Microsoft: My way or the highway with SOA?

Microsoft: My way or the highway with SOA?

Summary: Is Microsoft 'playing by the rules' with SOA?

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Ed Scannell and Chris Kanaracus of Redmond Magazine just published a cover story entitled "Microsoft Does Have an SOA Strategy," which nicely outlines Big Red's strategy for moving its product lines into the SOA world. The lead says it all:

"Microsoft has never been inclined to play by the rules. For the past 32 years, the company has maintained the cocky pose of its legendary founder, Bill Gates, aggressively challenging entrenched technology standards -- even some its own customer base wants to see flourish side by side with Windows."

Microsoft isn't changing its tune with SOA, the authors say, noting that "Microsoft again appears to be crafting its own rules and vision. The company has so far declined to participate in certain key emerging industry standards relevant to SOA. It has a different perspective on what SOA is and a different approach for crystallizing its vision."

My colleague here at ZDNet, Dana Gardner, is quoted, observing that "Microsoft is primarily concerned with its [own] business strategy. It wants to continue to produce these fantastic profits but that runs counter to what many IT shops are focused on, which is cost-reduction, simplification, consolidation and modernization." In essence, if you are mainly a Microsoft shop and want to go to SOA, you either do it with Microsoft products or face time-and-money-consuming integration headaches.

A couple of thoughts here. What Microsoft appears to be doing, of course, goes completely against what SOA is supposed to be all about, which is the ability to deploy and run what you need based on what you need, unencumbered by the limitations of vendors' systems.

Microsoft's public pronouncements on SOA, on the other hand, have actually made a lot of sense -- the company talks about SOA being an incremental, build-ROI-as-you-go effort versus a galactic-scale transformation that other vendors eagerly promote. Who says the other vendors have the right approach? SOA is still too new and unproven to declare anyone's approach to be the right one.

But, as Dana and the article suggests, we could end up with a Microsoft tax levied on the mass market SOA as it emerges.

In the article, Microsoft tries to pooh-pooh any thoughts of monopolizing SOA implementations, noting that "all the basic building blocks of the company's services-oriented plan can be mixed and matched with a wide range of competing technologies," including the emerging class of fast-paced Web 2.0 apps. Steve Martin, director of product management for Microsoft's Connected Systems Division, acknowledges that "it was clear that if the services-oriented world was to coexist with the real world, we needed to move data efficiently around the organization in a way that was transport-agnostic. This is why we invested in Windows Communications Foundation [WCF]."

(Martin also made a very interesting observation -- that most SOA applications have a lifespan in the organizations of three to six months, versus custom applications living between six and 15 years in an organization.)

Dana elaborated more on his observations on Microsoft SOA in a posting here at ZDNet: that Microsoft’s SOA strategy amounts to "embrace and contract." He says that the software giant "wants to allow services-enablement using the newest (read: massive upgrades) Microsoft infrastructure to offer a modest embrace of heterogeneity. However, the high-level rationale for SOA is to make heterogeneity a long-term asset, rather than a liability. You should not have to massively upgrade to .NET Framework 3.0 (and tools, and server platforms, and runtimes) to leverage SOA."

Furthermore, Dana is nonplussed by Microsoft's assertion that "virtualizing a monolithic Windows application, so that it can be hosted (on Windows servers) and accessed via a browser as a service, allows it to '… be part of an SOA-like strategy.'”

The question is, then, will Big Red eventually come to dominate the mass-market SOA space, as it has with the desktop client and low-end server space? To understand where Microsoft is going with this, look at the history. As with past generations of technology, Microsoft is determined to bring SOA to the masses, but in its own shape and form.

The article's authors make a point that I have also made frequently at this blogsite as well (here and here) -- "Microsoft has a history of going after high-volume, low margin markets, and with SOA still a high-end, high-margin business, the company may simply be sitting and waiting for the commoditized market to materialize with the arrival of low-cost SOA-based tools and platforms." From there, it moves up the food chain.

Topics: Microsoft, Software Development

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6 comments
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  • Why wait?

    Quoting the conclusion, itself including a quote:

    ?Microsoft has a history of going after high-volume, low margin markets, and with SOA still a high-end, high-margin business, the company may simply be sitting and waiting for the commoditized market to materialize with the arrival of low-cost SOA-based tools and platforms.? From there, it moves up the food chain.

    [End quote.]

    So Microsoft is waiting with a (comparatively) low-cost solution for companies which have made the investment in Microsoft infrastructure. That makes SOA almost a bonus, a sales point for companies interested but inexperienced.

    Try changing the perspective, from an anti-Microsoft [this allows escape] to a Microsoft-observing [SOA as feature] view, and the strategy makes more sense, for both the company and customers.

    Microsoft is a mass market company, and this is a mass market which has a chance to appear. Perhaps helped rather than exploited by Microsoft.
    Anton Philidor
    • And for the unpure?

      And for the the vast majority of large enterprises with a large and often
      unique-to-each mixture of Microsoft and non-Microsoft IT assets and
      infrastructure, what of them?

      What if you want to sell your mostly Microsoft shop to another company
      that mostly runs on other stuff? The value of your company goes down
      based on high integration costs. To best value your company, be the most
      open. Same if want to be the acquirer.

      By the time your vision of mass market SOA enabled by Microsoft arrives,
      those of your competitors or partners that move more swiftly gain
      significant agility and advantage. Those who enjoy SOA benefits first gain a
      lot.
      Dana Gardner
      • Just goes to show the MS hook is a catch 22

        Miserysoft has for years plotted, drawn up it's lines and done some legal, a lot illegal and most, questionable when it comes to their business practices. Note, I use the term very loosely as almost every scheme they have come up with is entirely focused on profit, with no warranty, guarantee or responsible for any grief their products may cause you. If you open this software and install it, you are agreeing to the terms and conditions which leave you on the hook to do what MS says and within the time frame given. This is without any doubt in my mind, one of the scummiest corporations out there.
        intrepi@...
  • I've already taken the hwy so now what

    I've already made the decision to stay as far away from MS products as I can get and any thoughts of continuing my support for anything they make is long over. There are other products, some I like, some I don't really care for but I'll take anything and everything including the good and the bad but the ugly can stay where it is with Miserysoft.
    intrepi@...
  • of course they are

    "A couple of thoughts here. What Microsoft appears to be doing, of course, goes completely against what SOA is supposed to be all about, which is the ability to deploy and run what you need based on what you need, unencumbered by the limitations of vendors? systems."

    of course they are. they already do with corporations by dictating IT Policy and hiding behind lawyers and saying you must run windows on all your computers.

    they also do it with netmeeting, livemeeting, exchange, and internet explorer only web pages - I could go on and on.
    but why everybody knows what they and how they do it but the execs running these brainless companies just keep on buying and do not listen to their technical support folks.

    they want the defacto standard not real standards. why should soa be any different.
    jmsusanka
  • A year later

    A year later, <A href="http://apsblog.burtongroup.com/2008/07/microsofts-soa.html">Microsoft's SOA strategy</A> can be described as emerging and confusing. Dissatisfaction with Microsoft???s SOA direction is due to a lack of communication.

    Burton Group believes Microsoft must invest more time to clearly articulate their view of SOA principles, how their product roadmap will be realigned to support service-orientation, and describe fundamental architectural service-oriented building blocks required to realize value. SOA is not about products and SOA does not equal service-oriented integration. A development environment supporting a service-oriented architectural approach must present a portfolio view of application building-blocks to application developers.
    cobiacomm