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Microsoft Live Labs releases Volta Web toolkit

Visual Studio add-in is designed to make it easier to partition which part of application runs on client or server.

Microsoft's Live Labs, a standalone product research group, released on Wednesday Volta (download it from CNET, a development tool designed to make it easier to partition an application's component pieces across a network.

The problem that Microsoft researchers are trying to address is the difficulty of deciding which part of the application runs under which tier--either the client or server.

Typically, developers need to write code to handle the communication between those tiers. And they need to decide during development on how to best architect their applications for optimal performance.

With Volta, developers can make "irreversible decisions as late as possible," said Alex Daley, group product manager for Microsoft Live Labs.

The software, which is an add-in to Visual Studio 2008, lets developers write client-side code and then assign with annotations which code runs where, he explained.

Volta is written using Microsoft Intermediate Language (MSIL) which means that people familiar with Visual Studio languages, including Visual Basic and C#, can work with it. It also is integrated with tools in Visual Studio, including the debugger, and can make applications for Internet Explorer or Firefox.

Volta hasn't been integrated into Microsoft product plans yet, but it stands to have a major impact on how they design tools, Daley said.

"This kind of idea--where we can share a single code base across client server and manage the complexity of communicating between them--is pretty new and has big implications on how we build tools," he said.