The free product, which had been available in an unsupported technical preview format since August, is a plug-in to Microsoft's Visual Studio .net. It has been built on existing Web services standards such as XML, Soap (simple Object Access Protocol) and WSDL (Web Services Description Language).
New in the general release is an API for log-in, session handling and audit trails, but Microsoft officials have focused particularly on support for the proposed WS-Security standard now under consideration by OASIS (Organisation for the Advancement of Structured Information Standards). WS-Security was first published by Microsoft, IBM and Verisign in April.
Through use of WS-Security, developers could build more secure Web services, Microsoft officials stressed. "It secures the actual message and payload," said Rebecca Dias, product manager for Web services marketing at Microsoft.
Security is maintained when messages are passed to multiple points, she said. "What we're doing is allowing you to sign that part of data that's flowing over the Internet," Dias said. Other features included as part of WS-Security support include backing for x.509 digital certificates and Kerberos, to encrypt messages.
"The number one priority for our early adopter Web services customers is securing the Web services messages," said Scott Garvey, director of Web services marketing for Microsoft.
An analyst said WSE provided critical support for security, but that Microsoft was also using the product as a vehicle for promoting specifications that it would like to see become industry standards.
"It's a natural progression," said analyst Dwight Davis, vice-president of Summit Strategies. "Microsoft's pushing out support for standards which, at this point, are standards in Microsoft rhetoric only."
Davis added, however, that support for Web services security "is really the functionality that developers are pounding on doors to get".
Microsoft has featuring support for the Microsoft-proposed WS-Routing specification. This enables messages to be sent through intermediaries and across different transports, to exploit load balancing as well as geographic balancing, to enable a local server to process Web services.
Microsoft will use future versions of the WSE package to provide support of the latest versions of standards, company officials said. Future versions of WSE may not be backward compatible, however, according to Microsoft's Web page on the product.
WSE 1.0 is available as a download on msdn.microsoft.com.