Web services drive microsoft

Microsoft has taken great pains to clarify what .Net really means and how it will be critical to transforming its enterprise strategy.

Fundamental to .Net are Web Services and eXtensible Markup Language (XML), which are being fused into all Microsoft products. The implications are significant to the manufacturing community, as Microsoft technology is ubiquitous, from the plant floor to the executive desktop.

Microsoft’s transformation into a serious enterprise information technology player is based upon a strategy that has three major components: integrated platform, architecture and partner ecosystem, and economics. Combined, these components define Microsoft’s vision to remain a product-focused company that will deliver the solutions companies require to run their enterprises in form factors that are light on Microsoft service. Microsoft’s intent is to greatly simplify the deployment and management of its software, while providing customers with the flexibility they need to become more agile businesses.

.Net unites elements

In 2001-2002, Microsoft was all about .Net: .Net, the vision, .Net, the Platform, and the .Net Framework. In 2003, .Net, the vision, is dissolving into a new enterprise strategy. The integrated platform initiative is designed to expand and connect across not only Microsoft’s wide array of products, but also those of other Integrated Software Vendors (ISVs). At the center of the integrated platform strategy is .Net. Therefore, .Net is not going away, but is sinking into the background and becoming the underlying and uniting element for all products.

The integrated platform is driven by Visual Studio.Net (VS.Net) as the common programming and configuration environment for all Microsoft products, and by Web Services for connection and interoperability. For example, integration and business processes are now built in the Visio environment, but the 2003 release of Biztalk will be configured in VS.Net to facilitate sharing of information with other product parts. Even more significant, .Net Framework is being made native within the latest version of SQL Server 2003. This means that developers can use VS.Net to create and deploy stored procedures in .Net Framework languages—with good performance.

Architecture has two important roles in the Microsoft strategy. First, it organizes the product offerings in a more concrete and understandable view than the previous .Net Platform message. It also helps Microsoft define and articulate its approach to different markets: users of office products, ISV’s, and IT departments. This architectural vision also defines the many ways end users can assemble Microsoft products to solve their specific problems.

Three key priorities will guide its architectural vision: XML Everywhere, Trustworthy Computing and Innovation in Operations. XML will permeate all Microsoft products starting with Office 11 and SQL Server 2003. For Trustworthy Computing, Microsoft is investing heavily in research and development to develop out-of-the box applications that are more secure and reliable to support business integrity. To address Innovation in Operations, it will continue to improve the development environment, thereby streamlining the IT lifecycle with tools to simplify development, deployment and management of the software.

Primary within the architecture is Web Services. While .Net talked about Web Services, Microsoft gave few hints about how Web Services would be fused into its existing products. This is now becoming clearer. All products will be accessed using Web Services. In most cases, Web Services will be created by an ISV or through fairly straightforward end-user programming.

With more than 75,000 ISVs, 70,000 system integrators and approximately 775,000 development partners, Microsoft has arguably the largest and one of the most diverse ecosystems of any software supplier today.

Manufacturers must learn how a Service-Based Architecture (SBA) will impact their current IT infrastructures. There are some significant benefits to such an architecture, but initially there will be a steep learning curve. Throughout 2003, Microsoft will be releasing major enhancements to existing products. Many manufacturing ISV’s will follow Microsoft’s lead in the deployment of technologies built atop Microsoft’s technology platform. This pace and depth of change will continue through 2004 and 2005. Manufacturers will have to design their upgrade programs and architectural changes for evolution.

]John Moore, jmoore@arcweb.com, is vice president and

general manager of Enterprise Advisory Services, and

Robert Mick, bmick@arcweb.com, is vice president of

emerging technologies at ARC Advisory Group.

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