SOA: Vista's trump card?

Beyond a swanky interface, Microsoft's long-awaited Windows Vista has key service-oriented components for businesses.

The next version of the Windows operating system has critical components of a service-oriented architecture (SOA) that could benefit businesses in future, a systems integrator says.

Ashish Kumar, chief technology officer of Avanade, a U.S-based systems integrator specializing in the Microsoft platform, told ZDNet Asia that Windows Vista contains an underlying framework for implementing SOA through its Windows Communication Foundation.

SOA is an IT infrastructure model designed to enhance interoperability between disparate systems. It allows specific functions of backend systems to be decoupled and used independently or alongside tools from other systems to perform computing tasks.

According to Microsoft's Vista developer Web site, the Windows Communication Foundation lets businesses share data between a wide network of applications that can communicate with other platforms and devices through Web services, the underpinning technology of SOA.

Additionally, the Windows Workflow Foundation, another technology within Vista, allows companies to define business workflows as a series of computing events, Kumar said. "The next wave of SOA is the modeling and automation of workflows," he said.

Kumar noted that the need to integrate disparate internal workflows and processes, and mapping those to higher level business goals is crucial. "We think that Microsoft offers a very advanced and cost-effective platform. A lot of middleware pieces [for Web services] are in the .NET framework that's part of Windows," he said.

"We're excited about Windows Vista, and we are busy building Avanade value-added assets such as sample [customized] applications and best practices to help customers accelerate the adoption of [Windows Vista's] benefits," Kumar said.

Tia Too Seng, Avanade Asia's technology head, said the decision to migrate or hold back plans for Windows Vista depends on what individual companies are using currently. For example, companies moving from Windows 2000 to Windows Vista will probably benefit more than those already using Windows XP, he noted.

Tia's observation appears to be in line with the advice from Gartner which said in a report that companies running Windows 2000 should consider upgrading as soon as Vista ships.

Tia also noted that since only extended support is available for Windows 2000 till 2010, businesses on the older OS might want to migrate to Windows Vista, as application vendors may stop rolling out or supporting products that run on an end-of-life platform. Mainstream support for Windows 2000 in the form of product revisions from Microsoft ended in June this year.

However, Tia cautioned that like most early versions of new products, bugs might exist in the software. "Companies may want to wait for service packs to be delivered before they consider migrating, depending on their appetite for risk," he said.

According to Gartner, companies that want to implement Vista in 2008 should start preparing early, as it would take about 18 months from the time Windows Vista ships to build and test the applications.

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