Is Windows Communication Foundation to complex?

Today at ALT.NET’s unconference we had a great discussion initialized by Alan Smith about the state of WCF and the complexity, if any, it imposes on developers. The thesis was that WCF was hard to learn for the “Average developer” and there was a lot of underlying details of communication that might be too visual. Alan showed an example of all the details generated by SvcUtil in it’s default settings. He compared with ASMX web services where “regular” asp.net developers could develop new services as simple as they implemented an event handler.

My view on this is kind of simple and ties into discussions I’ve had in the past about The holy abstraction level, the real question to ask is if I and my project is ready for distribution? Am I skilled enough to wield a tool for building services?

ASMX is a bit simpler, sure, if you don’t want real security. Or are looking for reliable sessions or any other more interesting service conversation pattern then request/response over HTTP.

The simple truth is that anything but request / response has a lot of underlying principles that are far from easy. These principles is what WCF aims to be an abstraction layer for. Not HTTP request / response. Sure, there is a lot of things that can be simpler. More things that tools can do for you to make you faster. Some of the simpler conversation patterns could be easier to implement.

But the problem will still be the same, building distributed applications that scale, perform are reliable and secure is not a walk in the park. It requires skill, planning and a lot of thought.

Distributed applications are hard for a reason and no tool will make architecting them easy, any tool that try will fool developers into dangerous traps.

So in short, it’s not WCF that’s too complex, WCF takes complex conversation patterns to the average developer and that makes WCF seem complex at a first glimpse.

If you want to master WCF development, your first step should be to master distributed application design and conversation patterns. When you do; WCF will be an excellent and simple enough tool for you.