still a potentially vital tool for any BizTalk project. I think Darren Jefford maybe repeating the session at TechEd in Barcelona next week, if testing is your thing go and see it, or see the write up on his blog or book.

Finally I went the session on BizTalk Services which gave some more detail on stuff announced at the keynote. This has the potential to be very big, providing a unified inter domain message routing service, you can envisage a world where IM such as Windows Messenger routes via such a service, let alone more major B2B services. Calling it BizTalk Services is a typical confusing  Microsoft naming as it is not as the name implies a hosted version of any parts of BizTalk server! Looks like CardSpace will also figure highly in this world for federated security, though this does not answer questions over passing private business data across international borders and third parties servers. Probably the most telling part of this session was in the Q&A, in that at present there is no define plan for a revenue or SLA model. This is still in it’s early CTP days - but is open to public and Microsoft seem keen for feedback so have a look.

A good day, but I think most of today’s sessions suffered from being put in too shorter slot, as I said yesterday I think it would be a good idea to  have 15 minutes longer on each session and 15 minutes less on each break. From comments from a number of speakers it seems that their presentation were written for longer slots. I am not sure if this is due to other conferences having longer slots or the materials are normally presented in a classroom style normally.